I had an amazing trip to Lahore earlier this year, in the midst of a huge fat Punjabi wedding, war threats between India and Pakistan, airport shut downs in Punjab and dramatic family reactions on safety concerns; I found myself at the epicenter of the most exciting week of 2019.
A regular day would start by us waking up to the sounds of political fiasco that was being played out like an India Vs Pakistan cricket match on both ends of the media drowned out only by wedding songs. The afternoons were spent by most in the hustle bustle of beauty matters at the salon (A place that hears more gossip than any dramas on TV). The day would stretch out between quick bites and loads of chai along with dance practices and pre events to the main event.
Even though I was thoroughly enjoying the Lahori wedding week, I felt it would be a sin not to visit the city’s cultural offerings; and so I took a day out to feed my soul with some art, architecture and culture. The only place I could think that would give me all of these was the “Walled City of Lahore” so got their early morning and walked in to the office located at Delhi gate.
I was welcomed by warm Salams by a group of tour guides, I looked around and asked if anyone was free to take me around, I specifically wanted to walk from the Delhi gate to Bhatti gate and then back. (The route was recommended by a dear friend who knew the city well).
A young man walked up volunteering himself to be my guide. (So yes it was a surprise to me as well, but this service is completely FREE of charge, The Walled City Authority provides incredibly knowledgeable guides to all its tourists! So next time you are in Lahore, please do check them out!)
It must have been my lucky day, since Ahmed Mughal (My tour guide) that day was as interesting as the tour, so I had to share his story and here is my ode to all the lovely tour guides; who passionately make strangers feel like they are home.
Tell us a little bit about Ahmed Mughal.
My Name is Ahmed Mughal. I have done Bachelor’s in Marketing from Lahore and doing master in political science. I have extensive experience in Customer Service and I had been working in the industry since 2008; representing different brands and then I joined Pearl Continental hotel as a departmental incharge; before joining the Walled City of Lahore as a Tourism Officer in 2016 till date.
What inspired you to become a Tour Guide?
My Inspiration came with the passion I have for the Tourism Industry in Pakistan; I believe it’s the only way through which we can show the world the positive and real side of Pakistan; which is happy and peaceful. I want to make a difference in my own way to change the way people perceive Pakistan and hopefully spread a positive image of our country to the world.
What has been the best experience working as a tour guide?
Every day is different experience for me; the nature of this job allows me to meet new people on daily basis e.g. Locals, Historian, Researchers, Foreigners, Students etc. these interactions help keep me grounded, polite, friendly and approachable to every one. The biggest advantage is in the learning, I am constantly exposed to different cultures and every day I learn something new.
Tell us about the Gates – how many gates does the city have?
Originally there are 12 Gates but actually now there are 13 gates.
- Delhi Gate (Existing Gate)
- Yakki Gate / Zaki Gate (Original Name)
- Sheranwala Gate / Khizri Gate (Original Name – Existing Gate)
- Kashmiri Gate (Existing Gate)
- Masti Gate
- Roshanai Gate (The Only Original Gate of Mughal Era – Existing Gate)
- Texali Gate
- Bhaati Gate (Existing Gate)
- Mori Gate
- Lohari Gate / Lahori Gate (Original Name – Existing Gate)
- Shah Alam Gate
- Mochi Gate
- Akbari Gate
Ahmed taking a break after my endless questions
Did you enjoy our walk between Delhi Gate & Bhatti Gate?
It was a great experience to show you around, you were so curious about so many things and I hope I could share all the knowledge about Walled City that I have with you. Also, I don’t enjoy walking, but when you requested that you wanted to walk between the two gates and back, I thought why not, it would be a new experience for me as well and I am glad I did!
I enjoyed how happy you were to see the culture, the history and your need to understand the life of Walled City of Lahore. Walking with you in the walled city was fun and I was inspired by the things you are doing for women, art and culture! Also liked how kind and humble you were as a person.
What should tourists know about the Walled City of Lahore?
Its always great to welcome tourist from abroad but I encourage even Lahore residents to take a tour for a better understanding of their own city; there is so much charm walking through the narrow streets and seeing the life and culture, the residents and once people do take the tour the feedback I get is that they didn’t know so much existed in the city. There is a quote, which is apt: “Lahore Lahore Aye”
Moreover, some locals have gone to other countries and toured but never seen their own City and after visiting the walled city, most of them start promoting it to their friends, family about our city’s beautification and rich history!
We get many foreigners who appreciate the restoration and preservation of our monuments but it will make a bigger impact if our local community also got involved. So I am constantly encouraging Pakistanis to visit these sites as much as I welcome tourists from abroad.
The restoration projects are only possible with hard work and support from walled city of Lahore authority, Agha khan trust for culture and royal Norwegian embassy. Recently some support has also been coming in from overseas Pakistanis who are inspired by this great initiative.
Another fact you should know is that 400 years ago, Lahore was only in between the 13 gates of the city. I have seen some tourists who come to the walled city in search of their ancestors house and at times they find it too and when they ring door bell, they are always greeted with a hot cup of chai and welcomed to sit and share stories.
What are your future aspirations?
I am dealing with tourism in Pakistan along with tourism in Lahore. We have so many beautiful places in Pakistan with so much variety of culture, mountains, nature, landscapes, language and specially Pakistani hospitality which welcomes everyone with open arms. Some places I would love people to visit in Pakistan are Hunza, Skardu, Kashmir, Naran, Kaghan, Gilgit, Multan (City of Saints), Bahwalpur (City of Nawabs), Interior Sindh with Variety of Culture and Religion, Quetta, Gwadar, Baluchistan. We have so much to offer and I want to be an ambassador of a country that I am so proud to represent!
To learn more about the Walled City of Lahore: http://walledcitylahore.gop.pk/
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