Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Rainbow above Thungal

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Rainbow above our camp near Thungal. More images in  The Apricot Road to Yarkand

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And no birds sing ...

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Growing up in Lahore in the middle of the last century, any child would have taken the drone of grey hornbill wings overhead, the mocking laughter of the golden-backed woodpecker and the oh so beautifully honeyed flute of the golden oriole for granted. They may not have known the names of all these birds, but the songs, these and many more, were familiar. These songs were heard from the Mochi Gate garden through The Mall and Davies Road. Lawrence Garden and Governor’s House simply tossed them out like embers from a lively fire. Gulberg echoed with them and the cantonment was just one huge ecosystem alive as alive can ever be with birdsong of a hundred different notes. And Model Town was simply very much more of the same. Barely 10 kilometres from the city centre, villages like Bedian, Shadiwal or Bhekewal were primal forest.
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Khirthar Canal, A touch of picturesque

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Work began on Sukkur Barrage in July 1923 and shortly after the first civil works were put in place in the turbid waters of the Indus, excavation of its seven canals was taken in hand. Along the left bank there were to flow the Eastern Nara, Rohri, Khairpur Feeder West and Khairpur Feeder East. Along the right bank, the Rice and Dadu canals, close to each other and only a short way west of the Indus, were designed to flow in a southerly direction.

Canal regulators on the right bank of the Sukkur Barrage for Dadu, Rice and Khirtar canals, the last of which was once called North-Western Canal
The third canal on this side was the North-Western that we today know as Khirthar Canal. It took off from the barrage and flowed, as its name implies, on a north-westerly bearing through Shikarpur and into what now comprises the districts of Jafarabad and Naseerabad in Balochistan. Much of this area was beyond the command of the Begari Canal that was flowing well since its rehabilitation in the 1840s.
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Pir Balanosh, the dragon-slayer of Chaghi

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Urdu article about Pir Balanosh, the dragon-slayer of Chaghi district, Balochistan. A classic study in anthropology where ancient legend alters with changing modern reality [double click the image to enlarge].
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‘Dust unto Dust’

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In the year 1902 parts of the Shikarpur and Karachi districts of the province of Sindh were carved away to establish the new district of Larkana. Long before that this area was known as Chandka after the well-established Chandio tribe that still lives in great numbers in the western hills of the district. Now the newly established district was to get its new name from the Rajput clan of Larik.


In a paper submitted to the Government of India on 31 December 1847 Hugh James, the Deputy Collector (equivalent to the modern Assistant Commissioner) of Shikarpur, did not hesitate to call Chandka the ‘Garden of Upper Sindh.’ His reason for this appellation was the number of waterways, both natural and man-made, that meandered across the district bringing it great fertility.
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Where Gakkhars ruled

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It could have been a day warm and humid as it was in August 1553 when Kamran Mirza’s eyes last beheld the crenulated walls of Pharwala Fort starkly outlined against a blue Bhadon sky held up by billowing white cumulus. But it was crisply warm as we parked on flat ground above the Soan River running between us and the fort.

Hathi Gate
It had started out with Rehan Afzal and I talking about Pharwala. But then Pharanaz and her husband Naweed joined us too and we resolved to together visit it. Returning to the fort after eighteen years, I had forgotten that I had then entered by Hathi Gate by wading across the river, the same way as Babur had done back in the spring of 1519. There, behind the fortification Babur espied the steely gaze of Hathi Gakkhar, a man of gigantic stature and reportedly superhuman strength that likened him as to an elephant.
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Peace!

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More images in Deosai: Land of the Giant  - available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore

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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days