Certain monuments and buildings are more than architectural exteriors. They come to be an integral part of a nation’s identity, essentially embedded in its history. These monuments enable the natives of the land to reminisce and remember the values, doctrines and dictums they convey and hence allow them to revisit their pertinence in the age of today. Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, takes pride in housing a plethora of historical architectural gems, each of which exceeds in its beauty and grandeur from the other. Presented in this article are nine famous buildings in Pakistan, that you must visit if you happen to be around.
1. St. Patrick's Cathedral, Karachi
Located in Empress Market, Saddar Karachi, and standing at a height of 52 meters (170.6 ft), St.Patricks Cathedral is one of the oldest architectural buildings in Pakistan. It houses a splendid white marbled monument, having the ability to accommodate 150 people. Brown bricked itself, the Cathedral came to be constructed in 1881, reminiscent of the Gothic style of architecture with its vertical designs and cross finials. It has painted high ceilings with beautiful stained glass lancet windows. If you happen to be strolling across Empress Road in Karachi, do not forget to catch a glimpse of the magnificence of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Karachi
Address: Shahrah-e-Iraq, Saddar Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan
Website: St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 8am - 2pm (closed on Sat & Sun)
Situated in the provincial capital of Punjab, in the ever-vibrant city of Lahore, Minar-i-Pakistan narrates the story of the country’s independence and freedom. Back then, it was known as Minto Park, where the country’s forefathers gathered in 1940, pronouncing their declaration of the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the sub-continent. As an acknowledgement of the decision of “All India Muslim League” to struggle for the creation of Pakistan, a memorial came to be built right at this spot, which we reckon today as Minar-i-Pakistan. Its construction commenced in the year 1960, about thirteen years after Pakistan’s independence. The grand tower, is a combination of Mughal and modern architectural style, with a height of about 70 meters (229.7 feet). Constituting four platforms, the tower’s base is made up of multiple stones such as the Taxila stone, chiselled stone, white marbles and hammer-dressed stones. The interesting aspect of the design of the tower is the fact that Quranic verses, and the speeches of the nation’s ideologue Iqbal and founder, Jinnah are inscribed on the tower’s white marble base.
Address: Lahore, Pakistan
3. Rohtas Fort
A pertinent example of military architecture from Pakistan has to be Rohtas Fort. It was started by Sher Shah Suri in an endeavor to safeguard Peshawar-Calcutta Road from attackers and aggressive episodes by the Mughals as well as their allies. Shah died before he could witness the completion of the road-building project. Later on, the fort moved to the background when Mughal emperor Akbar shifted his frontier to the city of Attock and contracted a fort there. It is now one of the historical places often visited by tourists.
Address: Jhelum, Pakistan
Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)
4. Frere Hall
Built in the British Colonial times, Frere Hall is another of Pakistan’s famous buildings. It was constructed to honour the services of Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere. He is the person acknowledged for the economic development in the province of Sindh during that time. He is also credited for making the Sindhi language compulsory instead of Persian, thereby giving Sindhi the due importance. After the end of the British rule, this hall was converted into a library and is currently the largest library in Karachi, containing about 70,000 books, as well as rare handwritten manuscripts. The library has books, that are unavailable in other areas of Pakistan and permits a simple bowling procedure as well.
Address: Fatima Jinnah Rd, Saddar Civil Lines, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan
Website: Frere Hall
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 9am - 5pm (closed on Sun)
5. Faisal Mosque
One of the best places to visit apart from national parks is the Faisal Mosque. Located in the country’s capital Islamabad, at Shahrah-e-Faisal, Faisal Mosque, hailed as the national mosque of Pakistan, is another architectural wonder, that you surely must check out. With the capacity of accommodating 84,000 worshippers at a time, the mosque is one of the largest ones in Pakistan. It is dedicated to the memory of the late Saudi King Faisal, who defrayed the cost of the project. Uniquely designed by Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay, who was selected by the Pakistani government through an international competition, the mosque is unlike typical Islamic mosques with domes you usually get to see. It is an 8-faceted concrete shell of about 40 meters (131.2 feet) in height, supported by 8 magnanimous girders. The exterior of the mosque is composed of white marble while the interior is amply designed with mosaics and consists of a huge Turkish chandelier fixed right at its ceiling. Also situated in the mosque courtyard is the mausoleum of the late General Zia-ul_Haq, Pakistan’s president from 1978 to 1988.
