ANOTHER Hidden GEM … This Time SINDH!

April 27, 2021

So off we went, the five of us, on Friday to Ranikot & Mohenjo-Daro.  3½ hours from Karachi, life completely changed once we got onto the N55 H’way.

For me, it was a photo & astro-photography trip; for my friends, already pros, had photography work with the Sindh Culture department.  Naturally, we couldn’t have chosen a “better” time to go … 40⁰+C in the day (but it dropped to 18⁰ at night and early morning).

We arrived Ranikot Fort around 5.30pm and promptly started our photography sessions of Merikot Fort. Within Ranikot Fort, are additional defensive walls and another Fort- Merikot Fort. This was apparently the palace of the royal family.

History of Ranikot is available at https://antiquities.sindhculture.gov.pk/index.php/antiquities-sites/fort/rani-kot-fort-jamshoro & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranikot_Fort and I’m not going into the history at this point; suffice to say, it was a very different experience from what I envisaged.  The Fort itself is built like the Great Wall of China- connected over mountain tops, spanning around 30 km, with guard towers, fortified walls (see below) and even another fort on the mountain top.  This is the OUTER and main defense. 

After a delicious meal prepared by the restaurant owner, Abdul Qader Gabol, we started light photography.  We couldn’t do any astrophotography as it was very dusty and the the Milky Way wasn’t visible the whole night. 

Light photography was a new experience for me!

I slept at 1.30am late night and got woken at 5.45am to see the sunrise.  What a temperature difference- it was so cool and pleasant on waking up.

Next day, after a simple yet delicious breakfast, we set off to see one of the four entry gates of Ranikot.  Absolutely amazing.

I climbed up 300 steps (apprx. 300 feet) and yet there were about another 200 steps to go, at which time I decided to call it quits and walk down again.  Looking at the Wall from where I stood, reminded me of Mulan (movie)- it felt so real.

Not only will I return, with my family, but we’ll walk to the top of the entry wall!  Let it not be said the Fort conquered our will & stamina 😊!

From there we made our way another 3½ hours to Mohenjo-Daro on the N55.

Walking around, albeit in the heat, was still an experience – this site reminded me of our visit to Pompei in the ‘1970s!

After another delicious dinner, we packed off to bed at 9pm! … so as to awake at 3am for the astrophotography.

This was an absolutely new experience for me.  Using the controls of the camera to capture the stars and the Milky Way and no flash or astronomy equipment.

The purpose of writing this is to show just one of many tourist sites Pakistan has to offer, in this case in the province of Sind.  Over these 3 days, I came to identify multi-tourist activities for a variety of interests/enthusiasts –

  • Overlanding
  • Off roading
  • Adventure
  • Historical/cultural interests
  • Hiking/mountain climbing
  • Photography & Astrophotography
  • Wildlife photography (there are wolves here!)
  • Flora & fauna
  • …or just plain bumming (chillin’) away!

What’s the problem you ask?  The problem is these “gems”, like so so many others, is not promoted to – forget foreigners – our domestic tourists.  It’s taken 53 years for me to get here- how many others are missing this experience!?

One amateur/novice photographer (me) in a lot of four other professionals … a great learning experience!

Next Stop – MITHI !

“Mangroves: Custodians of the Coast” (A film by The Dawood Foundation)

March 11, 2020

I was invited by the British Council on a documentary on the ‘Mangroves of Sindh’, directed by Anam Abbas & sponsored by the Dawood Foundation- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE5V221BvUg, alongwith a group of school children.

One of the greatest advantages of the Mangrove ecosystem are their intricate roots- they slow water flow thus protecting shorelines during storms by absorbing & reducing wave energy and water velocity respectively.

Besides being a habitat for birds and sealife, mangroves act as a natural barrier for land erosion due to currents and wave velocities.

Unfortunately, villagers in Pakistan cut down these life-saving trees for the wood and their rich, mineral-based leaves, as a fuel source and income.

‘Mangroves of Sindh’ identifies a practical SOLUTION – create cheap, alternate fuel sources for villagers. 

To change any ‘evil’, one must change the system from its roots.  While the subsequent discussions asked school children to consider careers in the Civil Services, my thoughts are we should go even further back- to the school level.  You cannot change a system if people don’t identify the threat of devastation, which can more effectively be taught from primary levels.

Malaysia uses the Mangroves forests as an eco-tourist platform, especially during monsoon seasons.  My family took a “mangrove tour” over a decade ago- a mangrove boat ride, eagle feeding and a third attraction I don’t remember now.  The government gave fisherman small engines so that when fishing was banned, they could use small boats for such tourist visits, thus earning income in off-season.

Another fantastic video is ‘The Edge of Delta’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0SJrsc32U8 by Tariq A. Qaiser.

There are small changes within our System, which can be accomplished easily and with minimal cost to the government.  IUCN, British Council and individuals are doing what they can within their resources but isn’t it time our governments stepped up to help the environment and, by extension, our coastal villages and cities?