Eid is a time to celebrate with your family. For many, it is a time to celebrate in the lush green mountains of the northwest.
Though a majority of residents of the provincial capital choose to go visit their families in their native villages, others go to tourist spots for a much-needed sojourn. “Having been allowed to stay away from the office for four days, I felt [it] was an opportunity to feel the cold breeze in this scorching heat,” said Nasir Jamal, a government official who is visiting Nathia Gali. “I cannot explain the joy on the faces of my children. They are now asking for an annual visit to Galiyat,” Jamal told The Express Tribune over the phone.
Those who can afford to, spend their holidays in Bara Gali, Donga Gali, Naran, Ayubia, Harno, Kaghan, Tarbela Lake, Saiful Malook Lake, Khanpur Dam and Kalam. Some choose to spend the time near lakes while others atop peaks such as Musa ka Musala and Siri Paye.
But the most popular among these places seems to be Nathia Gali where people are unable to get bookings at hotels given the rush.
Shabbir Ahmad, another government employee who returned to the provincial capital on Thursday, said he and his grandchildren and two sons spent three days in Naran. “Even if there’s no electricity at the hotel, you don’t feel the heat. Those who can afford it must visit Shogran to witness its beauty,” added Ahmad. “Although we did not have our own transportation and used public transport, we really enjoyed the trip.”
Along with Hazara division, Swat valley to the north is another scenic destination.
“This year we fasted with great difficulty because of prolonged power outages. So we had already decided to visit Swat to spend our Eid holidays,” said Abdul Baseer, a resident of Charsadda visiting the banks of Swat River with his friends.
Some also visited Swat Valley just for a day because they could not afford more time out.
Zaman Khan of Buner said he came to Fizagat Park with his friends for a day. “We come to Swat regularly for holidays. We start our journey early morning and return late evening.”
This influx of tourists means business is booming. “I run a small restaurant at Fizagat Park which is my only source of income but I earn a lot during Eid,” said Irfan Khan while tending to his barbeque pit.
Those who could not venture too far for monetary or other reasons chose to visit the tourist spots in proximity. The popular ones among these are Hund in Attock, Sardaryab in Charsadda and Company Bagh and Kund Park in Nowshera.
A number of families thronged to Kabul River where they rode camels, horses and enjoyed rides on chairlifts and boats. Street magicians also enthralled children with their tricks at these spots.
Bumper to bumper
The roads leading to Swat’s tourist resorts were packed with cars, with traffic jams across the valley, creating problems for tourists and locals alike.
The two-kilometre distance from the By-pass area of Fizagat Park took more than two hours, said commuters. “Everything was great but when we reached By-pass Road, a massive traffic jam meant cars moved at a snail’s pace,” said Izhar Alam of Mardan.
Residents of Swat living beyond Sangota area told a similar tale. “We go to Mingora for business in the morning and get back in the evening. I set off in the morning and it is 12.30pm right now; I am still stuck in traffic,” said Faisal Khan, a resident of Charbagh village who has a shop in Mingora.
In Hazara division, a number of commuters were stranded for more than a few hours due to traffic jams near Saiful Malook Lake and Muree Road in Galiyat. Since authorities have yet to develop a parking lot at Harno Park, haphazard arrangement and arbitrary parking led to a gridlock. Similarly, several vehicles were stuck in long queues on Khalabat Township Road near Sheranwala Gate in Haripur.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2014.