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Travel to 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.  In defense at least of the trend in the raw population, the Lahore Directory for 1914 gives the Old City's population as 114,000.

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Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 1

We're popping inside the Delhi Gate.

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 2

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

Pakistan: Lahore: the Old City picture 3

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

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And here's the inside of the dome.

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

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In some of the rooms you can see the old water chambers. The bath, by the way, was built as a money-spinner for Wazir Khan's Mosque, which collected all the profits.

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

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

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.)

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A more typical picture: change, change, change, helped along by encouraging words.

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Note the form of this building, with a courtyard hidden by this entrance wall.

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

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Inside the courtyard.

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Ground level.

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The other side of the building, opening to the corner of a courtyard.

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The plaque, affixed to the other side of the building, reads, in Hindi, "Commissioner Sita Ram Mehra, son of Sir Govind Ram, Advocate, High Court, Punjab." A little research might discover whether this family pre- or post-dated that of Pir Naseem Jada, whose name is on the other side of the building. Did its members 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?

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Across the courtyard, new buildings.

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

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Hints of the old: woven window screens.

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

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

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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.

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Sweets.

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Pasta.

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Chilled pineapple chunks.

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Grains and spices.

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Calculating.

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The apothecary's supply-house.

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Medicinal plants.

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Turnip washing.

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Milk delivery.

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Baker.

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Poultry.

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Shucks!

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Gulp!

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Nothing wasted.

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Knife sharpening.

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


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