What used to be
A hop to Hingol
Discover the beautiful landscape of the National Park riding a four-wheel vehicle in a pleasant weather
By Khalid Nasir
Citing downbeat expressions for Pakistan have become quite a norm these days. However, a trip to Hingol National Park or Hinglaj, as it is locally known, is guaranteed to toss out all the negativity that has amassed and replaces it with a remembrance of magnificent wonders of nature this area offers. All you have to do is to make a round day trip to Hingol National Park, Nani Mandir, the breathtaking Buzi pass and Kund Malir beach by taking a pleasant four-hour road ride out of Karachi.
And that's exactly what I did with my comrades of late. Considering the completion of the Coastal Highway, the journey could easily be made using any 4-wheel vehicle that has been declared fit to run miles. Before you start your journey, check the weather. If it has rained recently or there is a forecast, better delay the plan as you might not be able to go to Nani Mandir across the Hingol River in your vehicle. Failing that, you have to get off at the river, cross it on foot and walk to Nani Mandir that is 6kms one-way walk from the river bank.
Try to visit the area on a holiday so that you find less traffic on the highway; check the security situation before setting off, and keep your car's documents handy as you will come across many security check posts on your way. It is advisable to keep extra fuel. There is one petrol pump at Hub from where you can get the last tankful of 'Pakistani' fuel because you will only get a slush called 'Irani fuel' at places ahead.
To make the most of the trip, start early in the morning. Get to the Coastal Highway by taking the Hub River Road that will get you out of Karachi and onward to Balochistan. The road is smooth and offers to check your limits of insane driving. The turn-off point to the Mekran Coastal Highway is well-marked on the left side of the road about 10kms of Uthal. The smooth road leading into the horizon will make even 130kms per hour seem far too slow.
It takes about 3 hours from Karachi to get to a blue road sign on the right just short of the Hingol River Bridge, directing way to the Nani Mandir. Since the visit to Nani Mandir by the former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh in 2006, the 15km road to Hingol River bank and 6kms onwards to Mandir have been paved and offer a pleasant drive by the river. If you have chosen the visit day wisely, there are chances that you will actually find nobody in the vicinity except few local children who look at you shyly. Otherwise, you will find worshipers making their way to the Mandir.
The Mandir is situated near an underwater stream in a cave-like form that is bounded by mountains. The end of the cave houses the holy relic that is covered by red clothes and vermilion. As narrated by Maharaj Gopal, Nani Mandir is an important Hindu pilgrimage. The visit or the pilgrimage is also called 'Nani ka Haj'. Since the Mandir is located in a desert which is called Maru in Sanskrit, the shrine is referred in holy texts as Marutirtha Hinglaj which means Hinglaj -- the shrine of the desert.
Mandir is also the last remnants of the Hindu society that once inhabited the region. Area for rest has been built some half a kilometre away from the Mandir and offers basic amenities to visitors.
A visit to Mandir is an out-of-the-ordinary experience that takes you back in time for a while. A visit to the Mandir is a two-hour round trip; to get back to continue your journey towards Buzi pass.
Just across the Hingol River Bridge begins the Buzi pass that offers wonders of nature along the Coastal Highway. But before you throw yourself into this awe of nature, do make a stopover at the roadside dhaba near the bridge that offers tasty mixed vegetable, daal with hot roti made on wood stove.
Wonders of nature could be witnessed as soon as you enter the Buzi pass. On your left you can see the beautiful expanse of the sea while the other side puts you in the rocky rakishness. The best time to be around Buzi pass is between 3 to 4pm so that you can see the breathtaking landscape. You will find yourself amidst towering rock faces, interesting contrasts of rock and pinnacles.
The winding road keeps opening up panoramic vistas for you to behold. The most wondrous is 'Princess of Hope' that could be seen while driving through Buzi pass. It is nature's crafting of a mountain that resembles a lady wearing a robe and hood and standing upright in a royal pose. Then there is another rock outcrop, the 'Sphinx' that appears to have a head of lion and body of a human being. It looks like the guardian of the valleys around and resembles the original Sphinx in Egypt to the extent that you will wonder for hours that perhaps the same civilisation crafted it too thousands of years ago.
