11.17.2016

a tale of my trip to Lahore


I went to a city last week, for three days, and it changed a lot of things.

Lahore, a city so popular for the rich cultural roots it possesses, has always been called a competition for Karachi. I was born and raised in Karachi and it was quite natural for me to feel this city vs city war in my head. I had never been there before. So when it was decided that we'd be in Lahore for 3 days, I had no idea what to expect. Along with my twin sister Areeba and grandmother, I left for Lahore.
When the plane peacefully landed on Lahore airport and we walked out, the city was glowing. Surrounded by fog and a chill of winter I missed in my city, it felt like I had walked straight in a Lorde song.

As the car weaved through the city traffic and dropped us at the hotel, I was trying to take it all in. The city looked beautiful. The trees were gleaming in the foggy air. The whole city radiated an aura of red color. I had always wondered whether cities had a soul but seeing Lahore at that moment, I realized that it probably had a soul and it was of a beautiful beautiful red color. Whereas if I thought of Karachi's soul, it was so blue. Perhaps it's because Karachi is always busy decorating building after building on its chest, the smoke has become a part of its aura almost in the same quantity as oxygen. Or it seems so - my scientific configurations have always been lousy.
History is part of Lahore as much as is human life. In short 15 minutes drive from the airport to the hotel, I came across so many prominent historical buildings. There are many more scattered around the city and seeing some of them was a joy since I knew it was impossible to see ALL of them in the short span of time we had.

The hotel we stayed at was a piece of art. It looked like Tumblr signed a deal with Pinterest and thus the building that came into existence was that hotel. It was mystic yet bright and absolutely stunning.
The rest of the day was busy. It was filled with meetings, devouring food in the city's cafes, and saving all the sights in my eyes for they were so new and so beautiful for me.

Lahore is divided into two parts: old city and the new. The new part is the classic urban sight BUT the old city is the real deal. It's so full of monuments and memories of a time long gone that it actually hurts to think about all the glorious times they have seen yet they stand now, a wonder to some and a ruin to many. Yet they look as beautiful as ever.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Haveli that was set in the old part of the city; at a house that was hundreds of years old.
On the top of that restaurant, the winds were wild and cold but we chose to sit there anyways. Right in front of us, the magnificent Badshahi Mosque stood gracefully, with its domes illuminated by the city lights. I sat hugging my backpack since I had forgotten to bring my sweaters and was now freezing. But it didn't matter, didn't matter at all.
I was there, in that cold, right in front of one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, in a city that welcomed me so warmly, so the rest could never ever matter in a lifetime.
The next day was another series of events and technically the last day to spend in Lahore as the morning after that, we would be flying back. We went to a handicraft exhibition Daatchi that appeared to be a favorite event for all the artsy people of the city. Areeba and I splurged there, quite a lot than usual. 1) handmade items are irresistible 2) see point # 1
After Daatchi exhibition, next stop was a bookstore. I had been looking for Rupi Kaur's poetry collection Milk And Honey for ages but hadn't been lucky enough. We checked into Readings, which's one popular bookstore, it was very inviting. With shelves full of books, with chairs and cushions scattered around, Readings almost drew me in. They had Milk And Honey in stock that I immediately grabbed, paid and sat crisscrossed to start reading right away. What's the point of visiting a city if you haven't sat on the floor of its bookstore and read the book you've dreamed of buying?!?!?!?!?! yaaassss.
Then there was some shopping here and there, lunch, rest, more food, more rest, dinner at a lit place. The last day in Lahore came to an end with the same excitement it had started with. I fell asleep the moment we reached the hotel and I jumped in the bed. It had been a long day.

I wrote a piece of poetry before the dinner. It was solely for Lahore: a city of history and its secrets. Also, a city that was love at first sight.
'cities aren't all that different,
you need to look closely what they hold,
they've kept secrets of so many generations, 
that could bring disasters if they were told'
the morning was buzzing with activity. If there's one thing I abhor more than unpacking, it's packing. And we had a lot to pack. I put on the most heartbreaking songs on my phone and plugged earphones in so I wouldn't have to deal with the goodbyes. Goodbyes to the people, to the air, to the memories we were leaving in this very city. Departures are hard, way harder than the anticipation upon entering a city for the first time.

If I could sum it all up in one word, it would be 'tremendous'. Absolutely tremendous.

Have you recently traveled to a new city? Tell me about it



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