Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Directly across from the Badshahi Mosque is the Lahore Fort (also known as Shahi Qila). This impressive structure has a long and storied history and it was built, altered and rebuilt between the years 1566 and 1673. It is another spectacular example of Mughal architecture and is very similar to other forts in Agra and Delhi. It is essentially a series of buildings surrounded by a massive wall.

Upon entering the Fort, you can walk through various structures, all of which were built at different times by different Mughal emporers like Akbar and Jehangir. I didn't really keep track of which ones were which and who built what, but you can get the general feel of the place from the next series of photos. The Fort has an eerie, deserted feel and while several of the structures are ruins, most are surprisingly intact.

Like any historical site, the real treat of the Lahore Fort is in the details. Precious stones, carvings, mosaic and rough tiles and murals are still contained throughout and one can spend considerable time just taking it all in.

One of the more memorable structures in the Lahore Fort is the Shish Mahal (also known as the Palace of Mirrors). It was built in 1631-32 by Shah Jahan.

Unfortunately, the Palace of Mirrors was under renovation when I was there and if I had included its picture here, all you would see is a bunch of scaffolding. The entire wall is covered with small mirrored tiles and this was the place where the empress and her court hung out. There were other parts of it though and the screens you can see here were installed so the empress could have some privacy.

You can leave the Lahore Fort by way of Pakistan's only surviving elephant steps, the actual ones used by elephants when members of the Royal Family wanted to make an extremely grand entrance or exit. If you walk down them, the huge strides you have to take will confirm that the steps were indeed designed for the world's largest living land animals.

The last thing to see as you exit the Fort is the picture wall, so named for the exquisite artwork and tiles it contains. It also has a bunch of built in birdhouses for the local pigeons.

The Lahore Fort is a must-see attraction in Lahore. Anyone with an interest in history would consider it an essential part of their visit to Pakistan's cultural heartland.

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