Every turn on the Buzi pass reveals magnificent rock patterns and valleys. It is advisable that you make short stops alongside the road to take pictures of the spectacular views with 'Princess of Hope' and 'Sphinx' in the background.
On reaching Ormara, you can make a U-turn on the Buzi pass once you see the 'Princess of Hope'. This turn will enable you to get back to the city the same day. If you have been able to stick to your scheduled time, you now should be able to relish the beauty of the dessert beach of Kund Malir on your way back to Karachi. In fact, you cannot resist getting your feet wet in the cold clear waters at the Kund Malir, and also fish here. There is a small fisherman village nearby from where you can buy a fresh catch and witness seagulls and other sea birds sitting on the beach, fearless of your presence.
It was horrifying to see that the tomb of Kamaro had received a facelift
By Salman Rashid
Back in 1987, in my freewheeling days in Sindh, I one day found myself in village Kamaro nearly mid-way between Mirpur Khas and Tando Allahyar. Otherwise unremarkable, the village was known for a shrine and its adjacent mosque. But not being a believer in miracles attributed to shrines, I was there only because I had heard of the beauty of both buildings.
I was not disappointed. Compared to those humongous buildings that we generally see, these two were tiny. But the splendour of the predominantly blue tile work was exquisite. So exquisite was it, that it will not be wrong to rank the two buildings of Kamaro among the most beautiful of Sindh, so far as tile work was concerned.
Both buildings measured about seven or eight metres square and, not taking the minarets of the mosque into account, were of equal height. So far as I remember, the mausoleum did not have a dome. If it did, the flow of the patterns in blue was so smooth that one simply did not notice the dome. One was only lost in the melody of the ornamentation.
The tile work in the mosque, predominantly blue, was offset by a fine blend of ochre and green. The ochre being used more in the arches and in the merlons along the parapet, while there was one panel of green running along the three sides of the jamb of the main entrance in the east fašade. In contrast, the tomb was entirely blue. Its western exterior bore in blue lettering and English numerals the date either 1914 or 1916.
The richness of the tile work defies description by a layperson like me. Suffice it to say that it was among the best in the province of Sindh.
The photographs that I took back in 1987 being for the Department of Culture, Government of Sindh, I did not retain any. That, I must confess, was titanic stupidity. Twice thereafter, I returned to Kamaro. On both occasions, I was there at the wrong time of day and did not do any photography in view of the bad light. In fact, these later visits were less for the purpose of photography, more to simply sit there and admire the breathtaking glory of the artistry.
Returning recently, I was horrified to see that the tomb of Kamaro had received a facelift. Sadly, like all makeovers committed (yes, committed, like a crime) by ignorant people, this too was rape. This time around, the tomb had a coating of marble tiles. It also had four corner minarets and a dome. Bereft of its nearly one-century-old blue tiles, the tomb looked altogether the poorer. If anything, it looked sad and forlorn even despite its newness. I was devastated.
The illiterate keeper came around to gloat on how the family whose ancestor was buried in the tomb had spent a huge sum to redo the building. He was proud of it. I told the fool instead of being proud, he ought to be ashamed for the crime inflicted upon the building. Its age alone made the tomb of Kamaro a protected national monument precluding the right of any citizen to alter it. But Pakistan is a country where people do not understand the value of historical buildings and the state holds no writ. Any old body can therefore up and do whatever they please, not just in remote Kamaro but in the heart of large urban centres as well. Consequently, when somebody thought they needed to spend some money on a dead relative, they destroyed his once opulent tomb.
One must be thankful to the owners of the Kamaro buildings that they left the mosque untouched. But sooner or later, this building too will bite the dust. With little reason, as they had in the case of the tomb, the owners will one day get it into their heads to redo the mosque. Once again, without a thought to its aesthetic beauty, the fact that the tile work represents a historical moment in the development of the craft or that the Antiquities Act 1974 protects the building, they will go ahead and destroy it. Fifty years from now, nobody will even recall that there once stood in Kamaro two buildings of exquisite charm and beauty.
It will not be a waste of time if some student of architecture records the beauty of the Kamaro mosque in all its detail. That time to do that is now. Tomorrow may well be too late.