Preserving heritage: A more tourist-friendly Lahore Fort

Published: June 21, 2015
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Two chobedars pictured at the Dewan-i-Amm. PHOTO: AMEL GHANI/EXPRESS

Two chobedars pictured at the Dewan-i-Amm. PHOTO: AMEL GHANI/EXPRESS

LAHORE: “The Walled City of Lahore Authority has been making minor renovations at Lahore Fort to make it more tourist-friendly but cannot undertake major restoration work due to paucity of funds,” WCLA Marketing and Media Deputy Director Tanya Qureshi told The Express Tribune on Saturday.

Qureshi said the authority had submitted a PC-I proposing the complete restoration and formulation of a conservation plan for the fort. Shedding light on this front, she said the authority would enlist experts from the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan who would conduct an extensive survey of the buildings in the complex to determine their condition and formulate a restoration plan. “The WCLA will inspect buildings to ascertain which structures need to be restored urgently and commence work on them,” Qureshi said.

She said the 800-metre picture wall on the north-west facade of the fort would be a priority for the WCLA as it constituted a unique example of storytelling and fresco art. “Considering the poor shape of the wall, the WCLA intends to preserve whatever is left of it and restore things that can be conserved,” Qureshi said.

A fountain restored to working condition at the Lahore Fort. PHOTO: AMEL GHANI/EXPRESS

Current interventions at the fort include the restoration of fountains to working condition at the complex. The intervention had been in the offing for over one year. The structures, an inextricable part of the complex, significantly add to its ambience. “Merely looking at the fountains provided relief in the heat,” Karachi resident Rukhsana Ehsan said.

The introduction of chobedars at the complex has proven to be a hit with visitors. Attired in military gear, the men have been posted at several locations across the complex. WCLA Director Kamran Lashari told The Express Tribune the initiative had been taken to make historical sites more interactive. “This trend can be seen across the world but had not been introduced in Pakistan,” he said.

While the antiquity of the sites is preeminent, the area has to speak of old times. He said initiatives like introducing chobedars would make the fort more tourist-friendly. Lashari said the authority had taken steps to facilitate visitors on a limited budget while it waited for the PC-1 to get approved. He said this included the introduction of new tickets, canteens, signboards and dustbins. Stressing the importance of such interventions, Lashari said providing visitors with facilities such as washrooms, shaded sitting areas and benches was crucial. “Unfortunately, little attention is paid to this aspect and funds are used to work on walls and structures, he said. Lashari said the WCLA intended to earmark special funds to maintain such facilities in its restoration plan. He said this would help keep the fort clean and make touring it a refreshing experience for visitors.

The Lahore Fort had been placed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s List of World Heritage in Danger in 2000. The complex was removed from the list in 2012 following extensive renovations by the UNESCO and Archaeology Department. The Department had initiated a Rs300 million-five-year programme for the preservation and restoration of the fort in 2013.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2015.

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