Lahore - The City To Love In 2021

Lahore tells me, “I am the city to love in 2021. I am a colorful, enigmatic life, blooming inside the giant and ancient thirteen gates (though some I have lost). I hold the glory of bygone days and possessions of the past which the rulers left behind in my streets and edifices. I am the Walled City, Androon Lahore, the old Lahore – the real Lahore. I am the essence of time, heritage and culture. Come and visit me to taste the savours of unparalleled life”.

In a poll by the New York Times, Lahore was listed among the 52 unique cities to love in 2021, and that’s a credit to each and every Lahori. In the article by New York Times, Androon Lahore has been clearly mentioned and thus the Walled City of Lahore once again had its glory, of being an ancient city full of heritage and culture, which many had forgotten, reaffirmed.

Many among us still might be thinking why Lahore has been included among the list of 52 select cities. So here I am trying to give you a picture of the beautiful city of Lahore and I am sure you will plan a trip soon.

The Walled City of Lahore, which no doubt is among the oldest settlements, is a cosmos of monuments, havelis, cuisines, bazaars, culture and traditions and all these features make it a living heritage museum. This city is a marvel inside thirteen gates with a unique and matchless lifestyle.

A little from the history

The Walled City of Lahore was the birthplace of Prince Loh, became Brahmanabad city, got invaded by Subuktagin, was captured by Mahmood of Ghazna, conquered by Shahabud Din Ghauri, ransacked by Mongols and remained with Khiljis, Tughlaqs and Lodhi Dynasties.

Then came the golden era of the Mughals when this city touched its zenith.  The Mughal emperor Akbar re-built the mud fort of the Ghaznavid period with burnt bricks and added thirteen gates to the city connected with a thirty feet high fortified wall.

The gates he added were Delhi Gate, Yakki Gate, Sheranwala Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Masti Gate, Roshnai Gate, Lohari Gate, Bhatti Gate, Shah Almi Gate, Akbari Gate, Mochi Gate and Taxali Gate along with a Mori.

The Mughals built giant mosques like Mariam Zamani Mosque, Wazir Khan Mosque, Taxali Mosque and Badshahi Mosque along with several other structures. These monuments are still seen in the Walled City of Lahore.

Lahore became such a charismatic city that the Sikhs started fighting for power and gained the throne when Maharaja Ranjeet Singh became ‘Sher-e-Punjab’. The Sikhs added in more buildings, havelis and religious sites, like Gurdawara and Janam Asthan. The famous havelis of Sikh era, still seen in the old city, are Haveli of Dhyan Singh, Haveli of Nau Nehal Singh and Haveli of Jamadar Khushhal Singh. The pavilion or Baradari of Huzoori Bagh was also built by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and celebrated the attainment of Kohinoor diamond.

Later, the British took over Lahore and carried away the precious Kohinoor diamond with them. The British also demolished the high walls of the city and pulled down the gorgeous gates and added a circular road and circular garden around the city.

During all this time from Mughals to British, the Walled City of Lahore witnessed commotions. In the early 1900s, the British rebuilt the thirteen gates with a different architecture from the ones of the Mughal era, and these are the gates we see today. A few gates were burnt and a few collapsed with the passage of time and at present, we have only six of them. Out of these, the only Mughal era gate is the Roshnai Darwaza which is next to the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh opposite Lahore Fort.

Bazaars of the city that never sleeps

The vibrant and sparkling bazaars are open night and day and that is the charm of the Walled City of Lahore. These include the food markets as well as the markets of other items and goods. Akbari Mandi, Pakistan Cloth Market, Azam Cloth Market, Sheikhupurian Bazaar, Lahnga Mandi, Moti Bazaar, Kinari Bazaar, Kasera Bazaar, Waan Market, Bangle Market, Shah Almi Bazaar, fish market, birds market, Pappar Mandi, Gumti Bazaar, Sarafa Bazaar, Siriyan Wala Bazaar, Sheesha Moti Bazaar and many other make this place a living cultural hub and a city that never sleeps. You can visit the chowks of old Lahore at any time, especially in Lohari and Rang Mehal, and you will be amused to see the night and day life there.

