15-Days Forgotten Forts Tour

What is it really like to walk into a fort and for a moment to close one’s eyes? In the death-like silence of an early evening, in a lost corner of the world, standing by the ramparts of a fort you may well find yourself swept back three, four, five centuries to another place and another time. Forts to that to people, because you always know that the spot you are standing on is where history was made. This is where kings marched and generals clashed. This is where empires began and dynasties fell. Forts fill you with have and the certainity that nothing ever stays the same, that the only permanent thing in the world, is change.

There are as many forts and may be more than all the kings who have ruled this land. Dotted across the deserts, the plains and the mountains, they seem to follow no apparent design yet these forts constituted the first, second and third lines of defence against invading armies that entered this territory from the north-west and marched across to capture the kingdom of Delhi. That is why today hundreds of years later, these giants rise into the heaves, mute testimony of empires that once were all powerful. The forts stretch from Sind to the Frontier – Amarkot, Ranikot, Kot Digi, Bhakkar, Derawar, Multan, Lahore, Rewat, Rohtas, Attock – the names go on as do the stories. Amarkot where a defeated Mogul emperor fleeing from India to a sanctuary in Iran, saw a son born, a boy called Akbar who was to rule India for over half a century.

Ranikot reputed to be the biggest fort in the world with an outer wall that encompasses 24 square kilometers, Multan fort where Alexander was seriously injured and Rohtas built by a King who, had he lived more than his five years, would very well have changed the history of this land. So this year take journey into history, into the land of forgotten forts. It’s a world that is eternal like time.

Itinerary:

Day 01: Arrival Karachi. Meet and assist. Transfer to hotel. Tour commences with a visit to the National Museum which has fabulous arte facts on display from Indus Valley (4,500 years old), Buddhist sculptures from Gandhara (1,500 years old), Hindu Sculptures from 10th century and a large collection of manuscripts, coins and art objects from the Muslim period. Like the covered Bazaar in Istanbul and Khan-el-Khalili in Cairo, Karachi has the Bohri Bazaar. In and around Bohri Bazaar. In and around Bohri Bazaar you will find everything that the colorful East can boast of. Gold jewellery, carpets, wood crafts, traditional wedding dresses, hand em-broidered garments, exquisite linen, in a bazaar, from the pages of a book.Evening at leisure.

Day 02: Departure by bus for Banbhore. Banbhore (64 Km) was once a port on the Arabian Sea. The walls of the old fort, the excavation site and the museum with its fabulous display, makes Banbhore a very rewarding excursion. On to Makli Hills where half a million tombs and mausoleums spread over 6 sq km make Makli Hill (Little Mecca), the biggest necropolis in the Muslim world. in this city of silence, the carved stones and the glazed tiles speak loudly of the master craftsmanship of this area, which even today lives on. Enroute to Thatta stop at Kalan Kot, a 15th century fort, where only a portion of the old walls remain as a witness to its past glory. Next stop at Thatta. Thatta, dates back to the invading armies of the Greeks. The moody Indus changed its course and Thatta was no more a port. But it retained its importance as the capital of lower Sind. The Moghul emperor Shah Jehan’s mosque, with 93 domes and blue glazed tile work, is a superb example of Thatta’s days of glory. On to Hyderabad. Visit the 18th century fort of the former rulers of Sind and the mud fort of Shaikh Makai. Overnight.

Day 03: Full day excursion to Umar Kot (160 Km) in the Thar desert. In this Rajput fort Moghul emperor Akbar was born (1542) while his father was in exile. Also witness the colourful culture of Thar desert. Back to Hyderabad for overnight stay.

Day 04: following the west bank of the river Indus, depart for Sani (90 km) where a camel caravan takes you to Rani Kot fort (21 km). it is claimed to be the largest for in the world, as the defensive walls are 24 kilometers in circumference. From a distance it gives the look of the Great Wall of China. Overnight in a camp inside the fort.

Day 05: Back to Sani and on to Sehwan. This town has the oldest existing history. Visit the ruins of an ancient fort founded by Alexander the Great. Overnight in Moenjodaro.

Day 06: Sightseeing Moenjodaro. At Meonjadaro, also known as the ‘Mound of the Dead’, excavations have revealed that even 3,000 years ago, they had administrative and religious buildings, public baths and a state granary, palace and assembly halls, well laid out streets and residential areas – all this bears witness to the fact that there must have been a very strong and organized government and civil service, trade and agriculture. Spend a day in a city that fascinates the whole world.

Later depart for Sukkur. On the right bank of Indus, lies Sukkur, famous for its mighty barrage, historical buildings and shrines. Sukkur is also known for its boat people who spend all their lives in their boats which transport goods of all sorts up and down this great river. Sightseeing of Sukkur and famous fort of Bhakkar Island. Overnight.

Day 07: Half day excursion to Kot Diji to see the 18 century Talpur Fort in all its pomp and glory. Later depart from Sukkur to Bahawalpur.

