Vogue's Blog on Lahore is delightful for multiple reasons
A very good blog on Lahore not only for describing the places to visit and where to eat but also because of a well written description on why they say 'Lahore Lahore Haey' and also because of including our favourite Imran Qureshi, Rashid Rana and Aisha Khalid in the write-up. The inclusion of visual art scene in a 'routine' blog on a city like Lahore (and for Pakistan in general) is a welcome change / sign, as it indicates that the cultural presence and activities have strengthened to a level where they are seen as 'main stream' destination activities, along with the routine architecture and food related descriptions.
Again shows that Pakistan is growing beyond the dark days of Zia-ul-Haq and Lahorites and getting back into their groove of the last 300-400 years - of good architecture, great food and even greater cultural scene - be it visual, performing or literal.
Welcome back to the coming age of 'Naeen ree-saan shehr Lahore di-yaan' (Lahore has no parallel)
PS: To know more on why Artwallaa believes that the Pakistan visual art scene is in an irreversible upward pattern, read the following articles:
2013 is proving to be a banner year for Pakistan Visual Arts
Bloomberg article on Pakistan art - stereotyped, shallow but ......
A Proud Milestone for Pakistan & Asian Art
Vogue's lens on Lahore
Guest Blogger | 30 Oct 2013
|Wazir Khan Mosque in Old Lahore. Image: Sana Zulfiqar|
Suhair Khan discovers Michelin-worthy kebabs, meets major artists in their homes and spotlights Lahore's most popular fashion designers
Bags of saffron, turmeric, fresh peaches and dried tobacco are piled high along shoulder-width cobbled streets. And so while standing in the midst of Old Lahore's Wazir Khan Mosque this summer, in the deepest corner of the Mughal-era Androon Shehr -- as the Asr azaan was called out of the tiled minars -- I held my breath and waited for reality to seep back through my skin.
|Inside the Walled City. Image: Sana Zulfiqar|
Lahore is, in every way, an archetypical contemporary city -- peppered with some necessary chaos and flavoured with a fair dose of Punjabi swagger.
Girls make their way through the narrow cobblestone pathways within Old Lahore. Image: Saad Sarfraz Sheikh
|Badshaahi Mosque. Image: Ali Khurshid|
The city's old architecture. Image: Ali Khurshid
Food: Michelin-worthy kebabsEvenings in Lahore begin very late and cuisine is considered with an intense collective seriousness.
This place is not for the faint of stomach.My cousin Shahnawaz -- a Ferrandi-trained French chef who has worked with Alain Ducasse and David Bouley and so no slouch when it comes to gourmet food -- declared that he had found Pakistan's only Michelin-worthy restaurant: the kebab specialists at Baking Virsa in Gawal Mandi.
Also always on the list of visiting gastronomes is the somewhat rundown Cuckoo's Café, in the shadow of the Badshahi Masjid. Here, steaming hot tea and meat-laden food is hoisted up via antiquated pulley. Once a brothel, this ornate heritage building is also the childhood home of the proprietor Iqbal Hussain, a painter who is famous for his depictions of the women of Heera Mandi -- the poetically named red light district.
Massive homes in the city's newer, posh districts are decked out with private bars and perma-dancefloors in this extended era of prohibition. Some old Lahori families continue to live in exquisitely maintained old havelis, hosting lavish parties and serving up local culture, food, and music (replete with contemporary DJs).
On the weekends, this crowd heads off to their feudal lands along the banks of the Indus or to farms at the outskirts of the city, where invites to Qawwali nights at the homes of born-again Sufis are highly coveted.
On a foodie tour with Shahnawaz, uber chef and gastronome. Image: Sohaib Athar
The celebrations are never less than lavish. Image: Ali Khurshid
Art: Rashid, Aisha and ImranBut for me, the highlights were easily meeting some of the ambassadors of the city's current story. The artist Rashid Rana -- whose groundbreaking work is coveted by collectors, museums and art fairs worldwide -- and his wife Aroosa, spoke to me about Rashid's ongoing (and incredible) retrospective at Karachi's Mohatta Palace.
Rashid Rana's incredible work. Image: Rashid Rana
Being in their home was a visual feast: amongst industrial furniture, the stark white walls are adorned with pieces by Zahoor Ikhlaq, Quddus Mirza, and Muhammed Ali Talpur. A true Lahori (he gave me tons of local foodie tips), Rashid's crowd includes the writer Mohsin Hamid, artists such as Ayaz Jokio, former art students and young entrepreneurs. He is contemplating an artists' salon; I would love to be a fly on that wall.
At home with Rashid and Aroosa Rana in front of a Zahoor Akhlaq painting. Image: Aroosa Rana
I continued to take advantage of desi hospitality by scarfing down tea and buttery palmiers in the home of Aisha Khalid and Imran Qureshi (yes, the contemporary Pakistani artist whose work is currently on display on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York). The two chatted with immense modesty about Aisha's upcoming shows at the Moscow Biennale and Imran's September talk at the Met with the heads of the Islamic Art and Modern Art departments. Their own dazzling works were dotted among others' pieces throughout their home -- all of it reflective of their city and country -- with all the depth and colour, history, and sometimes frightening uncertainty which has shaped their own identities as contemporary and very present Pakistani citizens.
