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Arriving in the afternoon on the frequently stopping mail train, I had the usual 3rd time lucky experience in finding a hotel room, and though Multan, a city of over a million souls was very spread out along grubby unenthusing streets, I managed to cram the main sights into the remainder of the day. Multan was renowned for its many impressive shrines and even a graveyard I quickly came across was dotted with extravagant domes for minor notables of unknown renown or era. A very impressive red sandstone building which combined seemingly Mughal and colonial architecture was much more than the clock tower annotated in the guidebook, it now served as the local council secretariat in what was now the Punjab. Nearby the town intensified into an especially narrow and ramshackle maze of alleyways, the bazaar was very colourful in whole lanes selling nothing but cloth, bangles, hairclips or gold. Next to the bazaar the city climbed to its highest point, a mound which had once been dominated by a sizeable fort known as Qasim Bagh, of which little now remains except a ceremonial square archway in red brick. On another point of the mound a needle shaped memorial obelisk serves as a tomb for 2 hapless British colonials who were slain by the Sikh authorities here, Lt. Alexander vans Agnew and William Anderson. Their deaths were avenged in the resultant 2 week long "Siege of Multan" in 1848 which later became known as the 2nd Sikh War. A direct hit on the ammunition dump brought it to a conclusion upon which the fortress was completely destroyed by the Brits in a final flurry of vengeance.

Damaged in the fighting but subsequently restored, Multan's main drawcards are the 2 neighbouring shrines of a father and son dynasty, the son being a scholar dubbed Sheikh Rukn-i Alam, meaning Pillar of the World. Now considered Multan's patron saint, his 13th century tomb is not only very big but a superb architectural achievement for the era and very beautiful too. Built in red brick and wood, its 8 corners are marked with inwardly leaning conical towers supporting a very large dome, finished in a subtle blue tiled trim. There was the usual throng of devotees who paid homage at the internal caged tomb then picnicked in the grounds outside.

20th January

In hindsight a 2nd night in Multan was an unnecessary delay and besides finding a couple of bookshops but unfortunately no net cafe, sad to say the highlight of the day was a visit to the KFC restaurant for lunch, vaguely qualified by an outdoor verandah upstairs where you could watch the world go by. It was a much needed departure from spicy food and the one other passable joint around had in any case refused point blank in a fit of all round giggles to serve me Roti. To them it was simply unthinkable to eat rice and bread together and giving the customer what they wanted was clearly an as yet unknown concept. Upon my 3rd visit for the want of acceptable alternatives I had to order a piece of chicken I didnt really want, though still having rice with it bread was then deemed perfectly fine! More ridiculous fixed ideas.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Pakistan

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