Tourism in the Margalla Hills – Part I

Overview:
We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.
With the above in mind, I thus set up again to visit the Margalla Mountains actually twice within a short span of two weeks once on the 26th of June 2010 to Daman-e-Koh and the next time on the 3rd of July 2010 to Pir Sohawa with my fun loving family.
We did not visit the Daman-e-Koh for some time now and thus Adil (my older son) has been after me to take him there. Since the weather has been hot lately thus we decided to go there in the evening while the sun sets around 7:30 p.m. these days.
Whenever we visit Daman-e-Koh, new developments take place. This is the best part of living in Islamabad whereby developments do take place and rather fast especially in tourist areas unlike other cities of Pakistan where development takes place at a snail’s pace.
A new walking track has lately been carved out which gives a fresh view of the Rawal Lake from this mountain spot. After reaching there, we got our snacks out and feasted to our heart’s content on the junk food and had lots of water since the sun was still following us around.
This particular spot is just a 15 minute walk from the parking space and connects it with the main site on the Daman-e-Koh view point.
All good trips are, like love, about being carried out of yourself and deposited in the midst of terror and wonder.
A little introduction:
Daman-e-Koh, about 3,000 ft. from sea level and almost a 1, 000 ft. higher than the city of Islamabad, is a viewing point and hill top modern garden, popular among the residents as well as the visitors to this capital town of the nation.1
Geologically it is a spur, off shooting from main Margalla Hills, which are declared as Margalla National Park. Daman-e-Koh in Urdu & Persian means: “in the lap of the mountain”; wherein Daman is literally lower frontal part of the Kurta/Kameez (local name for long shirts) which covers the groins thus making a lap while sitting and Koh in Persian means mountain.2
This beautifully located viewpoint is in the north of Islamabad and resides at the foot of and in the middle of the Margalla Hills. This extra-ordinary garden has two wings known as the “north” and “south” viewpoints. A single but ‘perfect’ carpeted road leads to this uniquely beautiful ‘forest-garden’. Ample car parking is provided by the authorities as the number of visitor keeps on growing with every passing day.3
The view point may be reached on foot, walking along various “jogging tracks” built and maintained by city gardeners. A good number of nature loving and health-loving people are found in the early hours of the day as well as in the afternoon.4

Daman-e-Koh is a midpoint for the tourists on their way to the higher view point Pir Sohawa which is located at the top of Margalla Hills at an elevation of about 5,000 ft. There is a plan to construct a chairlift from Daman-e-Koh to Pir Sohawa. It is speculated that this plan would start materializing in the near future.5
Car parking facility is provided close to the Northern Spot where a cafe and some small tuck shops cater the needs of guests. A restaurant is located on the Southern Spot overlooking the city. The Southern Spot is the main attraction as it provides a panoramic view of Islamabad. Telescopes are installed for keener observers. An artistically designed board displaying basic information about Islamabad is installed for the people coming from outside the city.6
Kids do have their own places all around to play and enjoy their time. Some pet birds like Turkeys roam about in the beds of roses and other seasonal flowers.7

Capital Development Authority (CDA) has further developed the viewpoint by upgrading the restaurant, widening the car-parking and providing other necessary facilities. CDA has put in service electric-powered cars to facilitate the tourists, especially the senior citizens, between Northern and Southern spots.8
An overview of Faisal Mosque and the newly constructed “Seventh Avenue” are a treat to watch. During daylight and in full moon the Rawal Lake poses a nice glittering view in southeast. A beautiful light & color show is ever-present during night as beholder watches the low-lying capital down under the feet. 9
To take a glance of this planned city during day or night is enough reason to pay a visit to this remarkably different and extra-ordinary national park. Whole of the city looks like a “live-map” viewed from a distance. The place remains full of lively people till late after midnight, especially in summer when cool fragrant breeze blows in the hills. 10
There are points in the bushes and trees where one can enjoy the silence of nature to the fullest. The place is a heaven for bird watchers. More than 70 different native as well as migrating birds are seen here during various parts of the year. Monkeys are a common sight during winter. It is little risky trying to play or negotiate with or feed these otherwise friendly creatures. Cheetahs are (frequently) reported as seen in these foothills, mostly during winter. They are believed to descent from higher hills of Murree in snowfall days. It is a wonderful place for the people who have some interest in flora and fauna.11

Back to the main story:
After spending a little time here and enjoying the cool breeze of the Margallas, we called it a day and decided to return to the city on fire i.e. Islamabad not knowing that we would be tempted to visit the Margallas again next week. Till then, Adieu!

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
7 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
8 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
9 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
10 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh
11 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daman-e-Koh

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