Tourism in the Margalla Hills – Part II

Overview:
As I mentioned in Part – I of this article earlier, I thus set up again to visit the Margalla Mountains for the second time in a fortnight on the 3rd of July 2010 to Pir Sohawa with my happy go lucky family.
This time around we planned to go do a small barbeque at one of the picnic spots that we have been going to @ Pir Sohawa for the last 8 or so odd years. Although we were not accompanied by friends but our little fleet of five is more than enough company to enjoy such fun filled escapades amongst ourselves. All we do is make the plan and hit the road while picking up the peripherals for such quick picnics.
Although it was a heart break to see that our favorite spot has been converted into a make shift head quarter of the Rangers due to the off and on incidents of terrorism in the Capital city and thus most of the picnic spot has been occupied but the rangers were kind enough to allow us to have our little love affair with the flora and fauna of the mountains slightly at a higher altitude, seeing that we were a family ant just a male party.
Once at the post, we took our barbeque peripherals out and I ignited the fire in the coals while the children went around discovering their whereabouts. Chicken with ‘Khubz’ (Arabic bread) was on the menu this time around.
Adil, Mohsin and Ayesha frolicked in the nearby hills while I helped my wife to deep roast the chicken.
(Ayesha, Mohsin and Adil with their usual mischief)
I tell you that this chicken tasted much better than what we get in the restaurants at exorbitant rates. Raita (Yoghurt) and 7-up jelled too well with this well-done meal.
A little introduction:
Pir Sohawa is a village located in district Haripur of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Province, formerly called North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. It is a few kilometers further down from “Monal Restaurant” close to village Monal, which is an upland scenic rural location, at an elevation of about 5,000ft, popular for recreational walk and picnics in Islamabad.
Due to unknown reasons (may be due to fantasy of Pakistani people towards saintly (or “Pir”) figures, the name of village ‘Pir Sohawa’ replaced the name of ‘Monal village’. Monal still exists on the slope towards Islamabad city. Unfortunately and mistakenly Monal is called Pir Sohawa, which is a misconception.
The Monal Restaurant is located at “Monal” which itself is part of ICT (Islamabad Capital Territory, not in Pir Sohawa located in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Province), as commonly misunderstood by most of the people. Monal Restaurant was completed in 2006. Its spacious terraces provide a breathtaking view of Islamabad in clear daylight and a stunningly beautiful show of the city lights at the bottom, after sunset. One can enjoy the cool breeze and fragrance, especially during summer’s hot days, of thick forest present all around.
This is a unique point where one can compare the urban and rural Pakistan simply by turning the head from one side (looking at Islamabad) to other side (looking towards rear lush green valley with villages, flowing streams and mountains beyond).
Monal Top attracts tourists in winter, as the elevation (+5,000ft) is sufficient for occasional snowfall. It is a real popular place among the citizens of Islamabad, their guests as well as the foreign visitors and tourists.
This place is connected to Islamabad by an all-weather black top road, on which are located Daman-e-Koh, a fantastic forest-garden and a picnic point worth visiting. It is a destination point for a hiking trip from the bottom of Margalla Hills climbing 3,000ft almost vertically straight up from the village of Saidpur, Islamabad.
Historically, when there were no roads available, Monal top was a midway resting point for travellers of Hazara areas (north of Islamabad), ascending and descending the rear mountains and heading towards Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Back to the main story:
On the way back from Pir Sohawa, we noticed that new picnic spots have sprouted up lately (thanks to the Capital Development Authority) which gives a fresh view of the ‘Saidpur Village’ from this mountain spot. While reaching such a spot, I stopped the car and we decided to look around and take a walk at one of the tracks.
(US @ the Saidpur Viewpoint: Elevation 3,700 feet)
We travel, then, in search of both self and anonymity — and, of course, in finding the one we apprehend the other.
The track was leading towards the edge of the cliff and turned out that it was a 20 minutes’ walk to go and appreciate the ‘Saidpur Village’ view.
After spending a little time walking on this track while appreciating the bounties of nature, we turned around and descended; invigorated and rejuvenated. On the way down, we yet stopped to take a few more pictures at some scenic spots.
We thus decided to call it a day and slowly and gradually descended the steep curves of the Margalla Mountains to reach home right in time for the Asr prayers. More to come. Adieu!

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