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Notes on the Geography of Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City

Lahore's Old City--about one square mile--has 20,000 apartments, 38,000 households, 260,000 people, and 4,300 commercial enterpries.  You can't stand numbers?  So we'll take a look. But for those who thrive on digits, we'll mention first that Thornton and Kipling's Lahore, from 1876, says that the old city has 20,000 houses and 92,000 people.  If both sets of numbers are to be believed, then the population of the old city has roughly tripled in the last 125 years, while the number of residences has remained steady.  The Lahore Directory for 1914 tends to corroborate these numbers and gives the Old City's population as 114,000.

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Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 1

Inside the Delhi Gate.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 2

Just off the road, an old, no-longer-operational bath house. See the dome?

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 3

Here's a view of it from the roof of the hammam, to give the bath its proper name.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 4

And here's the inside of the dome.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 5

There are several rooms, each of which offered water of a different temperature.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 6

The bath was built as a money-spinner for Wazir Khan's Mosque, which collected all the profits.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 7

The great majority of the buildings in the Old City are new, but here's an older one.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 8

Close-up. The striking feature, of course, is the jharoka, borrowed straight from the Hall of Public Audience in the Lahore Fort.

It looks fancy, but hold on. Here's a description of one such house; it comes from G.C. Walker's Gazetteer of Lahore, 1893-4. "The houses, though lofty and to all appearances well built from the outside yet inside are much cramped for space and ill-ventilated. They generally consist of three or four stories, built of burnt bricks laid in mortar. Very few have even a courtyard in front. On the basement floor is a small dark room, in which the women of the house spend most of their day, spinning, cleaning cotton, or working at their needles. Next to this room is a small cell, perhaps 5 or 6 feet square, in which the grain is soaked for cooking, generally by an old woman who has no other means of earning her livelihood. On the floor above is a small room used as a kitchen, from which perhaps a window opens out into a narrow alley outside, or a sky-light lets in light from above. Adjoining it are two small rooms (kothies)of which one is used for a general store-room and the other as a depository for the family valuables. The third floor generally has three sleeping rooms, all are very small and ill-ventilated and hemmed in on three sides by the walls of adjoining houses. In these also property can be stored and if necessary food is cooked. The fourth floor contains but one small room at the back, the remainder being an open place in front of a corner of which is a small latrine. This space and the open roof above are used as a sleeping shed; the latrine is the only convenience of the sort available to all residents of the house, male or female; an open drain (parnalah)leads down the front wall of the house into the alley below, where it is carried off by an open saucer gutter into the main drain in the adjoining street." (Quoted in Aijazuddin, 2003, p. 78.)

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 9

Change, change, change, helped along by encouraging words.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 10

In this case an entrance hall hides a courtyard.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 11

The entrance, with the owner's name: Pir Naseem Jada.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 12

The courtyard.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 13

Ground level.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 14

The other side of the building, obliquely facing an open space.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 15

This plaque, affixed to the wall of the same building, reads, in Hindi, "Commissioner Sita Ram Mehra, son of Sir Govind Ram, Advocate, High Court, Punjab." Did this family come before or after Pir Naseem Jada, whose name is on the other side of the building. If later, did the family migrate to India at partition or, unlikely though it is, choose to stay in Pakistan, where most Hindus after 1947 found it prudent to convert to Islam?

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 16

Across the courtyard, new buildings.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 17

Walking through the streets, you see lots of new buildings.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 18

Hints of the old: woven window screens.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 19

The real continuity lies in the Old City's economic life, which as always is very public.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 20

Freight is open for inspection--and slow-moving.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 21

All kinds of animals are put to work.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 22

Who has the right of way?

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 23

A vendor with very red strawberries.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 24

Distinctively sweet and mild oranges.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 25

Carrots, hollowed-out.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 26

Sweets.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 27

Pasta.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 28

Chilled pineapple chunks.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 29

Grains and spices.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 30

Calculating.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 31

The apothecary's supply-house.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 32

Medicinal plants.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 33

Turnip washing.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 34

Milk delivery.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 35

Baker.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 36

Poultry.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 37

Shucks!

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 38

Gulp!

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 39

Nothing wasted.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 40

Knife sharpening.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 41

Freight forwarder, with a roof-mounted mini-747.


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