As a child, I had been told several times that Quaid’s favorite place was Ziarat. I always wondered ‘what is so likable in it. I’d been to Ziarat but I failed to develop any fondness for the place’. The childhood me used to think that one cannot enjoy at a place where there is no water, no slide or swings. Places like Ziarat would not attract me much. My first visit to Ziarat was, in retrospect, not one of the memorable trips of my life. My only memories associated with it comprise of faint mountains, a tiresome hike to the top of a rocky hill, and the search for two of my cousins who got lost and were later found standing by the bus. Perhaps the only exciting part was the journey on the bus, especially when everybody recited Dua as the bus went through unsafe roads.
When I became a little mature, I got a chance to revisit and stay at Ziarat for some time. This time my experience of the place was entirely different. It was the rejuvenated me that realized at the end of the journey that there really is something special about that place. All the interesting facts and experiences that made Ziarat one of my favorite places and that I am assuming must have made it other people’s favorite too are discussed below.
Ziarat got its name from the pilgrimage people make to the shrine of Khalwari Baba, located in the nearby area. The word ‘ziarat’ means to offer pilgrimage. Ziarat is known as a hill station located near some old shrines and as home to world’s second largest Juniper forest and also Quaid’s residency. However, none of these things alone make Ziarat a must visit place. There is much more to it!
The journey to Ziarat
The road to Ziarat from Quetta is reminiscent of a roller coaster ride. It involves a lot of going up and down and then back up. There come so many narrow roads on the way passing successfully and alive through which is a challenge, one which requires an adept and awake driver. A sudden spell of sleep can switch your destination from Ziarat to heaven. The panoramas, you get to see all along the way, nevertheless, are things of beauty that give joy forever to use Keats’s words.
The scenery of Ziarat does not have any parallel. It is unique in its own way. All around yourself you’ll see staggering, green mountains. Ziarat has many unusually entrancing sights for the city dwellers of Pakistan who may find tall buildings all around, but lush, green mountains! They are a dream site for them.
The most interesting part of Ziarat trip is the haunted stories after hearing which if you stand with your front facing a huge mountain full of shadows and your back against the ramshackle cottages, you are sure to have goosebumps. The very atmosphere is so pleasingly scary that a part of you would want to run inside the cottage and a part of you would want to stick to the spot forever.
One of the most captivating sights in Ziarat is that of uninhabited houses. The broken window panes, the big metal door locks, the stripped plaster walls – all these images remind you of the ghost stories you have read in your childhood and you feel you are a character of one such story. The dark nights of Ziarat show you a glimpse of Coleridge’s poetic setting the recurring motifs of which are full moon, dark nights, silent atmosphere, strange bird songs, tall trees etc.
Ziarat is an ideal place for all the Romantic souls out there. No other thing can be more mirthful than staying up all night, staring at the moon, enjoying the cold breeze that brings along with it a sweet song of the trees. I discovered spending a night in Ziarat can alleviate all sorts of pain and is a natural spirit uplifter. Stretching your body and breathing the sweet air filled with a strange fragrance has a soothing effect on your senses. It can calm your nerves without your realizing that. Now I know why therapists suggest frequent visits to beautiful places.
Peace and tranquility
Another reason as to why I have a great liking for Ziarat could be the silence and tranquility in the air. That unusual silence is discernable when you pay attention to nature’s own voices. City dwellers might find it a little queer since they are not used to this much peace. They don’t hear the honking of vehicles, the thunderous flow of traffic on roads and the deafening noise of machines in Ziarat. One can experience peace of mind here. All the aching souls should go spend some time in a place like Ziarat. You don’t have to be near a famous spot in order to feel the tranquilizing effect, it is in the atmosphere. In that sense, I can say Ziarat does justice to everyone. It does not reserve its beauty and peace for the opulent but gives equal opportunity to the penurious members of the society to enjoy nature’s therapy.
Hot and cold at the same time
A strange thing about Ziarat is that on hot summer days, it is both hot and cold. You feel hot when the scorching sun is right above your head, but at the same time, you feel cold when a gust of cool breeze gently ruffles your clothes. The alternate feel of coolness and hotness is difficult to get accustomed to initially, but it gets extremely agreeable with time. You get to enjoy both kinds of weathers at the same time and there isn’t too much of either.
Ziarat is full of juniper trees about 1000- 1500 years old or even above. According to one estimate, the age of an old Juniper tree can go beyond 5000 years. Believe me or not, viewing a landscape full of these trees with the realization that so many centuries have been witnessed by them is itself a wonderful experience. If you are a nature lover, you cannot help but look at the trees and wonder how many generations they have seen, how many wars, what kinds of events they have experienced, how many people tried carving their names on the bark of these trees, and how many words of love have been exchanged beneath their shadowy leaves.
One of the attractions in Ziarat has been the Quaid’s residency for long. A number of visitors used to visit this place for getting a chance to look at their leader’s accessories and belongings.
Fortunately or unfortunately, not so many people throng to this place now for whatever reasons. In that sense, it is blessed to be away from human activities and at least for now its natural environment stays preserved to some extent.
These are the things Ziarat has to offer. It is one of the few places where you can find nature at its purest. Distant and isolated from the outer world, Ziarat is an extraordinary place. Its beauty can best be appreciated at night. So don’t miss a night stay if you ever get a chance.
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