Lahore

Lahore is no bore; it’s the second largest city after Karachi in Pakistan. This ancient heart of the Mughal empire (the guys who built the Taj Mahal) is spread with history. It lays claim to Pakistan’s second largest mosque, Badshahi, and the Lahore Fort. The Lahore Fort is one of the big four Mughal defense structures, rich in architectural intricacies. It was sacked by the Mongols in 1241 and eventually taken by the British several hundred years later.

I buzzed right to the Regale Internet Inn after the 5 hour train ride. This was the guest house on everyone’s lips to stay in and it had a nice atmosphere of travelers. They also organize a trip on Thursday’s to a Sufi drumming circle.

The museum was top notch, the best I’ve seen since Urumqi, China. They featured several main rooms of art collections such as Hindu art, Muslim art, weapons room dating back several hundreds of years, and the most interesting to me, the Gandhara art.

The Gandhara style arose from the influence of western invaders, both military and commercial. Alexander the Great invaded and left his touch and later branches from the main Silk Routes into India brought traders from Europe. What emerged was a combining of Greek artistic values with those of the local Buddhist culture. Statues and depictions became more lifelike, inheriting the Greek values of proportion and attention to details. The crowning piece is the famous Fasting Buddha, which you can read more about here.

The Sufi drumming circle was a couple of intense hours of drumming. The Sufi are an interesting mystical flavor of Islam who define themselves as “a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God.” (Wikipedia) Two drummers and a variety of supporting characters all crammed into a tiny space. The most notable aspect was the extreme smoking of charas (hasish). Musicians and revelers would work themselves up into at times trances and shake sessions, while most joined in singing songs.

The drummers themselves were amazing. With a drum hanging from a strap around the neck, large Pakistanis took up their curved canes and pounded the skins. One spun around in a circle fastly as the drum left his body with centrifugal forces, all the time maintaining a rattling drum roll.

Supporting characters weaved their way through the crowds, or stood in the front by the drummers. Small children shook and danced in the front, while one older gentleman played a whistle and danced about with a sword. In the background others blowing shells could herald caravans of brightly dressed men. Some looked like stereotypical gypsy traders moving through to pay their respect, another religiously serious in bright orange robes, and still others where just rich men making their way to the VIP sections with a trail behind them handing out fruits and snacks.

One the way out I managed to thwart a pickpocket as his hand crept into my pocket. He quickly retreated and I caught on to my wallet. With such a huge crowd all moving to small exits it would be easy to fall prey to this. I pushed him away and pushed through the crowd. Lucky for me.