A Few Delightful Moments in the City of Saints, Multan!

The Mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e-Alam in Multan
I happened to have travelled to Multan for work this past weekend and it turned out to be a very interesting trip, starting from the plane to my way back. Or let's say the trip had started before it started; in simple words, it started with people warning me that Multan will be very hot and I will get boiled. At least that would be better than the boiling frog theory. Well the boiling had already begun in Karachi with the temperature reaching 44°C a day before I left for the 'city of saints' but thank God for Karachi's evening breeze which is a BLESSING! 

It's always interesting to travel for work, you get to grasp something from the place you are going to while leaving behind a bit of yourself there.

Multan was still bearable or perhaps it's easy for me to say considering I spent most of the day in air conditioned spaces, although the next day we went for some sight seeing when it was 39°C. Trust me, it was worth it to explore the city I had been to for the first time. I wish we had more time at hand but I'm also glad that we made the most of the limited hours that we had. Time was not ending.

Our office driver was kind enough to drop me off at the airport and asked me if I had kept all the necessary things ... how considerate. When we finally boarded the plane I realised that someone else had taken my seat (which by the way was a window seat but it's okay) so I asked the steward where I should go, in response he asked the gentleman on my seat to vacate it. Instead I thought if in the next aisle where I was at was his seat then I should stay there ...  exchange programme you see. It's ok to let go of your seat if you are on your own (without your herd) for a short flight unless you are a politician. Later, I realised it was the right decision to let go, considering how that person spoke to the air hostess when he wanted water, 'HELLO! Suno! HELLO! Zaraa pani daina ... HELLO!' (he was asking for water), he said it while knocking the glass on the seat in front. Is that how you talk to a woman? Really? Hello back.

Well the new seat I was indirectly awarded was the middle seat. A male human being (I use this term to describe people when I have spent a great deal of time with my parrots) came who had to fit in while the two of us stood up. I offered moving to the corner ... oh the window seat ... do I need to repeat that I was okay to let go off one? But that person, that adult person insisted on having that only seat. "No, my seat is the window seat", he bellowed, well not exactly bellowed but he didn't care that a fat woman (just kidding, I didn't feel fat until I weighed myself on the hotel room's weighing machine ... I mean how could they???!?!?) had to squeeze out to make his existence fit in. Life went on with the window seat ordeal. The other gentleman next to me later switched to a vacant seat in the next isle and offered me to switch to his seat. Later I met him again at the client event because he was one of them. Maybe he thought I was uncomfortable, maybe he felt I should be given more space or maybe nothing. Although I was fine either way, still it was very thoughtful of him to let me ... EXPAND and take his seat.

Now why am I stuck in the plane, in a flight which was worth 1 hour 5 minutes only? I don't know. When we landed, I felt like a bread that had been transferred from one oven to the next, although the next oven was still not that extreme but thank God for deodorants and colognes in this weather ... perfumes could be rendered useless you see.

There at the airport was the hotel driver who had come to pick me and two other people. So off we went. I finally met my colleagues who had come from Lahore and started coordinating for work.

To my satisfaction I realised that Multan is an extremely clean city, with roads without a single bump or crevice and an uncanny level of security, there were houses with small boundary walls and no barbed wires or no broken glass covering those. OKAY STOP! I hadn't gone from a war zone, we are still breads (isn't this what you feel like in soaring temperature) of the same country. 

Multan is a closely knit, small city and with a number of sites in close proximity so it's easy to go from one place to the next.

We were fortunate enough to be part of Khaadi's flagship store opening in Multan which was quite an experience itself. The exuberant sales staff had gathered for what we can call a warm-up exercise, they proudly chanted away, 'Khaadi loves Pakistan' which without a doubt is embedded in the brand image as well. It's a proud Pakistani brand.

Flagship in retail business refers to the retailer's primary location or the chain's largest store like in this case with Khaadi, such a store often sells or holds the highest volume of merchandise.

The sales staff as they chanted and had their picture taken by a photographer upstairs which is why they are all looking up

It turned out to be a busy Friday for Khaadi's Multan store, we were told that markets are usually closed on Fridays in Multan and the city seemed at rest, however, the store footfall seemed very generous. 

