Saturday, December 02, 2006


Possibly the most mind-blowing thing one can do in Lahore takes place every Thursday night at the 700-year-old Shrine of Baba Shah Jamal. At this time, several drum beaters gather together to play their hypnotic beats for a packed crowd. The weekly event has come to be known as "Sufi Night."

Sufism is a traditional form of Islamic mysticism with many different forms and interpretations, but the most common theme is the pursuit of spiritual freedom. The drum beaters in Lahore gain this through music and dancing.

The drummers I saw were the famed Gongasain brothers, the most reknowned musicians of their kind in Pakistan. One of the most amazing bits of information about this duo is that one of the brothers is deaf and learned how to drum by feeling the vibrations on his stomach. The fact that the two play in unison and harmony is a testament to their skill and dedication.

The part of the Shrine where the Gongasain brothers perform is actually quite small and totally crammed with bare-footed spectators (you have to remove your shoes to get in the shrine). The performance starts around 11:00 pm, and we arrived just in time. We barely got in, but were able to score front row seats.

The Gongasain brothers were complimented by four dancers who twirled around in clockwise fashion while shaking their heads vigorously from left to right as if in a trance. Because of our close proximity to the action, we were in danger of being trampled by them several times, but managed to survive the experience unscathed.

Photos were discouraged (maybe because the flash would prove distracting for the performers and therefore disrupt their spiritual journey). We still managed to grab some shots, but they really don't capture the excitement of the action.

In order to take more pictures, my friend Dennis turned off the flash on his camera. For this reason (and also because it was nighttime), the following pictures have an acid-flashback feel to them, but given the subject matter it seems entirely appropriate.

Sufi Night in Lahore is an unforgettable experience and truly a must-see for visitors to the city. It's become so popular that they even have signs advertising the event.

Special thanks to Dennis for supplying me with most of the pictures for this article.


At times, it seems as if Lahore is an actual urban jungle because of the sheer amount of animals that are constantly mingling on the streets with the locals. Aside from the creatues I will document here, the Lahore animal population included dogs, cats, chickens, sheep, cows and camels.

I also saw two smartly dressed monkeys on leashes, but their owners wouldn't let me take their pictures, so I had to steal this shot as they walked down the street:

Here is a goat that I saw on the sidewalk. When I asked why his two front legs were bound together, I was told that he was just waiting to be sacrificed within a few days.

Horses can be seen transporting people around town in carriages that range from the simple to the elegantly elaborate.

Generally, animals in Lahore are used as beasts of burden, and horses and mules are most often seen transporting heavy loads across town.

Most of the time, these animals appear overworked and overwhelmed. This donkey is practically skeletal, but he is still being required to lug a cache of children's bikes from one place to another.

Still, there are times in Lahore when you'll spot an actual person carrying a heavy load and when you do, you can bet that there's a horse, donkey or cow somewhere who is thankful for the break.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I'm the first to admit that Thai food is not my favorite menu choice. I can think of a ton of other styles of food that I would prefer to Thai and that was one reason I was glad to get out of Bangkok and over to Lahore, if even for just a little while.

But towards the end of the trip I decided to check out Lahore's first (and only) stand-alone Thai restaurant: Lemon Grass, and I'm glad I did.

If I was giving out style points, then this place would get high marks across the board. It looks like Thailand. It feels like Thailand. It even smells like Thailand (lemon grass, to be specific).

They even have several Thai staff members and everyone is dressed in traditional Thai clothes.

When you walk in, you're even greeted with the standard portrait of Their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit, something you'll see in every business establishment in Bangkok.

The interior designers of Lemon Grass really went out of their way to make this place look authentic. Their are Thai-style statues:



And other details:

The walls really reminded me of walls at the Jim Thompson house (see my article at One Man in Bangkok).

And the food was pretty good too. They offer all of the traditional Thai dishes, and they weren't too spicy for me (which Thai food in Bangkok usually is). Again, I am not a connoisseur of this kind of food, but some of the people I was with have lived in Bangkok for over ten years and one of them commented that Lemon Grass offered the best Thai food outside of Thailand that he has ever had, hands down.

So next time you're in Lahore and have a hankering for some Thai cuisine, look no further than Lemon Grass. You can't miss it, it's the place that looks like a teak-style Thai house that has been magically transported to Pakistan.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I only spent a week in Lahore, but during those seven days I covered a lot of ground. For that reason, I was not able to spend as much time at certain sites as I would have liked to, so I am compiling them all here.

These next three images were all taken at different shopping areas around Lahore. To me, the really illustrate the hustle and bustle that makes the city so vibrant at times.

But Lahore is not all traffic and confusion. It has a reputation as a very green city, with many peaceful parks. This one is called Racecourse Park and it is home to a polo field (one of Pakistan's more popular sports).

Shalimar Gardens was conceived by Shah Jahan in the 1600s and is the only surviving Mughal garden/park in Lahore. It is fairly large and contains a lot of impressive buildings, pools and fountains. The current King and Queen of Thailand visited Shalimar Gardens in the early 1960s.

The Old City is considered to be the heart of Lahore. It is surrounded by a wall with thirteen gates. The Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque are part of the Old City, but there is also a thriving shopping district with winding streets where one could really get lost.

There are a bunch of other mosques in the Old City as well:

Getting around Lahore is easy if you have the patience to deal with congested traffic jams at various times of the day. The city streets are places where cars, trucks, carts drawn by horses and mules, bicycles and motorcycles converge to create chaos and disorder.

Another form of city transportation is the auto-rickshaw. People familiar with Bangkok will recognize these three-wheelers as "tuk tuks."

Buses in Lahore are canvases for artists to express themselves through wild and colorful designs. This one reminded me of the bus the Beatles drove in "Magical Mystery Tour."

The Minar-i-Pakistan (aka Pakistan's Tower) is often referred to by locals as Pakistan's Eiffel Tower, although it's not nearly as large. It was built in 1960 on the same spot where the Pakistan Resolution was signed twenty years earlier.

One could spend a few half a day at the Lahore Museum if they had the time to examine each and every article it contains.

Like any worthwhile museum, Lahore's has plenty of historical artifacts:

And not everything here focuses on Muslim culture. There is a Hindu section and this statue of the fasting Buddha is a famed image around the world:

Art both old and new also has a home at the Lahore museum:

On the outskirts of Lahore along a dried out river is what was explained to me as a "gypsy village." I had never seen one of those before.

And while Lahore may be the cultural hub of Pakistan, I'm not sure if the latest James Bond film "Casino Royale" has made it there yet, but in case it hasn't it's nice to know that Pappo Gujjar is around to save the day.