— Amidst a Pandemic
(Part II: March – May 2020)
By the end of February, countries around the world had become aware of the coronavirus as it had widely affected most parts of Asia, especially China and its neighbouring cities including Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. It hadn’t reached Pakistan at this point, so we were all still going about our daily lives as usual; without any health or safety precautions. Although none of us were aware of its severity and had no idea that we’d be spending the next few months in a nationwide lockdown, I can say now that I’m extremely grateful for these extra few weeks before COVID-19 hit the country. During this time, I was able to do some more sightseeing, spend time with relatives and friends.
I regularly passed by this intriguing building which seemed to be a mosque, so naturally it was on my list of places to visit. I assumed it was the Mehfil-e-Shah-e-Khurasaan (pictured above), but it turned out to be the Imam Khomeini library (pictured below)! Ayatollah Khomeini was an Iranian religious and political leader, who made Iran the world’s first Islamic republic in 1979. Upon entering the library, I was taken aback by its exquisite exterior of blue tilework and Arabic calligraphy, which is common in Islamic architecture.
Also known as Jinnah Mausoleum, Mazar-e-Quaid is the final resting place of Quaid-e-Azam (Urdu term for “Great Leader”), Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Designed in a modernistic style, the complex is an iconic symbol of Karachi and one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. Mazar-e-Quaid also carries the tomb of Jinnah’s sister, Mader-e-Millat (“Mother of the Nation”), Fatima Jinnah, as well as the 1st and 8th Prime Ministers of Pakistan.
The weekend before Pakistan’s government announced a lockdown, I had the opportunity to go on a day-trip to Thatta – an ancient city of the Indus delta that used to serve as the medieval capital of Sindh. It is famous for its archaeological sites and centuries-old monuments, especially in Makli.
The Makli necropolis is one of the largest funerary sites in the world, spread over an area of 10 kilometres near the city of Thatta; home to 1 million tombs of kings, queens, governors, saints, scholars, and philosophers. These unique, terracotta structures were influenced by various styles, including Hindu architecture of the Gujrat style and Mughal imperial architecture. Though, the concept of stone decoration with elaborate carvings was birthed at Makli, as you’ll see below at the tomb of Jam Nizammudin – a highly prominent example. “The historical monuments at the necropolis of Makli stand as eloquent testimonies to the social and political history of the Sindh” (UNESCO).
Thatta is also known for its Shah Jahan Mosque – a 17th century old mosque that was built during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (commissioner of the Taj Mahal in India). After his visit to Thatta, he bestowed it as a token of gratitude to the people of Sindh. Heavily influenced by Persian styles, the mosque has 93 domes and carries the most elaborate display of tilework in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. It is also notable for its geometric brick work – a decorative element that is unusual for Mughal-period mosques.
This day-trip was 8 weeks ago, and it was the last time I left the house for a leisure activity. Since then, the city has been eerily quiet, we’ve been confined to our homes where I’ve mostly been sleeping or eating and public gatherings have been banned. But it hasn’t been all doom & gloom. I’ve taken this time to work on my personal branding, e-Learn, workout regularly and try my hand at new things (while drinking copious amounts of Dalgona coffee).
Now it’s Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, and it’s like no other. Although the lockdown is gradually being lifted, its impacts will be felt for a long time. COVID-19 has affected a majority of businesses and people around the world in one way or another, especially front-line workers and the less fortunate. I hope you’re all staying safe, wherever you are, and wish for things to go back to normal soon!