journey to snow
Those who have been
to the historic Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, may remember being
welcomed by a man donning the colourful attire of an Ottoman-era courtier —
his demeanor reflecting the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire.
People stand in queues to
get a photograph taken with him and the museum administration charges a
decent amount for this.
Though a bit ambitious, the
Punjab government has devised a plan, which if executed properly, will offer
Pakistanis a similar experience — a brush with our history!
As the plan goes, the
Punjab government will transform historic monuments and archeological sites
into vibrant places — full of life, fun and activity. The dusty and dull
historical sites that disappoint visitors will hopefully be a thing of the
past, hopes Punjab’s tourism minister, Rana Mashood, who is spearheading
tourism policymaking at the provincial level.
Take the Lahore Fort. Here,
Mashood plans to recreate the scene of the Mughal courts — parading
courtiers, loitering chobdars, subedars, wazirs and other nobles…
archeologists and fashion designers have been assigned the task of designing
Over the last few months,
the functionaries related to the Punjab tourism sector have been striving
hard to formulate a tourism policy to lure tourists to the province. The
enthusiasm or exigency observed is unprecedented. One wonders what has
charged the authorities with this newfound energy.
Tourism became a provincial
subject after the passage of 18th amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan.
Now it is up to the provincial governments to make policies, develop products
and announce incentives for promotion of tourism. The ultimate aim is to
bring in foreign tourists, but for the time being at least, the focus is on
facilitating the local ones — once local tourists start to throng tourist
destinations, the foreign ones will follow soon.
What has Punjab to offer
for tourism purposes? It has no snow-capped mountains, pristine valleys, cool
climate, lush forests or roaring rivers that attracts adventurers and outdoor
enthusiasts. But the yet-to-be-announced tourism policy plans to market its
scenic beauty, historical monuments, cultural diversity and hospitable
people: “Punjab has all the elements to become a destination of choice for
tourists… Through development and management of well-articulated policies,
products, marketing strategies and public-private partnerships,
the tourism sector in Punjab will contribute to the over-all socio-economic
development of Pakistan…”
The policy-makers believe
that Punjab tourism stands to benefit from the calmer security situation. The
tourists feel secure in this part of the country and are not reluctant to
undertake road journeys.
Besides promoting history
and culture, the policy-makers are hoping to develop the province as a
shoppers’ haven, expanding the product range of souvenirs and livening up
archeology sites such as Harappa and Taxila, better circulation and proper
utilisation of the ‘Explore Punjab’ magazine published by the Punjab
tourism department, and uploading 3D imagery of existing and potential
tourist sites on the internet with the help of Google.
It plans to invite Comsats
Institute of Information Technology to set up an archeology department next
to the Harappa site.
Rana Mashood is surprised
by the fact that there is neither a concept of a souvenir shop nor of
literature and CDs to market Punjab tourism internationally.
The minister wants to
target those Pakistanis who go to Dubai and London to shop. He desires to
bring such luxuries to the doorsteps of shopaholoics.
The Punjab government
signed an agreement with Google last year to project the images of Punjab but
it took them a year to get security approval from security agencies.
Private players in the
tourism industry are of the view that mere product development at state level
will not work. The private sector will have to play the lead role. They say
the government must act as a facilitator: “For example, the archaeological
sites will not attract visitors if there are no restaurants, hotels, rest
areas and vegetation around it,” says a representative of the hotel
Iqbal Haider, lead
consultant of the project, tells TNS the tourism policy will not be formed in
isolation and concerns of every stakeholder will be heeded to. The private
sector definitely has the lead role and the government is holding
the business sector on a regular basis precisely for this reason.
The private sector, he
says, will be invited to invest in projects on private-public partnership
basis, which he thinks is the best model in this scenario.
The opportunities are many.
The key to success lies in how they are harnessed. “There are shrines of
sufi saints, deserts, five rivers, urban and rural landscapes, remnants of
civilisations as old as Hakra and Indus, wetlands, manmade forests like
Changa Manga and more. What else do we need?” says Haider.
sometimes you get the feeling that there are more trees than people: a
proportion that you are not used to if you are from Lahore. With a population
of 5 million, the entire country of Denmark has less than half the population
of Lahore. So, with only half a million people, Copenhagen starts becoming
deserted as autumn sets in.
With the first fall of
leaves, you see people wearing turtlenecks, sweaters and jackets during sunny
October days. The trees slowly begin acquiring a reddish hue of yellow. The
trees cannot move around so they have to prepare for the coming snow by
shedding their leaves. If the leaves stay on, the weight of snow can break
The width of the leaves of
a tree can tell you how closer it is to snowy landscapes. The pine tree with
its needle-like stiff leaves can hold the weight of snow and let it is thaw
and let the water dribble without breaking the branches. In those parts of
the world where natural liquids are permanently frozen, only snow exists. No
trees. The snow freezes the sap so nothing can grow. That is why the Arctic
and Antarctic tundra are barren.
Human beings can move
around so they can acquire more cover. But the principle of shedding is the
same in the trees and human beings. In extreme winter, in a case of
frostbite, the body rids of the extremities because blood supply is needed
for the vital organs. Nature has its own tricks to survive its own variance.
The human self is probably nature reflecting on its own phases.
In Copenhagen, the café
owners start providing blankets for those who want to sit along the kerb and
watch the leaves and people moving around. There are not many weeks left
before the definition of what a day is will also change. In the entire month
of December, the average sunshine is approximately 48 hours. A sunset at 3 pm
and the Danish people are looking for hygge, a Danish word for domestic,
familiar and familial cosiness. Preparing for December, some housing
companies have already turned their heating systems on in the buildings.
The common perception that
the winter is not fun is also wrong. When the lakes in and around Copenhagen
are frozen over, they become vast playing grounds and people skate and sleigh
over them and some wild-at-heart people even light bonfires. There are some
tricks involved in that. You have to build a layer of green wood first or use
a metal bucket to create some distance between the fire and the snow.
Not all neighbourhoods are
going to enjoy the hygge though. Tingbjerg, an immigrant neighborhood, in
Copenhagen just goes quiet. Workers leave their houses before the sunrise and
they come home after the sunset. There will be a couple of months without the
sun for many immigrants. One Danish woman once joked about why Denmark
develops some of the best anti-depressants in the world: “You need some of
these happiness-inducing pills in the Danish winter.”
After this joke, one can
wonder why Denmark constantly ranks as the happiest country in the world.
It is difficult to tell
whether it is chemically induced happiness or a socially and structurally
substantiated reality. After all, the living standards and the social safety
network is quite good for a lot of people.
Some people, like seasons,
are always less equal though.