The Walled City is home to the cultural and architectural heritage of Lahore. Its blind arches and the pillars of its buildings, elegant havelis, multi-storey houses, wooden doors and windows and, above all, its famous Gates are some of the old city’s glorious features, all of which have long fascinated the tourists, especially those coming from outside the city/country. Though, terrorist incidents badly hit the tourism industry over the years, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) is trying hard to pull the tourists back in, by organising cultural activities; ‘Photo Tourism Walk’ being one such event.
The WCLA claims to have introduced the concept of photo tourism by holding walks in 2012. The Photographic Society of Pakistan, having almost 20,000 members (all photographers) is a major partner and has contributed to projecting and saving the heritage.
The mega event has now become a yearly affair, popular among the public as well as the photographers all over the world. Embassy officials of different countries based in Pakistan also participate in the event.
“Photo Tourism activities have helped us in documenting the present conditions of the Walled City of Lahore,” says Asif Zaheer, Director Marketing, WCLA. “We have the biggest library and photographs’ archive that boasts a rare collection.”
According to Zaheer, so far the WCLA has got “more than 20,000 aesthetic and documented photographs. There is a proposal that the library be put up online for the photography lovers and researchers.
The Walk, held recently, started at 1:30pm, routing through Masjid Saleh Kamboh, Koocha Poorbian, Laal Khoo, Nisar Haveli, Chowk Nawab saheb, Mubarak Haveli, Chehal Bibian, Haveli Wajid Ali Shah, Takya Sadwaan, Siryaan Wala Bazaar, Waan Market, Sonehri Masjid, Kinari Bazaar, Wacho Wali Bazaar, Gumti Bazaar, Said Mitha Bazaar, and Chowk Nogaza Peer, and ended at 6pm at the Food Street Fort Road. It was followed by a musical evening and dinner.
Around 600 photographers from all over Pakistan and other countries i.e. Philippines, Bulgaria, Belgium, UK, USA, and Germany participated in the Photo Walk.
“I am glad to see the promotion of heritage in this way,” said Simeon B. Abarquez who works as Administrative Officer at Embassy of Philippines.
Abarquez rated it as an exciting walk “through the city of wonders.
“It was informative as well as recreational for me. I loved visiting the havelis and the jewel, Masjid Wazir Khan,” he added.
Another tourist Pia Ucar, 27, from Berlin, expressed her feelings on the occasion: “I’d never been to such a [heritage] site; it’s so lively and colourful. I loved photographing inside the old city.
“I am loving the locations and appreciating the culture [of the city]. People are very friendly and cooperative.”
Yurika Morita, a Japanese student, said he was here for a lark, because he had read a lot about the walk on social media. “I registered online and am impressed by the way the event has been managed.”
In response to a query, he said that the security was “spot-on”.
“I love landscape photography. God, I found so much to photography here on one route alone.”
The Photo Tourism Walk had a special attraction for students of Architecture. One such group of students hailed from Lahore College for Women University (LCWU).
“We are going in for our next semester where we shall study Blind Arches and Pillars, and the Photo Walk has helped us watch our subject matter at first hand,” said Haiqa who was heading the group.
Talking to TNS, Tania Qureshi, Deputy Director, WCLA said, “We have trained 32 guides to let the people know what heritage treasure and beauty the Walled City of Lahore possesses.”
She was of the view that in this digital age, photography has taken on a new dimension as the people are able to enhance images as well as share them with the world at large via internet.
Kamran Lashari, DG WCLA, who was also there at the event, said photography “is a powerful medium that speaks to our emotions and allows us to tell our stories to the world around us.
“Walled City’s architectural marvels — its havelis, jharokas and bazaars — and its culture are mesmerising for the tourists. And, I think photography can do a great job in publicising this little wonderland of ours.”