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Discovering the Capital: Islamabad

By Noor Fatima


My family and I moved to Islamabad eleven years ago and I have been in love with this city ever since. Its calm, quiet and green atmosphere has an extraordinary appeal that you will not find anywhere else in Pakistan. Not only is Islamabad exceptionally beautiful (it is the second-most beautiful capital in the world) but it is also replete with important landmarks, museums, parks, restaurants and other tourist attractions. In this article, we will be exploring 7 such places and getting more familiar with Pakistan’s capital - Islamabad! So, all aboard the Islamabad Express!

1. Faisal Mosque

Islamabad is home to one of the largest mosques in Asia – the Faisal Mosque. Also deemed as the national mosque of Pakistan, Faisal Mosque was named after Saudi King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, who funded its construction in 1976. Nestled in the foots of Margalla Hills towards the elevated northern end of the capital, the silent majestic grandeur and magnificence of Faisal Mosque is noticeable from near and afar. The mosque’s design, which was conceived by the Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay, presents a stunning fusion between medieval and contemporary Islamic architecture. Unlike traditional dome-shaped mosques, Faisal Mosque has a desert tent-like shape, consisting of eight sloping sides that cave in to form the main prayer hall, and is further towered by four 80-meter tall minarets in its surroundings. The interior of the mosque is made up of glistening white marble, which is truly a treat to the eyes. The mosque welcomes and embraces people of all faiths and is busiest on Fridays and Eid Days. Faisal Mosque is truly a spectacle that always makes it to the top 3 tourist attractions in Islamabad!

2. Pakistan Monument

Pakistan Monument is a petal-shaped edifice that rests upon the Shakarparian Hills in Islamabad. The monuments structure consists of four flower-shaped petals made of granite, sticking out towards the clear blue Islamabad sky. Each of these petals represents Pakistan’s provinces, namely Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, converging together to symbolize unity and harmony among the federating units. In addition, three smaller petals have been constructed in between the larger ones to recognize and pay homage to Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and the minorities of Pakistan. The inner walls of the huge petal-like structure contain meticulously done artwork of important historical buildings and sites such as the Badshahi Mosque, Minar-e-Pakistan and Lahore Fort. The entire structure emblematizes both the vast history and patriotic spirit of the Pakistani nation – warranting a visit by our dear readers!

3. Lok Virsa Heritage Museum

The Lok Virsa Heritage Museum lies in close vicinity to the Pakistan Monument. The Heritage Museum was established in 1982 and was previously known as Folk Art Museum. The museum is incredibly large – covering an area of 60,000 square feet – and showcases the diverse history, culture and heritage of Pakistan. The various exhibit halls display several statues, musical instruments, pots, jewelry, arts and craft and other archeological artifacts belonging to rural and urban regions of Pakistan. More recently, a Sufis and Shrines Hall was formed in which the pictures and shrines of famous Sufi poets – such as Bulleh Shah, Sachal Sarmast and Lal Shahbaz Qalandar – are exhibited. For all the history buffs out there and those who value natural heritage, a visit to Lok Virsa Heritage Museum would definitely be worth their time!

4. Margalla Hills

The Margalla Hills are an extension of the Himalayan Mountains and perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing and captivating of sights in Islamabad that add to the capitals endless beauty and tranquility. The hills present a stunning view especially when it rains – it’s literally a scene out of a movie. They have an abundance of foliage and are also home to wildlife. Some of the activities that are commonplace here include hiking and bird watching. The two popular spots on Margalla Hills, Daman-e-Koh and Pir Sohawa, are also tourists’ favorites as they provide a panoramic view of Islamabad from up top.

5. Saidpur Village

You read that right! Islamabad also nurtures an ancient village within its own metropolitan setting that has now become a major tourist attraction. Saidpur Village is situated in the foothills of Margalla Hills and it provides its visitors a glance at the historical and archeological remnants of three eras of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh rule through which the village persisted. A Gurdwara, Hindu temple and a spacious room where once Guru Nanak is believed to have taught his disciples still exist. Meanwhile, restaurants like Andaaz and Des Perdes serve delectable food and a culturally immersive ambiance for their customers.

6. Monal

One can simply not come to Islamabad and not pay a visit to Monal; the wide-range of oriental food, the relaxing ambiance and above all, the breathtaking view of the city that this restaurant offers is truly incomparable. Be it the afternoon or evening, Monal is always packed with friends and families devouring the food and scenic view simultaneously from up top.

7. Jinnah Super Market

Located in the posh F-7 sector, this local market is a great place to shop, gobble on food and hang out with friends. Jinnah Super Market offers a variety of local and international brands to shop from such as Miniso, Nike, Generation, Junaid Jamshaid and many others. If you don’t want to eat expensive, then head to Gol Market! It’s a circular arrangement of small eateries, each offering a great variety of snacks like shawarmas, burgers, gol gappay and more! You will also find small jewelry stalls here that have some of the best traditional Pakistani jewelry in town!

I can’t wait for you all to visit Islamabad and see for yourself how incredible this city truly is!

Happy Exploring!

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