Our Director, Marilyn Scott, tells us all about her recent trip to Pakistan with the British Council.
I was recently invited to give a paper at a conference in Lahore, Pakistan on ‘Hidden Histories’. The conference was organised by the British Council and drew together museum and heritage professionals from all over Pakistan. I spoke about The Muslim Burial Garden in Woking and its amazing history and recent restoration. This was of course of great interest to the Pakistan delegates, as even in Pakistan the involvement of the Indian Army in the First World War is not that well known.
We were shown amazing hospitality by our Pakistan hosts, and were taken to the Walled City in Lahore and The Lahore Fort, which was rebuilt and restored several times before being given its current form by Emperor Akbar in 1566 (when he made Lahore his capital). The fort was modified by Jehangir in 1618 and later damaged by the Sikhs and the British, although it has now been partially restored. Within it is a succession of stately palaces and gardens built by Mughal emperors Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, the site is comparable to the other great Mughal forts at Delhi and Agra in India.
My overwhelming impression of Lahore and our hosts was a place of great friendliness with a passion for heritage. The conservation work done in the Walled City is of the highest quality, but like every city in the world they face the challenge of a need for change in infrastructure which inevitably impacts on their historic places. They need a new transport system – the traffic is terrible! But this will involve changes to the Walled City which many people are fighting against.
It was a brief but fascinating insight into the country, which included being caught in a monsoon rainstorm, being trapped in a minibus for two hours as the city flooded, and enjoying dinner in a tented courtyard with traditional musicians and dancers performing, which was truly magical. Certainly a place to return to.