The roots of British East India Company are also here in the largest spice market, Akbari Mandi, from where the trading of spices began.

Neighbourhood, harmony and tolerance

There is a powerfully knitted neighbourhood structure in the Walled City of Lahore. These people are a part of each other’s life in all moments. One can see the actual spirit of harmony and tolerance when the rituals and merriment are celebrated without the concept of caste, religion, color and creed. The sky-touching rooftops of havelis with pigeons’ cages on them are charismatic. People know each other’s family matters, household issues and lend each other support.  This kind of neighbourhood system is hard to find anywhere else in Lahore.

Streets of the city

Even the modern urban planners are amazed at the labyrinthine streets laid down by our ancestors in Androon Lahore.  The narrow, winding, twisting streets lead you from one point to another inside this small city. The streets have strange names which are after some personalities, professions or the people who once lived in them. You will find the elbow streets and even narrower than those, but full of life, hustle and bustle.

These streets were made for defensive purposes in a labyrinthine style to hamper the movement of attackers entering the city. This is how the then town planners kept the city safe. Another interesting feature of the streets was to connect the entire city together and to have a strong neighbourhood system.

World-class monuments

The Walled City of Lahore has gems and wonders inside it. You will be amazed to see world-class monuments by your side while walking through guzargahs and streets. Some of the monuments like Lahore Fort, Shahi Hammam, Wazir Khan Mosque, Badshahi Mosque, Mariam Zamani Mosque, Neevin Masjid, Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, Janam Asthan Guru Arjun Ram, Oonchi Masjid, Golden Mosque, Moran Sarkar Masjid, Baoli Bagh and Shahi Hammam are must-see sights in old Lahore.

The monuments are not the only gems here but the rich havelis are also jewels of this city. The havelis of Dina Nath, Mian Sultan, Mian Khan, Bej Nath, Nau Nehal Singh, Jamadar Khushhal Singh, Dhyan Singh, Shamsher Singh, Kharak Singh, Kabuli Mal, Noori Manzil, Qamar Manzil, Barood Khana, Faqir Khana and many more are the soul of the Walled City of Lahore.

This city holds wonders, like the world’s largest picture, which is inside Lahore fort.

Center of literature, arts and sports

Bhatti and Taxali have been the cultural and literary hub of this city from among the thirteen gates. This place has also been the center of arts and sports. Many known personalities of sub-continent and Pakistan emerged from this small city. Some of the famous personalities include Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Sir Ganga Ram, Shah Hussain, Ustad Daman, Madam Noor Jehan, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Faqir Syed Noor ud din, Molana Zafar Ali Khan, Hamid Ali Khan, Agha Hashar Kashmiri, Imtiaz Ali Taj, Rafi Singer, Om Puri (Indian actor), Nadra Begum, Judge Muhammad Latif, Hakim Shuja, Fasih Ul Mulk, Daag Dehlvi, Khawaja Khurshid Anwar, Faqir Syed Azizuddin, Syed Nazir Hussain Nazir Lakhnavi, Ghulam Ali, Maulvi Ahmed Din, Abdul Hafiz Kardar, Ustad Baray Ghulam Ali Khan and Gamma Pehalwan.

Havelis and houses of these famous personalities can still be seen in the streets of the Walled City of Lahore.

Food and Lahore

How can you take away food from Lahore? The Walled City of Lahore is a city of cuisines and traditional food. Pathoora, Das Qulcha, Qatlama, Khatai, Paye, traditional sweets, firni, kheer, Lassi, Sardai, Elaichi Sharbat, Sandal etc. are the specialties of this place and the guests are still served with these traditional items.

The Fort Road Food Street is another charm for the people where the rooftops give you the best views of heritage and bygone times.

This is Lahore

This is Lahore with novel streets, tempting cuisines, world-class monuments, amazing people with never-ending hospitality, and a cultural hub. No matter what time you visit this city, you will always feel safe because of its kind and loving people. Try out a tour to this cosmos on a Saturday or Sunday and you will take back good memories of the time spent there. This is a city of life, colours, taste, and a city that never sleeps!

The writer is a media professional and can be reached at