Bahawalpur about 80km south of Multan on the south bank of the Sutlej River, was a princely state founded in 1748 by Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi 1st and named after him. The town of Bahawalpur is a flourishing place and rather pleasant, with wide roads. It is a peaceful, clean, quiet place to relax after visiting cities like Lahore and Multan. At one time, richly decorated cycle-rickshaws plied for trade, the rider’s saddles at an unusual, vertical angle. There are no more rickshaws on the streets. The Government collected them all up and, some say, sent them to Bangladesh. But there is one surviving example to be seen in the ethnographic section of Bahawalpur’s Museum, which aslo has galleries devoted to Islamic Arts and Archaeology, the latter including exhibits from Moenjo Daro and Harappa was as well as pre-Indus Valley sites as Kot Diji and Amri.
The city was home to various Nawabs (rulers) and counted as part of the Rajputana states (today in Rajasthan, India). The city is known for its famous palaces such as the Noor Mahal, Sadiq Ghar Palace, and Darbar Mahal, as well as the ancient fort of Derawar in the Cholistan Desert bordering India. The city is home to one of the few natural safari parks in Pakistan, Lal Suhanra National Park.
The town has excellent civic amenities, including the Central Library next schools in the country. International cricket matches are also played at Bahawalpur. I am afraid to say some of the finest buildings, the palaces built by the Abbasi family, descendants of the founding prince, are occupied by the army and closed to the public.
Tourist Attractions in Bahawalpur
Approximately 100 km south of the city of Bahawalpur in Tehsil Ahmadpur East, Derawar Fort is visible from many miles in the Cholistan Desert, the largest and best preserved of a chain of forts which once stretched into India, protecting a trade route. It is said that there has been a fort on the site for at least 5,000 years.
Derawar fort was built by Rai Jajja Bhatti, a Rajput ruler of the Bhatti clan.The fort was built as a tribute to Rawal Deoraj Bhatti, a Rajput sovereign king of the Jaisalmer and Bahawalpur areas who had his capital at Lodhruva.The fort was initially known as Dera Rawal, and later referred to as Dera Rawar, which with the passage of time came to be pronounced Derawar, its present name.
In the 18th century, the fort was taken over by Muslim Nawabs of Bahawalpur from the Shahotra tribe. Tthe current building dates from 1733 when it was taken by the Abbasis from the Rajasthani royal house of Jaisalmer but in 1747 the fort slipped from their hands owing to Bahawal Khan’s preoccupations at Shikarpur. Nawab Mubarak Khan took the stronghold back in 1804. 1,000 year-old catapult shells were found in the debris near a decaying wall in the fort.
It still belongs to the Amirs of Bahawalpur and can be visited quite easily along a largely metalled road. North of the fort is a pool adn a well, from which people fetch goatskins full of water for domestic use. From this point, one can walk around the exterior walls . With a circumference of about 1.5km, the fort is a vast, square structure with 40 enormous buttresses (10 per side) some of which are now crumbling, but much of the structure is still intact and Archaeology department is taking a keen interest to restore it and they have started work on it. The wall is about 40 metres (130ft) high. There is a white marble mosque beside the fort, which is a copy of the Moti Mosque in Delhi. It is in excellent condition and was built in 1849 for the Nawab’s Pir, Ghulam Farid, whose initials are said to have magically appeared in the marble of one of the doorsteps.
Noor Mahal and Gulzar Mahal
The Noor Mahal and Gulzar Mahal are the most elegant buildings in Bahawalpur. The Noor Mahal is unique in its architecture, built in 1885 in Italian style and stands in extensive gardens. It was used as a guest house for high-ranking visitors, including Edward VII of Britain who once stayed here. Once lavishly furnished, it is now occupied by the Pakistan army and closed to the public.
The Bahawalgarh , built in 1876, and the Gulzar Mahal, built in 1902, are two other palaces now used as army offices and the officers’ mess. Both are closed to the public, though the mosque in the grounds of the latter is open. The Daulat Khana built in the 1880s, was used by then-nawab’s mother but is now abandoned and falling into disrepair.
Lal Suhanra National Park
The Lal Suhanra National Park is 48km East of Bahawalpur and is established on both sides of the Desert Branch Canal is a source of pride. Assisted by various international bodies such as the World Wildlife Fund, a large park has benn set out, consisting of some cultivated land, some desert, a man-made forest and a huge, natural, reed-covered lake. The park shelters many birds and animals, including large herds of blackbuck, appealing creatures whose colouring and delicate looks recall Moghul paintings. These are antelopes, nilgai (blue bull) and chinkara (gazelles), and a lazy pride of lions, snoozing in the sun, in the manner of all satisfied cats. The Asian rhinos are a gift form Nepal. As to birds, there are probably hundreds of species large and small, variously hued, common and rare. A playground, boating lake and a small zoo with caged animals round off the attractions. TDCP offers six comfortable rest houses in different locations within the park provide extremely cheap accommodation for naturalists and tourists.
Dera Nawab Sahib (Home of the Nawabs)
This was the residential headquarter of the Nawabs of Bahawalpur. The cluster of 19th-century palaces in Dera Nawab Sahib is enclosed by high walls and is not open to the public. You can catch a glimpse of the largest, Sadiq Garh Palace, from the main gate. Built in 1896, its size and imposing design give some idea of the riches once enjoyed by Indian princes. This is Pakistan’s only stately home.
The library, another palace-like building with domes and arches, built in 1924, houses one of Pakistan’s best collections of books and rare manuscripts. It is one of the best libraries in Pakistan.
This is a modest museum with a good collection of Indus Civilization artifacts, Buddhist Gandharan stone statues, Hindu wood carvings, Coins, Stamps and miniatures, and an ethnographic display of clothes and tools form the Cholistan Desert.
Jamia Masjid Al-Sadiq
It was made by Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi . It has a capacity of 50 to 60 thousand people in one time. It is one of the most beautiful and prominent mosque in Pakistan.
Palace of the Sheikh of Dubai
The modern Palace of the Sheik of Dubai continues the tradition of princely living, and is used once a year as a hunting lodge when the Sheikh comes to the Cholistan Desert to go falconing for the rare hubara bustard.
Victoria Hospital & Sadiq Public School
The nawabs elegant capital featured numerous examples of Victorian architecture with pillared cupolas, arches and domes. Victoria Hospital, dating from 1906, and the high school, built in 1911, are the most charming examples. Sadiq Public School, founded in 1954, is Pakistan’s third most prestigious after Aitchison (Lahore) and Burn Hall (Abbottabad).
Farid Gate is one of the old gates of the old city of Bahawalpur.