What I like about Khaadi stores is that the shelves and merchandise are not crammed up, everything is so well spaced and your have ample area to walk around freely without bumping into another person. This store in particular is covered over an area of 20,000 square feet and has elevators and escalators, it houses various product lines under one roof, namely; Khaadi Pret, Khaadi Home, and Khaadi Kids. The brand has also launched its luxury lawn collection which can be found in this store in Multan. Below is a picture.

Luxury Lawn Collection
These pictures below serve as some of the store's highlights:

Wall designed by the artist, Sohail Abdullah. The pink structures look like origami birds from afar.

These baskets are handwoven by the hardworking women in Khairpur. Khaadi has helped create avenues of better earning for them.

The next day, after work, we checked out and headed off to visit the mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e-Alam. The surroundings were very dusty and hazy, and the sun was shining very brightly right on top of our heads, hence, making it difficult to snap good pictures but I had to use the camera that I had so enthusiastically taken along and of course I ended up using it. So here are the pictures of the ancient sites of Multan.

A close-up of the tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam

I took this picture using a 35 mm lens

A beautifully carved door of the tomb

The mausoleum belongs to the Sufi saint named, Sheikh Rukn uddin Abul Fateh, it was built in 1320 and 1324 CE by Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq in the pre-Mughal architectural style and is considered to be one of the earliest examples of Tughluq architecture. 

It's interesting to know what people think when they see you walking with a camera, a lady approached me and asked if I belonged to the media, she later suggested other places to visit.

Our next stop was the clock tower, known as Ghanta Ghar in Urdu. It was built during the British reign and it's construction which began in 1884 took 4 year to be completed after which offices became fully functional here. The hall and building carried the name 'Ripon Hall and Ripon Building' after the name of Ripon, the then viceroy of India, and the clock tower was named the Northbrook Clock Tower after the former viceroy of India. 

Following the independence of Pakistan, the hall was renamed as Jinnah Hall. The clock that stopped working in 1985 was restored as a result of the efforts of Rado in 2011 (quite a PR move). It's interesting to know that the dial works through solar energy.

This girl in the picture below approached me and requested me to click her picture and she was very happy about it as is obvious. Too bad she got out of focus. :(

Then this gentlemen who was also right there asked for the same. Ah! He's properly focused. Thank you, camera. :)

Multan is famous for its Saleem Shahees (a.k.a khussas in layman terms), my colleagues were kind enough to take me to the market. I got this pair for Rs. 600 only! *drum roll*

I liked this old piece of architecture that was in one of the market streets.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to the wonderful city of saints. My colleague, Ali who was driving non-stop had to drive non-stop again all the way back to Lahore, whereas I on the other hand, had a convenient journey schedule with a plane to catch which I didn't have to fly myself ... although it would be the most fascinating thing to do.

Eventually I ended up arriving at the airport way too early at 5 pm, this time convinced that I would get the window seat because I was the first one there *evil laughter*. My arrival was beyond early for a flight scheduled at 7:40 pm and the counter had not started operating yet which is why I had to wait for 40 minutes to be able to go inside.

I was amazed to see the display of art at the Multan International Airport and the architecture is just very appealing. It had a series of paintings displayed depicting history, however, for some odd reason the artist(s) had not signed his/her name on those paintings. Here are a few pictures of the artwork:

Your airports have a short story to tell ... we've been CPECed as you can observe in flights, at airports, and malls. We are very hopeful ... very, very hopeful that it will have a great impact on our economy and that our province, Balochistan will reap great benefits for a chaneg. 
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it, if you didn't then too bad you ended up reaching this sentence or maybe you also read the last page of every book first like me. Click on share to do the same with other people.
Now I am so sleepy that  .... ZzzZzzzzzzzZzZZzz ...

The Gadani Ship breaking Yard and its Gems

A lagoon at one of the beaches of Gadani
Sea or Vitamin Sea as you can say really is medicine for your mind and body. According to science, people who live by the coast are known to have better physical and mental health ... well provided if you let the coast remain healthy as well, our beloved beach, Sea View is a different story altogether. SO! Let's talk about Gadani instead!!!

