Walking Along The Royal Trail: Tracing history with footsteps
If you want to feel like a tourist in your own city, then the Delhi Gate of Lahore awaits you on a chilly winter afternoon. You could also be adventurous on a mild summer morning, but do not risk a heat stroke on my account. It is preferable to take a Careem or an Uber to the spot since there is no formal parking in the area and subject to the whim of the locals. They may charge you up to a hundred rupees per hour to park.[divider]C+G’S TAKE [/divider]
An immersive, experiential guide through the Royal Trail. A much revered tourist tradition that most Lahore residents have not experienced, let our article be your guide.[divider]EXPERIENCE[/divider]
Once safely there though, the golden alphabets on the Delhi Gate are the very first thing you notice. The grandeur is imposing even as it invites you to the history within; something not as evident in pictures. And that’s where you begin your colorful and meandering walk on the Shahi Guzargah: the Royal Trail.
You immediately step into the hustle and bustle of the inner city. The local air absorbs you. Just as you begin settling into the environment, you are greeted by the pathway to the Shahi Hammam – the Royal Bath – on your left. And this is also where you find the subcontinental spices you’ve heard about all your life. The Tung Bazaar has them all in big pouches; coughing is to expect as you move along it.
Once you enter the Shahi Hamam – recently restored by the Aga Khan Trust – you can see how the 17th Century public bath is noticeably Romanesque: underground water channels and furnaces for heating the water visible through the exposed floors. It is separated into different chambers for steam rooms, massage areas, and baths.
The Shahi Baithak is at the end of the Hammam and promises to enliven your taste buds with old Lahori flavors. It’s a one-stop shop that serves signature Lahori foods from the area but you need an 18-hour advance booking to dine there.
Beyond the Baithak are small shops that sell everything from crockery to shawls to rugs and children’s toys. And, of course, street food like shakarkandi (roasted sweet potatoes), chana chaat (savoury chickpea salad) to masala French fries and dry fruit. Overlooking the happening marketplace are havelis – traditional homes of the old city natives who actually still live there – with grilled, wooden windows called jharokay. These facades, also restored by Aga Khan Trust, offer fine aesthetic lighting and are truly impressive.
Deep within the noise and cluttered view lies the Wazir Khan Mosque. A brick archway at Chowk Wazir Khan shaped like a mehrab announces its presence. Towering minarets pop from left and right. The yellows and purples in the mosaiced exterior stand out at once, as do the masterly floral patterns and Persian calligraphy; another chapter of history stands there with arms wide open.
The Royal Trail is truly royal; a gem of a pathway that speaks of Lahore’s rich history in loud and vibrant voices. In case you feel the need to go on an even more intricate treasure hunt of the old city, there is the Sonehri Masjid (distinguished by its three bright golden domes) and the Rung Mahal in the same area that are worthy of exploration and engagement.