Bahawalpur – also known as the “city of palaces”, located south of the Sutlej River, was founded in 1748. It lies between the provinces of Punjab and Sindh and borders India. Formerly, it was the capital of the princely state of Bahawalpur, ruled by the Nawabs of the Abbasi tribe up till 1955, after which they left an architectural legacy behind. The city is famous worldwide for its natural beauty and architectural masterpieces, especially the majestic Cholistan desert, which also serves as a gateway to nearby Lal Suhanra National Park. Many historical and distinct architectural sites can be found in the area once in history. The major part of the region was part of the holy city of Uch Sharif. Bahawalpur has a lot of tourism potential as many tourists from all over the world come to visit places like Noor Mahal, Derawar fort, Sadiq Garh Palace, Walled City of Bahawalpur, and several other attractions that include mosques, forts, shrines and palaces etc. Moreover, famous festivals like Chanan Peer Mela and Cholistan Jeep Rally also occur annually. The region is also renowned for handmade embroidery on cloth, carpets, pottery and handicrafts.
Major Tourist destinations in Bahawalpur
Noor Mahal: ‘The hidden gem of Bahawalpur’. Nawab Sadiq Muhammad built the palace for his wife in 1875. It was declared a national monument in Pakistan and is currently under the authority of the Pakistan army, which spent 2 years renovating it. It is known for its colourful and exquisite exterior made of cut and dressed bricks, making it a unique architectural piece. It was used for the guests of the Nawab. This palace also served as a State Court during wars. The exquisite furniture and fittings were sold or stolen over the years, but many people visit to see the beauty and learn about the region’s history. It has a lot of potential to attract foreign and local tourists, but this gem needs to be properly promoted for tourism purposes.
Like many other palaces in Bahawalpur, Darbar Mahal is a beautiful structure in the main city. It was built by one of the Nawab, Bahawal Khan V, in 1905. It is an elegant blend of red on white with more than 80 windows styled in the way of old Islamic architecture of the 14th century. The furniture and carpeting are among the premium varieties, as the architecture blends local and foreign influences. It is one of the largest properties in the area. This palace is used as a government office, which is closed to the general public. If the government allows tourists to visit this palace, it could add a lot of value in boosting tourism in the region.
Lal Suhanra National Park
The national park is situated on the edge of the Cholistan Desert, around 35 kilometres east of Bahawalpur. It is one of the biggest national parks in South Asia and is notable for its diverse landscape, including forest, desert and wetland. Many unique species of plants and animals are present here, including some endangered species like chinkara, black buck, blue bull etc. Suppose the government and wildlife authorities work on protecting those species. In that case, the national park will become a unique tourist attraction as some of the species in this park are not present anywhere in the world. Tourists can enjoy jeep safari, camel and horse riding, sightseeing and many more activities in the gardens. The area attracts millions of tourists every year. Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP) is developing motels and hotels in the area to boost tourism and increase environmental awareness among people.
Majestic Derawar Fort
Derawar fort is a famed hallmark of Bahawalpur, standing amid the Cholistan desert. The fort is surrounded by several archaeological sites, including the remains of the Indus Valley Civilisation. It was built in the 9th century by a Hindu Rajput and later captured by the Nawabs of Bahawalpur. There is also a famous mosque built near it known as Abbasi Masjid, similar to Delhi’s Jama Masjid. The fort needs a lot of restoration work and promotion to attract tourists. It has a lot of potential as it is one of the oldest forts in Pakistan, and popular music videos have been recorded here. Archaeological and adventure tourism can be promoted here.
Holy City of Uch Sharif
The historic city of Uch Sharif has located approximately 80 Km from Bahawalpur city. The town was founded by Alexander the Great. It was built near a place called Panjnad, where five rivers of Punjab meet the Indus River. One of the most popular shrines is Bibi Jawindi, also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, awareness is yet to be created about this site as it has a lot of potentials but is neglected by the government. It can become a tourism hub if the arrangements and facilities are provided. The government’s focus can flourish the local business greatly and promote religious tourism in Pakistan.
Above are just the major tourist attractions in Bahawalpur that tourists already visit and still have a lot of potentials to grow. More locations include the Gates of the Walled City of Bahawalpur, the Bahawalpur Museum, the Central Library, multiple palaces and forts and many more undiscovered places. Promoting potential tourist sites in Bahawalpur city is important as it is a hidden gem. Diverse types of tourism can be found here, such as adventure, sports, religious, and archaeological tourism. Pakistan is in dire need of economic stability. Since tourism is a flourishing sector, it can contribute a lot to the economy and bring in foreign direct investment in the country through foreign tourists and exports.