The Fort of Rannikot
26 August 2016
Tanvir Ahmad Khan, with whom I share this page, emailed to say that at a dinner with the French ambassador and his wife, the subject of a fort called Rani Khet came up. The fort, it was reported, lay somewhere near Dadu. Other than that no one knew anything about it. The fort of Rannikot (pronounced Runny Coat and not, repeat not, Ranikot or Rani Khet) lies thirty-two kilometres southwest of Sann (the ancestral village of the venerated late G M Syed), eighty kilometres north of Hyderabad in the Lakhi hills of the great Khirthar Range. Between Sann and the fort there stretches a sandy desert that I have seen transformed into farmland over the past thirty years. In the late 1970s, there being no road, one had to either walk (as a friend and I did) or ride a jeep. Today a blacktop road connects Rannikot with the Indus Highway outside Sann.
The walls of the fort become visible from a distance of about four kilometres, snaking over the golden-brown ridges and the first views strike one as being starkly similar to the Great Wall of China. Entry into the fort, if one is on a jeep, is through the dry bed of the Ranni River (whence the name of the fort) or through Sann Gate if on foot. The gateway, on the right bank of the stream, is a classic example of defensive architecture with two staggered turrets that form a dogleg in order to break the gallop of an attacking horseman.Read more »
The White Desert
25 August 2016
I first went wandering about Thar Desert back in 1980. I had seen bits of the Thal Desert in Punjab some years before that and both deserts disappointed me. There were no real wind-sculpted sand dunes like I had seen in pictures of the Sahara, Gobi or Takla Makan deserts. As time went by, I got to know Thar much better. This included what was in those days called the Tharparkar district in the south and Khairpur in the north of Sindh. The one blank on my map was the desert part of Sanghar district. This tantalised because someone told me that the eastern-most part of the district that trod on the Indian border had a ‘different kind’ of desert.
About that same time (1980) I read a rather drab little report in Dawn about the desert lakes of Sanghar and made a mental note that this was something to see, a lazim. But years went by, twenty-four years in fact, before I actually got to see one of those fabled lakes. It was in the summer of 2004 and working on an assignment for a Hyderabad-based NGO, I was being driven into the desert when I asked about the lakes.
‘What lake?’ my friend asked with a lop-sided smile. ‘How can there be lakes in the desert?’Read more »
Pir Disappeared Ali Shah
24 August 2016
Sitting between PTV Lahore Centre and the offices of the DGPR (Director General Public Relations) on Abbott Road, there is a small shanty. Inside is a sarcophagus with all due trappings of the burial of the spiritually gifted: the green sheet of cheap satin inscribed with religious formulae draped over the hump, a few rosaries, burning joss sticks and some flowers. At all times there are one or two dopey hangers on. If you are lucky you will catch a whiff of hashish; luckier still and you might be invited for a puff or two. At night the little cubicle is garishly lit up with fluorescent tube lights.
There are two padlocked money boxes as well. Outside, on the sidewalk, there is a terracotta kunali containing salt. Passers by mouthing the wishes they want fulfilled by whoever is supposed to be buried under the concrete sarcophagus having silently aired their desires take a pinch or two of the salt. The hangers on do not say how the salt helps the wishes on their way or the wisher on his or her, but woe betide the man who suffers from hypertension, believes in this saint and passes by two or three times daily!Read more »
Little paradise on earth
23 August 2016
Little paradise called Churrok in the Moola Valley
Palace on the Rock
22 August 2016
It is a handsome complex of stone-and-timber buildings virtually smothered with various fruit trees and grapevines. Here and there willows, their branches drooping narcissistically over water, are dwarfed by towering poplars where golden orioles sing and magpies engage in noisy arguments. Outside its boundary wall a tumultuous river crashes over rounded boulders on its way to pay tribute to the glacier-born stream that is here known as the Shigar. Not many miles to the southward, right outside Skardu the capital city of Baltistan in the Northern Areas, the Shigar River in turn yields its waters to the great Sindhu.
Outsiders simply know it as Shigar Fort, but for the people of Baltistan it is Fong Khar – Palace on the Rock. An apt enough name for the main wing of the building straddles a huge rock. Admittedly although the rock could not be moved, there being ample space, the palace could have been designed differently to avoid building around its protuberance. One wonders, therefore, why the builders incorporated the rocky mass into the design for it serves no apparent purpose other than giving the place its name.
20 August 2016
Urdu article Ramkot Fort appeared in newspaper Roznama Pakistan on Sunday [double click the image below to enlarge]
Read more »
Tomb of Kamaro
19 August 2016
Back in 1987, in my freewheeling days in Sindh, I one day found myself in village Kamaro nearly midway between Mirpur Khas and Tando Allahyar. Otherwise unremarkable, the village was known for a shrine and its adjacent mosque. But not being a believer in miracles attributed to shrines, I was there only because I had heard of the beauty of both buildings.
I was not disappointed. Compared to those humongous buildings that we generally see, these two were tiny. But the splendour of the predominantly blue tile work was exquisite. So exquisite was it, that it will not be wrong to rank the two buildings of Kamaro among the most beautiful of Sindh, so far as tile work was concerned.
Both buildings measured about seven or eight metres square and, not taking the minarets of the mosque into account, were of equal height. So far as I remember, the mausoleum did not have a dome. If it did, the flow of the patterns in blue was so smooth that one simply did not notice the dome. One was only lost in the melody of the ornamentation.Read more »
18 August 2016
Trekking, as we know it, is actually a spin-off of the work of the early 19th century European explorers, surveyors and map-makers. Hiring local hunters and shepherds as guides, they followed the barely marked trails plied by earlier natives. The first adventurers, in the true sense, were mountaineers who had little to do with exploration and map-making, but were obsessed with climbing the virgin snows of the system.
By the 1920s, yet another breed of adventurer was roaming this great knot of high peaks and glaciers. This bunch did not climb per se. Driven by curiosity, they simply walked the trails. Their purpose was largely historical and sociological studies and they worked on shoestring budgets. There was, of course, another sub-caste: wealthy, highly educated, cultured persons of the world. Theirs was the best written record.Read more »
posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM, ,