Road trips to Sindh's secret tourist treasures
Recently, I had an opportunity to travel to interior Sindh and discover the wonders of the ancient necropolis of the Makli, the Shah Jehan mosque and Haleji Lake. All of these attractions are in the district of Thatta, just a few hours away from Karachi.
If developed, these places could be great tourist spots not only for Karachiites who love road trips but also for people living in other parts of Pakistan.
Haleji Lake is the largest bird sanctuary of the country and is about 70 kilometres from Karachi. A few kilometers of uncarpeted road links it to National Highway and the drive is a bumpy ride. The place is deserted and hardly any tourists can be found. The lake has numerous beggars, who don’t let one enjoy the beauty and calm of the place. Security is also a concern and results in fewer visitors. Although a huge number of families frequent a water park only a few kilometres away, Haleji Lake is completely vacant.
Shah Jehan mosque
The Shah Jehan mosque was constructed by the renowned Mughal emperor, Shah Jehan, in the year 1644. The mosque was constructed in the short span of three years and the construction cost was 0.9 million rupees at that time. The distinguished feature of this mosque is its 100 domes. Due to its construction design, a mic and speakers are not required and the sound of the person leading prayers can be heard all across the premises. The mosque can hold twenty thousand people at a time. Once again, the place is not maintained the way such a building deserves to be. The garden and fountains are not tended to. The walls have been plastered with advertisements. There are encroachments at the main gate. There are only a few visitors at the site.
The Makli necropolis has been declared to be a World Heritage site and is situated in the Makli hills, near Thatta city. It is spread over an area of about six square miles and has more than half a million tombs and graves. The graveyard dates back to the 14th century. There are graves from the Summas (1340 to 1520 AD), the Arghuns (1520 to 15550 AD), the Tarkhans (1555 to 1592 AD) and the Imperial Mughals (1592 to 1739 AD). The tombs and graves are beautifully decorated, with ancient Islamic style calligraphy. It is astonishing to see the wonders that the designers of these tombs achieved so many years ago.
Despites it historical importance and unique construction, the place is testimony to an apathetic government. The tombs are badly damaged. There are more beggars than the tourists. The beggars range from children to elderly men and women. The non-uniformed guard on the site asks for entry fees as per his desire and does not issue government tickets. First of all, it must have a proper ticket collection system. Sponsorship could also play a role in this area. The fees collected from tickets and sponsors can be used to maintain the place, which requires urgent attention before it is too late.
There is a famous necropolis, known as Chowkandi, along the National Highway, near the Landhi industrial area. This has unique style of graves as well, although it is smaller than Makli.
This is located near Karachi and was the gateway to Sindh at the time when Muhammad bin Qasim invaded the province. The remains of this city need to be preserved, so that it can be developed as a historical site.
Due to government apathy and security concerns these spots have been unable to capitalize and grow through tourism.
These places can be made good tourist spots and the Sindh government could generate a lot of revenue from them if they were maintained properly. Developing these places will not only help preserve our history, but will also improve the quality of life of the people residing in these areas.