a border birthday
Our final day in Lahore was spent taking in the sights of the city. It would prove to be an afternoon exemplifying the good-nature of the Pakistani people. Money was running low, so although I could afford to travel by tuk-tuk (motorbike taxi) to the sights, I couldn't afford to enter them. I was quite happy to sit on the entrance ramp to Lahore Fort. The Persian influence was visible from the outer walls to this perfect example of Mughal architecture. Of course, my presence resulted in a rush of people to have their photo taken with me. So much so, that I ended up getting a cramp in my face from smiling! It cheered me up after a pigeon pooed on me. But they say it's good luck, and that it was. An important member of staff came out to see what all the commotion was about outside. He turned out to be the burator of the Fort. He invited me into the Fort for free, and gave me a personal tour.
We entered up the 'Elephant's Way', which the Mughal emperors took to their residential quarters on the back of elephants; while the hareem sprinkled them from the windows above with flowers and scented perfumes. Thanks to Maqbool, we got a VIP tour of the 42 acre grounds and temples within the citadel walls. He called for his official photographer to accompany us, and document the our visit for a national magazine he was editor of. It involved us posing in front the main attractions,and added to further cramping of my jaw. The luminescent Pearl Mosque, with it's Persian domes, and intricate carvings of foliage and vinery help to render it's pearl exterior a delicate appearance from both afar and in its detailing. Badshahi Mosque, an impressive and vast red sandstone structure with three white Persian domes topping it was the last section we saw with Maqbool. The entire complex was multi-functional. The administrative section, which still retains echoes of this with its mini museums now housed in its buildings. The royal residential quarters, despite having a public balcony for display during public gatherings retains it's sense of being inward looking, despite being surrounded by the most beautiful grounds which make full advantage of cooling air movement. This Venturi effect is welcoming throughout the Fort. The Badshahi Mosque is the second largest mosque in Pakistan, it can accommodate 55, 00 people, and was our final stop in the Fort. It is a large red sandstone structure shown to be the culmination of mosque architecture. The prayer courtyard, with its centrally placed water pond, is the approach to the prayer hall. The prayer hall is topped by three white Persian domes (merlons). The prayer building itself is divided into seven arched sections. Stucco tracery and marble inlay give a sharp, decorative contrast of white against red. Naturally, there is also a minaret in each of the 4 corners, to complete the overall architectural harmony. As is customary to entering a mosque, ones shoes are left ouside. The only problem I found with the red sandstone was that is was painfully hot to walk on in bare feet. To try to overcome this, mats of wet astro turf lead up to the prayer hall. It may not be in keeping with the design, but at least it's practical. There are also several relics of Muhammad and his relations housed here, along with a copy of the Koran woven and embroidered entirely from gold and silver thread. It is because of the rich historical importance that Lahore developed as Pakistan's cultural, educational, and religious 'heart' of the country. So I was expecting the Lahore museum to be impressive. It did contain many fine textiles and sculptures, but everything was housed poorly and rotting away before your eyes. The displays were badly stored and gave brief explanations with sweeping categorisation (such as displaying most Chalcolithic female figurines as 'mother-goddesses').
That night, those of us who weren't unwell, we enjoyed our Ozbus meal where Princess Diana had dined in Lahore. I was in my element as there was not only Chinese food, and free ice-cream, but also a candy-floss machine. The dwarf who operated it only added to my joy by making mine extra big! It was excellent as it allowed us to sample many different dishes from other parts of Pakistan, which we couldn't visit due to the troubles there. Traditional Pakistani music accompanied each delicious mouthful.
The town of Wagah has been cut in two by the Pakistan and Indian borders since partition in 1947. It is the only road crossing between the two countires, and has the famous, aforementioned, Wagah stadia which display the resultant tensions between these neighbours. It was also the unusual setting for one Ozbuser's birthday celebrations. Unfortunately, due to the usual customs regulations, no photos could be taken of the birthday party at the bordering-crossing office. There was no noticeable difference at the immediate crossing into India. Although I did notice that the Indian stadium was not as fancy as it had appeared from the Pakistani side - its paint was also flaking. The levels of bureaucracy were about the same; with everyone having their bags x-rayed and inspected on either side of the border. The clothing of the people was much brighter than Pakistani dress. As we drove towards Amritsar another striking distance is how people rolled the water-buffallo dung into balls rather than flattened them into discs like in Pakistan. They also piled them up into mounds and put a skim of dung over the mound to protect them. In Pakistan the dung discs had been stacked into pyramid shapes. Now I realise this may seem like a perverse fascination of mine, but it is interesting to see how the way of storing a common fuel and the shape of it changes in differrent areas.