City of Lights: Did you guess right?

Posted on August 22, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, ATP Quiz, Photo of the Day
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Adil Najam

From reading the comments on our last Photo Quiz, probably not.

It was a trick question, and I do not think I would have gotten it right either; even though this is a city that I am mightily fond of.

I guess I am being a tease (‘teaser’ in Pinglish, but also in English). Yes, Owais Mughal did get it right and a number of other folks did consider it but were not fully sure.

The city is Quetta.

I have never actually lived in Quetta but have visited often, including a number of recent work related trips. I am particularly fond of this city and its people; and, of course, its food.

It has a rich, and sometimes tragic (earthquakes) history, and is a place that is used to ‘living on the edge’ — literally and metaphorically. More on that some other time. For now, I do want to say something about the four photographs here. All, including the original posted yesterday, are by cageitfallsinto, whose portfolio at Flickr has a wonderful collection from around the world, including Pakistan.

The original phtograph is taken from Koh-e-Murdar, looking down on the night lights of Quetta. I believe (from my www map research!) that the lights on the bottom left are Mariabad, the dark spot after that are the mountains continuing, beyond that the lights on the top-left are from Quetta city and Sariyab Road area, on the right are Gulistan Town, Alamdar Road, Toghi Road, Hajiabad, and back into the city area. I may be wrong, if so, please do tell us more.

As I said, this was a trick question. The obvious answer would have been Islamabad from Daman-i-Koh or from Pir Sohawa. I think, the first would leave you with the problem of the missing Faisal Mosque (on the right) and both would have the challenge of why lights from Rawalpindi are not also visible into the horizon and the absence of a grid-like structure of lights. For this to be Karachi, as a number of people pointed out, you would have to explain the mountains. Lahore, someone said, the smog. Although that may be a slight over-statement.

To the best of my knowledge, this picture was not ‘photoshopped’. If that is correct, then the ‘Quetta-ness’ of this picture comes not from the lights (that really could have been any mid-sized city). The ‘Quetta-ness’ comes from what is around the lights. The silent darkness. Being the valley town ‘cupped’ amidst mountains, Quetta has a special feel to it; which, once you know this is Quetta, seeps through. Most other cities trickle away into suburbia and then villages (to be fair, that sense may not be captured in a picture; but you cannot escape it on the ground). Quetta is truly a frontier town. Its majesty really does loom out of a surrounding that remains mostly uninhabited; more so that any other major town in Pakistan.

Anyhow, those are my thoughts. As I said, this was not an easy one to guess… but we had fun anyhow in trying to!

Finally, a few words about the other three pictures here. Which, hopefully, also help shake our stereotypes about Quetta. First, on the top of the post, the picture of the lone street light only highlights that darkness can hide many things and not every point of light is created equal. The beauty of the picture taken from afar should not make us oblivious of the real issues and challenges up close. The two other pictures are of houses tucked into the face of the mountain and of the hot water pools at Pir Ghaib. Both are places worth going to. Buit Owais will soon be telling us more about that!

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6 responses to “City of Lights: Did you guess right?”

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