Day 08: Departure for Bahawalpur via Multan. Bahawalpur, also known as Baghdad-ul-Jadid (New Bagh dad) was the capital of former Bahawalpur State. The city built on the same lines as Baghdad still retains the charm and magic of the Arabian Nights. The only place in Pakistan, where like Hongking, cycle rickshaws are used for transportation. Night stay in Bahawalpur.

Day 09: Departure for UCH (70 Km), one of the many Alexandria’s built by Alexander in 325 B.C. Tombs and shrines, often octagonal in shape, decorated with fasience blue and white tiles are all that is left of this crumbling civilization. Visiting typical villages enroute, reach Derawar, set in the heart of Cholistan. There was a chain of forts along the banks of (dried up) river Ghaghra, which were built to prevent Mongols from reaching Delhi. In Cholistan the camel is the focus of life. It is a means of travel, nourishment and entertainment for the nomadic people of Cholistan. Life in the desert flourishes around the water holes. Nurtured by monsoon rains, these attract beasts to flock together and survive the relentless pressure of desert life. Night with nomads of Rohi. Camp fire at night. Taste the nomad food and folk music.

Day 10: Multan has always been the gateway to the south. Almost 2300 years ago, Alexander the Great laid siege to the city. Since then Multan has watched history go by its doorsteps. Invaders, conquerors, kings, generals and armies – all have had a meeting with Multan and all have left their mark on Multan. It is a city of saints and shrines.

Day 11: Morning visit Multan city, Multan fort which was besieged by Alexander’s armies for months. Alexander, in an amazing feat of personal bravery, scaled the battlements of the fort and dropped alone behind the walls where he was struck by an arrow. Visit the shrine of Tomb of Shah Rukn e Alam, Tomb of Baha ud Din Zakaria Multani, shrine Shah Shams inside the fort. Later visit the colourful bazaar and see artisans making the famous camel skin lamp shades. . Later depart for Lahore. overnight Lahore

Day 12: Passing by the legendary Kim’s Gun (Toup Bhangian) reach Badshahi (Royal) Mosque on the north west corner of the walled city. The Badshahi Mosque built during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb in the early 1670’s, one of the largest mosques in the world. Its red sandstone and white marble present a delightful harmonious contrast. Just outside the Mosque, see the Mausoleum of the philosopher poet of Pakistan Dr. Muhammad Iqbal and the Bara Dari (the marble pavilion) built by the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Opposite the Badshahi Mosque is the historic Lahore Fort with its massive walls, several towering gates, marble pavilions and its hall of mirrors, dating to the time of Moghul Emperor Akbar. In the time of the great Moghuls, the city was surrounded by a 9 metre high brick wall and had a rampart running around it with a moat connected with the river Ravi which served as a protection for the city. There were thirteen massive gates, some of which are still in original from and shape. The narrow lanes, the hanging balconies, the tiny shops, the aroma of spices, and the fragrance of flower garlands lingers on in the city, retaining the medieaval char. Within the walled city, the Wazir Khan Mosque in the walled city. The colourful fresco and mosaic in the interior and the exterior of the Mosque is a superb example of Moghul period craftsmanship. Evening dinner in a typical Punjabi restaurant.

Day 13: Explore the Shalamar Gardens laid out during the reign of emperor Shah Jehan, a tribute to the aesthetic and artistic sense of the Moghul period. The gardens cover an area of about 42 acres, comprising 3 beautiful terraces which reveal themselves as you stroll along the gardens. The ancient Festival of Lamps is held annually on the last Sunday of March just outside the garden walls. later Visit Lahore Museum which has a rich and varied collection of objects from the Indus civilization, the Ghandara, Hindu, and the Muslim period. Later, Drive across the ageless River Ravi and visit the Majestic Mausoleum of Emperor Jehangir, surrounded by Dilkush Gardens, which belonged to his wife noor Jehan. Nearby is the small but impressive mausoleum of Noor Jehan (The Light of the world). The Moghuls brought carpet weavers from Smarkand and Bokhara. Like the architecture, the arts and crafts of Moghul period has survived and even flourished. Pakistani hand knotted carpets are famous the world over. Spinning, dyeing, designing, knotting, washing and finishing are all done by hand and this visit will reveal this ancient craft. Visit to a carpet showroom and a handicraft centre will be followed by shopping tour of famous Anarkali Bazaar. This Bazaar is a favorite of the ladies of Lahore and those who visit its meandering by-lanes and profusion of hundreds of shops containing clothes, Jewelery, linen and bangles. Evening leisure

Day 14: Early morning departure for Lahore. enroute visit Buddhist stupa of Manikyala and the Rewat fort of the ferocious Ghakkar tribes. Driving over the legendary Grand Trunk road visit Rohtas Fort, built by Sher Shah Suri (1540) which is the most imposing historical monument in Pakistan. The high walls, the massive gates and the execution tower are still intact. Passing through the lush green plains of the Punjab reach Lahore. transfer to hotel. Overnight.

Day 15: Day free for shopping. Islamabad for onward flight.