Address: Shah Faisal Ave, E-8, Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory 44000, Pakistan
Website: Faisal Mosque
6. Habib Bank Plaza
Situated on I.I Chundrigar Road, Habib Bank Plaza is the head office of Habib Bank Limited. It was hailed as the tallest building in Asia until the culmination of its construction in 1972. Today, the 116-meters (380.6 feet) tall MCB tower is the tallest building in Pakistan. The Habib Bank Plaza building has been regularly used by Ruet-e-Hilal committee in Pakistan for moon sighting preceding the declaration of Eid.
Habib Bank Plaza
Address: I.I Chundrigar Road, Karachi
Website: Habib Bank Plaza
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 9am - 5pm (closed on Sun)
7. Darbar Mahal
Situated in the city of Bahawalpur, Darbar Mahal is another glorious attraction in Pakistan. Resembling the architectural finesse of the Mughalai forts, Darbar Mahal presents a fusion of East Indian and Arabesque designs. The red bricks of the Darbar exude a certain aura of antiquity and richness, giving the fort an overall semblance of elegance. The interior of the fort comprises good-quality furniture, complemented by red velvet curtains on the doors. The palace grounds are about 75 acres (30.4 hectares) and contain fountains as well.
Address: Darbar Mahal Road, Bahawalpur
Opening hours: 6am - 10pm (daily)
8. Noor Mahal
If you are a history lover and have a liking for grand architectural spaces that manifest the elegance of age, Bhawalpur’s Noor Mahal is just the right place for you to tour around. It stands as remarkable evidence of the opulence and lifestyle of the royal family of Bahawalpur. It also houses a museum and a public park. Currently, it is managed by the Pakistan Army which has undoubtedly played a tremendously positive role in its preservation and restoration.
Address: Bahawalpur Cantt, Bahawalpur
Opening hours: 9am - 9pm (daily)
9. Altit Fort
Built by the Mirs of Hunza Valley, as a manifestation of their power and agency to the Mirs of Nagar Valley (twin state), the Altit Fort is another architectural spectacle in Pakistan. Its strength can be determined from the fact that it withstood attacks from aggressive forces and sustained even through natural calamities as earthquakes since its construction. One cant help but appreciate the architectural genius of the construction of the fort, since it is built right at the very top of a cliff, at a time when modern construction techniques were nowhere in sight and understanding. The fort is strategically built about 1000 ft (304.8 m) above the River Hunza and its only tower, hailed as the Shikari (hunter) tower allowed the Mirs to survey the land during times of war since Hunza was at a constant threat of aggression from the Chinese troops and Kaiven Rus (Russians) back in the day.
Address: Altit Fort, Hunza, Altit, Gilgit-Baltistan 15710
Website: Altit Fort
Opening hours: 9:30am - 5:30pm (daily)
10. Mohatta Palace Museum
If you’re looking for interesting things to do, visit Mohatta Palace Museum. It is yet another stunning architectural gem in Pakistan that is located in Clifton, Karachi. Its artistic grandeur mesmerizes the visitors, giving off super royal feels. Mohatta Palace has nine domes, with each dome intricately decorated with peacock motifs. Built in 1927 by Shivratan Mohatta, an eminent Marwari entrepreneur, the Mohatta palace metaphorizes the tale of undying love and compassion of a husband for his wife. Mohatta is said to have built this palace for his wife who was critically ill and required a dwelling in airy, open spaces for recovery. Hence, he built the palace on the seaside Clifton area to accelerate the recovery process of his wife. Today, this palace is a museum, used to provide entertainment facilities to visitors. It is also used to conduct important conferences.
Mohatta Palace Museum
Address: 7 Hatim Alvi Rd, Block 5 Old Clifton, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh 75600, Pakistan
Website: Mohatta Palace Museum
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 11am - 6pm (closed on Mon)
Encounter timeless architecture in Pakistan
The architecture of the famous buildings of Pakistan is an explicit representation of its identity, its history, and its timeless values. Be it the Minar-e-Pakistan’s invaluable posturing, or the historicity of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Frere Hall, each architectural space conveys meaning and definition of its own. A visit to these historical places will stay with you for times to come. If you ever feel the need to recharge your batteries, there are tasty street foods to try as well as ultimate places for the best biryani in Pakistan.
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