Mobeen Ansari is an award-winning photojournalist based in Islamabad where he devotes his time to telling stories that bring the culture, people and history of Pakistan to life. His long list of accomplishments include international exhibitions in the United States, Iraq, Italy and China; special recognition by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; as well as two short silent films, Hellhole and Lady in the Emerald Scarf.
Now, he takes us on a journey through some of Pakistan’s most fascinating historical sites.
Shrine of Daud Bandagi Kirmani
Constructed by the renowned architect Ustad Baazid in the 17th century, the Shrine of Daud Bandagi Kirmani is a mausoleum of the Sufi saint Shaikh Daud Bandagi Kirmani, located in Sher Garh, Punjab. The distinct octagonally designed houses’ interiors are covered in beautifully intricate frescoes.
The 700 year old Altit fort is an old settlement in central Hunza. Due to its construction by the Mirs—the ruling family of Hunza—the citadel has plenty of historical and political significance. More recently, it has also become a symbol of culture, music, and food in central Hunza.
Kumpir Diyor cave
Kumpir Diyor cave is an ancient cave dwelling located in Chiporsan, Upper Hunza (Gojal). ‘Kumpir Diyor’ literally means ‘Village of the Old Woman’ in the Wakhi language. There are different versions of the story surrounding the cave, but the most popular one revolves around the tragic destruction of this village by a flood. The people of the village were known to be unkind and extravagant. To test them, a holy man posing as a beggar went around begging for food, only to be turned away and disgraced by all except an old woman. This old woman lived alone in poverty and was visited by no one. She was kind to the beggar and shared some milk with him. Some time after, a flood came and destroyed the whole village and its inhabitants, except the old woman.
Wazir Khan mosque
Wazir Khan mosque is a 17th century Mughal era mosque in Lahore, Punjab’s cultural capital and one of the most culturally celebrated cities in the world. Popular for its intricate frescoes and distinct Mughal architecture, it’s located in Delhi gate—one of the 13 gates of the Walled City (otherwise known as old city) of Lahore. It gained political prominence when it became the Emperor’s official choice for Friday prayers.
Derawar Fort is a ninth century monument with a long history of different rulers constructing it, capturing it and rebuilding it. Located at the tip of the Cholistan desert in South Punjab, it can be accessed easily via Bahawalpur, known as the City of Nawabs. Even though Bahawalpur has an airport, it is worthwhile to travel by car to experience the variety of landscapes in South Punjab.
Umar Hayat Palace
Umar Hayat Palace is an early 20th century wooden mansion located in Chiniot, Punjab. Built by a local businessman Sheikh Umar in 1923, it is celebrated for its distinct architecture and elaborate craftsmanship. The city of Chiniot is well known for its most refined woodwork craftsmanship; elements of which are all prominent in the Palace.
One of the most sacred sites for Sikhs around the world, the Kartarpur Gurdwara is where Guru Nanak—the founder of Sikhism—is believed to have spent his final years before his demise. Since the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, it was practically inaccessible. However, more recently in 2019, the Pakistani government renovated and opened the site for religious tourism, as part of the visa free Kartarpur corridor between India and Pakistan.
Mohenjo Daro is a registered Unesco World Heritage Site and a pillar of the Indus Valley civilization, located in Sindh province. It is a truly remarkable place, and a testimony to the way one of history’s most fascinating societies worked toward advancement in urban planning and engineering. Most of the structures, including the stupa, are still well preserved. It is located just outside Larkana, and is accessilvia Sukkur city. There are regular flights between Islamabad/Karachi and Sukkur.
Makli necropolis in Sindh
Known for numerous elaborate graves and shrines that date back to between the 14th and 18th centuries, Makli necropolis is a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most renowned places in Sindh. It houses the resting places of royal families, saints and scholars. The Makli graveyard is about three miles (five kilometers) from Thatta city, which can be accessed via Karachi within a two-hour drive.
Arore rock in Sindh
Located 14 miles (24 kilometers) from Sukkur Airport, Arore Rock is a prominent feature that once served as the capital of Sindh province, where it is located. The region has seen many invasions, and this particular unique looking rock has folklore relating to those invasions, particularly regarding Muhammad Bin Qasim—the Muslim general who conquered Sindh. You’ll also find a shrine and a small mosque on top of the Arore Rock.
For more on Pakistan, dive into more travel stories in An Unexpected Adventure in Upper Chitral, Pakistan.