Pakistan’s largest province Balochistan with an area of 3,42,505 square kilometers is also the most striking. Mostly desert with rugged hills and rocky mountains, the province also has fertile valleys having rich orchards and prosperous farms growing apples, grapes, peaches and apricots in abundance. Balochistan has a fairly well developed poultry and dairy industry.
Quetta, the provincial capital and the ninth-largest city of the country, is the only city having a fairly domination urban population. Until the British arrived in 1877, Quetta was little more than a fort and a small training post. The British army led by Sir Robert Sandeman was charged with the responsibility of keeping the road link between the then India and Afghanistan via Balochistan open. It lies at an altitude of 1,675 meters (5,495ft), making it Pakistan’s only high-altitude major city, comes as a welcome relief after the pass, especially when the fruit trees are in blossom after the disastrous earthquake of 1935, offer little of historical interest, although the food and goods on sale in the bazaars give it a retrain Central Asian feel. The temperature drops a few degrees below the freezing point in winter following a typical autumn when the leaves turn golden and then a wild red. The many Aghan refugees have brought with them fresh crafts like the distinctive Hazara rugs, to add to such traditional items as Baloch mirror work.
Very few places can compete with Quetta valley in having wide range of tasteful fruits, exported to all parts of the country as well as abroad. There you can find plums, peaches, pomegranates, apricots, apples, olives, different types of melons, cherries, pistachios, almonds and other dry fruits. Saffron and tulips are also grown and cultivated on a commercial scale. The fruits heaven is Urak, called SAMARISTAN, meaning the land of fruits in Persian.
Excavations in the Quetta valley have proved that the per-historic humans used to live there. Mehergarh is a unique site revealing a continuous sequence of cultures in the province. The archaeological sites are considered to have been flourished between 7000 BC & 800 BC. Modern day Quetta is a real growing center of excellence. It is rapidly progressing in various walks of life. The people here are friendly and hospitable and cheerful gossip is the order of the day in the numerous restaurants and cafes. The famous specialty of Quetta is a whole leg of lamb deliciously marinated in local herbs and spices and barbecued beside an open fire. It is very popular among the locals and is offered with great insistence to the guests.
Quetta is home to three famous traditional bazaars, or markets, for shoppers who enjoy bargaining for local goods. Kandahari Bazaar is located on Shahrah-e-Iqbal. Liaqat Bazaar and Suraj Gang Bazaar are located on Shahrah-e-Liaqat. The bazaars offer local handicrafts, especially world-famous Balochi mirror embroidery found on carpets and clothing. Additionally, you can find fur coats, jackets, vests, jewelry and sandals at the bazaars.
In the cantonment north of the city, in Staff College Road, there is a small military museum in the bungalow occupied by Field-Marshal Montgomery when he was an instructor at the Quetta Staff College, the academy which trains Pakistan’s military elite. The museum can be visited with permission from Staff College. Located near the bazaars, the Archaeological Museum houses rare weapons, manuscripts, tools and pottery that date back to the Stone Age. The Geological Survey of Pakistan has a Museum of Historical Geology in Quetta that showcases fossils, with the most famous display, the Invertebrate Gallery, that showcases marine life fossils that date back 540 million years ago. Visitors who are interested in the British military history should head to the Command and Staff College Museum, which houses military artifacts, paintings and photographs.
Hazarganji Chiltan National Park Treasure hunters must visit the famous Hazarganji Chiltan National Park during their stay in Quetta. Hazarganji means “of a thousand treasures,” in reference to the legend that claims over 1,000 treasures are buried within the protected 38,429 acre park. It is located a little more than ten miles from Quetta and also was built to protect the Chiltan wild goat or Markhor. There you can see a variety of wildlife. The most distinctive is Markhor, erroneously considered as Ibex by the locals, because of its resemblance. There are 225 species of plants in Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, including wild almond, juniper, pistachio, wild olive and various useful shrubs. It is located a little more than ten miles from Quetta and also was built to protect the Chiltan wild goat or Markhor.
Located a little more than five miles from Quetta, Hana Lake draws visitors because of its contrasting landscape in reference to mountains and desert that surrounds it. The lake, one of Quetta’s most popular attractions, is actually a reservoir that was constructed by the British in 1894. The lake is formed by rainwater and snow from the nearby mountains. Because the dam that created Lake Hana was damaged during a flood in 1976, the lake has rotated between spells of dryness and water. Most recently, Hana Lake was dried up between 1999 and 2005.
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