Sea waves are known to calm your nerves as their sounds and visuals activate your parasympathetic nervous system and  eventually help relax you. Thank God, for much of Earth is covered with water! Imagine how much wilder would we have been with less of this resource. But we're sufficiently wild enough ... we still serve the purpose.

Considering this weekend (including the flower show) it had been a while since I had used my camera like crazy; a while here means a couple of days only and going to Gadani with like minded crazies on Sunday seemed like a viable idea. Imagine snapping almost 1,200 pictures, I hope that's crazy enough. Well 'crazy' isn't the keyword here so let's get back to Gadani, shall we? Oh yes!

It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to travel from Karachi to Gadani which is quite a picturesque place no matter which particular beach you hit. This trip was arranged by Dream Merchants headed by the astute wildlife photographer, Mirza Naeem Beg who along with fellow photographers shoots birds with his camera and documents these as well.  

The picture above shows a lagoon at the first beach out of the three we went to and the ship breaking yard was another sight to see altogether. The soft sandy beach with water so clear that you could see tiny fish swimming along the waves gave a feeling of a fish spa although that I believe was a fad as I don't see these anymore in Karachi. And, there was a sea snake too which tried to pretend it was dead ... 

Below are some more pictures of this beach we first went to.

And then there were more spots we went to ...

The snake charmer

One of the group members brought a drone camera and all the dogs of the beach went berserk, gathering and trying to chase the flying alien, I'm sure they are not accustomed to alien or UFO sightings like us ...

Finally it was time to reach the SHIP BREAKING YARRRRRD! 

Did you know? I guess you didn't that the Gadani ship breaking yard is the third largest ship breaking yard in the world. It's almost like a necropolis of ships coming ashore to be dismantled and recycled. In other words, this place is the ships' afterlife where they are judged based on their remaining potential to serve the world again. Whatever is left of the Pirates of the Caribbean should be shot here, Gadani is that good. 

Hats off to the diligent labourers who make these ship breaking projects happen as they truly earn by the sweat of their brow, working a 12 hour shift from 7 AM to 7 PM. Their perseverance is just astounding! Let me show you the faces reflecting immense efforts and hard work.

The eyes say it all

Who appears to be our local Long John Silver and I must mention that it was love at first sight for some people because they couldn't stop taking his pictures

Finally taking a break

You can see more pictures on my National Geographic Your Shot account. In the picture below is the ship being put to rest that we went to ... it was enormous and made us wonder what mighty presence it would have had when it would have been in its full glory while young, hale and hearty ...
The dying ship we went aboard
One cannot simply imagine how labour intensive the job of ship breaking workers is, amidst the fumes and flames and those random sparks. The smell of the ship's death was quite overwhelming and people like us can only watch these strong people perform in awe. This ambiance and place also reminded me of the song by Gordon Lightfoot called 'The Wreck of Edmond Fitzgerald', it's simply beautiful, good music has become extinct and perhaps the taste too. 
Here are the men of steel in great action!

Where tow trucks have a different purpose (no chai paani ... all paani paani)

Amidst the rubble there is new life

The dying ship, the end of an era ...

Here's our wonderful host, Mr. Shahab who guided us throughout and sent us back home with some extra knowledge. Thank you!

Our host, Mr. Shahab (Photo Credit: Farhan Siddiqui)
Our final destination was the third beach which didn't seem to be haunted by any human being for several hours at least because unfortunately there was some trash lying, however, it was still very, very clean and allowed to be left in its natural form as the sand felt too good to be sand itself. Something quite funny happened, thanks to my forgetfulness, I had taken a glass globe along for the purpose of some creative photography and didn't realise I had it until almost the end of the trip. This ball did become famous quite instantly however and we made as much use of it as possible! It inverses the image.

And you know what? Young boys and girls just like to have fun ... ;)

Photo Credit: Farhan Siddiqui

This is what we had been doing the entire trip ...

Both boys are great at photography! Their teachers are considering appointing them as prefects ... Farhan (L), Saeed (R)
It was a weekend spent well with the flower show happening and then this trip on Sunday with all these amazing people most of whom are hobbyists and yet exceptional photographers, no less than professionals themselves. 

Gadani is a must visit place, it's really one of the gems in Balochistan that you should have been to already but it's never too late!