Monday, December 25, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan: Islamabad - One of the most beautiful Capitals of the World

Islamabad - one of the most beautiful capital cities of the world. I first saw Islamabad when it had been recently inaugurated in 1966 my father shifted his Interpol office from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. Turning left traveling in the VW wagon of the then famous Waljis Travel Services, the Islamabad Highway was something I had never seen till that age of my life - the two lanes long highway with street lights in the green belt in between the two way traffic was an awesome scene for at that time no such road existed in Pakistan. That day, I entered the modern city of Islamabad overlooked by the lush green Margalla Hills.

Islamabad was still developing but roads were wider than any other city with clean environment. Opel Rekord taxis were the main pillar of transport beside buses and Ford wagons. We lived in F 6-4 and at the end of the main road next to our hose lived the architect of Islamabad and the President of Pakistan Muhammad Ayub Khan. In the evenings, he would be seen in his newly gifted Rolls Royce by the then UAE king and we would stand there to wave at him to be waved back by the smiling president.

On November 29, Pakistan Post issued a set of two stamps priced at 15 and 50 Paisa respectively on the formal inauguration of the new capital. The stamps displayed the Pakistani flag, the federal secretariat building and photos of president Ayub Khan both in uniform and in suit (stamps from my stamps album).

I still remember a visit to the Shakarparian Hills which provided an excellent bird's eye of the entire capital city stretched amid green trees. While Saidpur village has been turned into a must visit tourist landmark, it was then just an ordinary village. I along with my other brothers had bicycled to the village once. Visiting it recently was a site altogether different. 
 Renovated Saidpur Village
Melody was then the only cinema of the city near Aabpara market and Hotel Sherahzad the only five star hotel - later turned into the offices of Foreign Ministry. Siraj Covered market was a modern market of the city which provided under one roof shopping mostly to the foreigners of the diplomatic family. We would often visit the market - it is sad that the market is no more now, though many new markets and big shopping malls have since opened to cater for needs of its residents.
Ayub Khan being briefed about Islamabad Master Plan from a vantage point - File Photo

It was President Ayub Khan who decided to build a new capital for Pakistan away from the busy city of Karachi, which was kept as capital of newly born Pakistan in 1947. Soon after taking over as president of the country, Ayub Khan constituted a commission to select a suitable site which should be centrally located and amid a landscape that should add to its natural beauty as compared to hustle and bustle business like environment of port city of Karachi. Thus the present location on the Pothohar Plateau was slelected and a Greek firm of architects, Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis, designed the master plan of the city based on a grid plan which was triangular in shape with its apex towards the Margalla Hills.

The city from then has developed into a most modern city mostly with government offices, the presidency, the prime minister's secretariat, the Supreme Court and an exclusive diplomatic enclave to house dozens of embassies and foreign missions. There are many landmarks of the city like the Faisal Mosque, Pakistan Monument and the Margalla Hills National Park and Shakarparian Park. The city is home to sixteen universities, and is close to the hill station of Murree and the famous archaeological site of Taxila.
Beautiful evening view of the Bara Darri at Fatima Jinnah Park which is also venue to many gatherings, events and a colourful annual flower show

While Shakarparian Hills still present an easy accessible view point of Islamabad, lately a road has been developed up to the village of Pir Sohawa on the Margalla Hills, from where one can view the breathtaking view of Islamabad. 
Road to Pir Sohawa almost camouflaged in the thick forest trees - Photo Northern areas of Pakistan
The road that commences from the Margazar at the foothills of the Margalla Hills moves up along the sharp turning of the hills till a mid point where a beautiful restaurent offers sizzling Pakistani delicacies. But from here on a rather sharp gradient road leads up to the top of the Margalla Hills to the village of Pir Sohawa. Short of the village there is yet another other eatery which offers not only one of the best cuisines in town, but also a spectacular view of Islamabad down below, specially at night.
View from Monal Restaurant near Pir Sohawa - Photo Courtesy Shehzad Mir

In many surveys recently, Islamabad ranks in the top 10 beautiful capitals of the world and has its place among the first three. 
  • Matrix Guy ranks it as the first position in his post "Top ten best capital cities' and writes: It is an amazing;highly developed and absolutely safe capital city, but also regarded as one of the best capitals in Asia and can be competed with any glorious capital city in the world - even from a highly developed country. 
  • Omer Eren places Islamabad at number two in his list of 25 Most Beautiful Capitals in the World at Today's Collective.
  • The Mesh News also places Islamabad at the second slot in its list of Top 10 25 Most Beautiful Capitals in the World in 2017 and writes: Not so large but most beautiful city of Pakistan better known for its most eye-catching places as Pakistan monument, Rawal Lake, Lake View Park, Saidpur village, Faisal mosque and many other. Everyone love to visit this place from country as well as all around the world.
Islamabad: an amazing amalgamation of sky rising buildings and Nature: 
Photo Courtesy Shehzad Mir

Islamabad is so lovable because here springtime dances with multicolored flowers everywhere swaying with the still cool breeze of fading winters, the scent of which enchants and mesmerisms the passer byes. At night when the city lights are turned on, it looks as if thousands of fire flies have descended from nowhere to lighten up the city for its people. The narration of its beauty is fathomless - the more you live in it, the more of its beauty is discovered like a bud slowly opens up in springtime to a fully grown scented colourful flower.

Pakistan Monument on a hill overlooking Zero Point

Islamabad is darling of Pakistan cities and those who have seen it once, always long to see it once again. If you haven't visited Islamabad, do include it in your list of intended travel destinations and vising it and enjoying the serenity of its cool lush green environment with tall pine trees along the wide road sides and hospitality of its people - never to be forgotten and always to cherish lifetime memories.

Caption Photo Islamabad: Annaya Khan - all other photos are mine except otherwise mentioned
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