Tuesday, March 6, 2012

'Ziarat' of picturesque Ziarat

The title of my post may be confusing for both who know the place and those who do not know what does Ziarat means. Let me clarify before I write about the 'ziarat' of Ziarat.

Ziarat is a heavenly place in Balochistan, Pakistan - located at an altitude of 2543 metres (8346 feet) above mean sea level and some 122 kilometers from Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province of Pakistan. Its height makes it a very pleasant place to visit in summers, when the plains of Balochistan are under a severe grip of rising temperatures and are intensely hot. The hills around Ziarat are thickly wooded and are home to the world's second largest Juniper trees. The junipers are considered to be the real treasure of Ziarat. There are trees in the valley which are more than 7000 years old. It is for these reasons, Ziarat attracts tourists from all around to have a break from the hot weather elsewhere. During the British rule of India, all government office used to shifted to Ziarat during the summers.

In winters, Ziarat is extremely cold and receives a hefty snowfall. This again attracts tourists and those who have had a terrible hot summer to spend a few days in snow and take away the heat their bodies had absorbed in the previous summers.

Now the other 'ziarat.' Ziarat in Urdu and even local language means visitation - specially a visit to a religious place. Even a religious place itself is called a ziarat. So 'Ziarat' of Ziarat actually means a visit to Ziarat.

I have visited Ziarat only once in my life and consider myself lucky for having done so. It was many years ago when I was in Quetta doing a course at the prestigious Command and Staff College - a historical and renowned military institution for mid-career officers for further grooming to assume appointments in higher ranks. The College has had the honour of grooming many officers who rose to the ranks of field marshals and generals in the British and Pakistan Army. Field Marshal Montgomery has been an instructor here before WW-II.

On one weekend, I along with my family decided to travel to Ziarat and enjoy a time out from the rather hot weather of Quetta. We went to Ziarat and whatever I had heard of Ziarat came true. The weather was pleasant with a cool breeze blowing and lots of people had come for a day spend here.
The famous Ziarat Residency
Besides its many other tourist attractions, the Ziarat Residency is the most famous. The small double storey Ziarat Residency has won the position of a national monument, since soon after winning over independence from the British India, the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah, commonly known as the Quaid-e-Azam (the great leader) spent his last days here as he was terrible sick. And it was upon return from Ziarat that he breathed his last on the way from Karachi airport to the hospital.

The Ziarat Residency is a uniquely designed wooden building, constructed in1892. It was initially meant to be a sanatorium, since he weather was ideal for patients suffering from tuberculosis. However, later it was used as the summer residence of the Agent of the Governor General. Now the building is revered as the last resting place of Jinnah and has been converted into a national monument and a museum. 

Watch a video of the Ziarat Residency:

Like all the visitors, we also had a chance to visit and see the inside of the residency and items which had been under use by Jinnah in his last days. It is noble on the part of the people of the time to have immediately preserved the building and its possessions. 

Walls of Ziarat Residency are studded with memorable photos of Jinnah 
The walls are studded with a number of historical photos of Jinnah. While walking through the galleries, one is overawed with the feeling that once the father of the nation was here and alive and would just appear from some room and handshake you with his typical warmth and meaningful smile.

I had some photographs taken of the residency, but I regret having lost them somewhere during frequent postings and transfers. If you happen to be visiting Quetta, do make plan a 'ziarat' to Ziarat. You will that strange kind of pleasant chill even during the summers - something that would always remind you of being in Ziarat.

Related: Ziarat (Pakistanpaedia)