Welcome to my place . . . Lahore

Aminah Bajwa recommends the sights to see, places to eat, and things to buy in her husband's hometown in Pakistan

 

Aminah Bajwa is Irish and is currently living in Lahore, where she is brand manager for northern Pakistan for the Toni & Guy international chain of hair salons.

“My husband is originally from Lahore, so after 14 years living in Ireland we thought we should try living in Pakistan before our two children got too big to move. We’ve been here a year, and are still very much trying to find our feet.”

Where is the first place you bring people when they visit?

Without a doubt it’s Lahore Fort, originally a Mughal palace that dates back to the 15th century. You can wander through what used to be the private quarters of the royal families and visit the Summer Palace on a private tour. Original artwork throughout the palace has survived in the form of paintings and walls inlaid with gemstones. You can walk up steps that were constructed to be extremely wide to allow elephants easy ascent with the royal families on their backs. It’s impossible not to feel the splendour of the Mughal Empire wash over you.

The top three things to do there that don’t cost money are . . .

Visiting the Walled City of Lahore: narrow, winding streets lined with spice vendors are very much unchanged over the centuries. Wooden balconies still overhang onto pulsating alleys with original woodwork dating back hundreds of years.

Shahi Hammam: a Persian-style bathhouse built in the 16th century with fully intact underground waterways designed to bring both hot and cold water to a series of plunge pools, baths and showers. Mughal art is adorned all over the bathhouse and the roof gives access to the original sky lights that flooded the chambers beneath with natural light.

Shalimar Gardens: extensive engineering was required to create some of the most elaborate waterworks in this garden. Originally built in the 16th century by the Emperor Shah Jahan, the gardens were initially meant for entertaining guests of the royal families, but much of it was open to the public. Despite being pillaged of much of its original marble work during the Sikh Empire’s reign, the garden remains one of the most prominent examples of Mughal dedication to creating aesthetically beautiful spaces.

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Pakistan?

Deep in the heart of the Walled City is a rooftop restaurant called Cuckoo’s Den. Woodwork dating back to the 17th century adds to its charm as you clamber up centuries-old stairs to reach the roof. It was originally a brothel. The owner grew up in the same building and he is now a prominent artist. The restaurant offers dishes that are steeped in history and spices. It really defies what the stereotype of Pakistani food is. If you’re lucky, you might be given access to the artist’s studio on the ground floor and learn about the building’s many lives over the past 400 years.

Where is the best place to get a sense of Lahore’s place in history?

A guided tour around the Walled City breathes life into Lahore’s history.

What should visitors save room for in their suitcase after a visit to Lahore?

Traditional leather sandals that are hand-stitched in multicoloured thread, and embroidered scarves decorated with flickering mirrors.

If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live, please email your answers to the five questions above to abroad@irishtimes.com, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We’d love to hear from you.

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