Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Glimpses Of Old Rawalpindi
Rawalpindi is Islamabad's "twin" or "sister" city. These two places are seperated by hardly 15 kilometers, but neverheless, they lie a world apart. Unlike its 45 year old neighbour, Rawalpindi has existed for centuries - according to archeologists, minor settlements may in fact have existed on it already thousands of years ago.
Rawalpindi was an important regional center in the 15th century, was occupied by the Sikhs in 1765 and later taken over by the British East India company after their defeat of the Sikh Empire and subsequent annexation of the Punjab in 1849. Under British rule, Rawalpindi was connected to the Indian railway network and it soon became the largest garrison city in the western part of British India. Today, old colonial-era military and administrative buildings dot the cantonment area which remains the city's most well-kept district. After Pakistan gained independence in August 1947, Rawalpindi became for a while the capital of the country and the headquarters of the Pakistani army, which it remains to this day.
Located in Punjab province, Rawalpindi's population exceeds that of Islamabad by almost half a million. It's charm lies in its traditional, somewhat chaotic subcontinental hustle and bustle atmosphere in its traffic-jammed mostly narrow streets, contrasting quite sharply with the tree-lined alleys, cleanliness and peace of Islamabad. Though not the kind of place I would choose to live in, Rawalpindi does have much to offer for visitors. It has a number of bazaars offering virtually everything from locally handcrafted items to sophisticated consumer electronics at a reasonable price. Ayub Park is a beautiful place to relax in Autumn and Spring. Rawalpindi boasts a number of universities and colleges and hospitals. Older sights include a large British colonial-era cemetary and several Churches and Hindu Temples.