Tea with Imran Qureishi and Aisha Khalid at their home in Lahore. Image: Sahyr Sayed
Imran is a big fan of current Pakistani cinema (Aisha wryly observed that he's its most enthusiastic ambassador), and he excitedly played the trailer for a new film, Zinda Bhaag, for me on his laptop.
The movie is set in Lahore, and as an artist, Imran clearly relates to the theme -- young Pakistanis confronting the ennui of a complicated and often intense existence. A few weeks later, the film was voted Pakistan's first official entry to the Oscars.
Lahore pulls together so much of what it means to live in contemporary Pakistan. Writers, professors, activists, artists, tech entrepreneurs, lawyers -- there is a dynamism which makes it difficult to leave. And so I left the city reluctantly, carrying as keepsakes Iqbal Hussain's book of paintings and Liberty Market's best meetha paan to the airport. The car drove past a gaggle of young boys splashing around in the muddy waters of the city's central canal in the early morning light. They would dry off before evening, when the city lights up again.
Culture: Lit fests and good museumsPoet Faiz Ahmed Faiz's 'City of Many Lights' definitely glitters today. There is a cultural resurgence in a place which can boast centuries of painting, literature and music.
The Lahore Literary Festival last year hosted star writers such as Tariq Ali, Bapsi Sidhwa and Mohammed Hanif, and luminaries from the arts such as architect Nayyar Ali Dada and artist Salima Hashmi.
Of the city's many art events and galleries, my friend Nelofar recommends the annual thesis exhibition at the Zahoor-ul-Akhlaque Gallery at the National College of Arts. The Fakir Khana Museum is another museum worth the trip; hidden away at the Old City's Bhati gate, this private collection contains treasures passed down through generations of the Fakir family, with almost 30,000 items from the Sikh, Mughal and British eras -- perilously preserved and infrequently visited.
A look at Lahori theatre. Image: Ali Khurshid
The MetroPole theatre. Image: Sana Zulfiqar
At a concert. Image: Sana Zulfiqar
Urdu digests. Image: Sana Zulfiqar
Fashion: Lahore's immaculately dressed womenLahore's women are famously immaculately kept, and beauty parlours named thus sprout at every other corner.
Nelofar, who is one of the most chic people I know, recommends the Pakistan Fashion Design Council showroom in the upmarket Gulberg district.
Designer favourites include Kamiar Rokni (who uses traditional fabrics from his native Bahawalpur), Maheen Karim (slinky gowns) and Sania Maskatiya (trendy prêt).
Something that really excites me is fashion girls seeking out older designers and styles as well, reverting from Bollywood bling to sleek chiffon saris, classic cuts, and even muted Parsi-style embroidery.
Kamiar Rokni. Image: Facebook.com/TheHouseofKamiarRokni
Maheen Karim at the 6th PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week 2013. Image: Pfdc.org
Sania Maskatiya at the 6th PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week 2013. Image: Pfdc.org
Top 10 Lahori must-sees, according to locals Nelofar and Sohaib
- Anakarkali's tomb: Explore the cavernous archives in Anarkali's famed mythical tomb, and sift through documents such as the original deed of the sale of Kashmir to the British Empire in 1846. A bit difficult getting in, so plan ahead.
- Wagah border: March yourself to the Wagah border to watch the famous Indo-Pak evening staredown -- a flag-lowering ceremony which is a spectacle of colour, sound, and anachronistic bombast and still pulls in the crowds.
- The Royal Trail and the Fakir Khana Museum: Walk down the Royal Trail to find everything from antique jewelry to spare motorcyle parts. Weave your way from Delhi Gate up to the Mughal-era Badshaahi Masjid and Lahore Fort, where Emperor Shah Jahan built his beloved Mumtaz a Sheesh Mahal so she could see the stars reflected all around her every evening. Next head to Bhati Gate to check out the Fakir Khana Museum's incredible private collection.
- Andaaz Restaurant in the Old City: Divine desi food, phenomenal ambience, rooftop seating overlooking the regal Badshahi Masjid. The Mughals and their courtiers found solace in the arms of the dancing girls in this hood, and although the business has largely relocated to more upscale locales, the spice-filled air remains heavy with centuries of untold stories.
- Peeru's Café for live music (they have qawwali night, fusion night, ghazal night) and desi food. Quite an experience.
- Baking Virsa in Gawal Mandi: Call 24 hours in advance for a spot -- kebab-centric courses are served and presented by the chef and owner, known to customers as Sufi Sahab.
- Pak Tea House: This storied old haunt of intellectual powerhouses such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ibn-e-Insha, Ahmed Faraz, Saadat Hasan Manto and Ustad Amanat Ali Khan was recently re-opened by an activist blogger. Sip tea and engage in lively dialogue on whatever suits your fancy.
- MM Alam Road shops: Named after a 1965 wartime pilot, the road received a makeover recently and with it a new kind of invasion; designers like Nida Azwer, Sania Mastikayia, Fahad Hussain and Sara Shahid have boutiques here.
- Liberty Market: For anyone on a budget, get everything from chikankari and kaamdani embroidery and fabric, trendy sandals, Lahori khussas, bangles, and lace trimmings here.
- The Pakistan Fashion Design Council showroom in the upmarket Gulberg district.