Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Expedition : Ameer Hamza in Baluchistan

Ameer Hamza and Reading
Originally uploaded by eDanial
My friend and expedition partner, Danial Shah, who actually arranged this most wonderful, eye-popping, mind-blowing expedition into the heartland of this country, took this frame while we were travelling from Point A to Point B. Wherever we were going (and in this case, we were heading towards Koh-e-Taftan, Iran border) I was reading this very absorbing book penned by English traveller and historian, William Dalrymple. The book's name is, 'The Last Mughal'. It is a singularly absorbing book just like the province itself. He was kind enough to lend me his very cool book reading light, which I duly attached with my book.

I thank Mr. Zeeshan, Director of, for giving us this great opportunity and freedom to capture Baluchistan as never before. We hope our work is agreeable to him and to his good colleagues. We also sincerely hope that in future we will be able to contribute more to this National Project. INSHALLAH.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 13 / Shehr-e-Roghan, Bela

Shehr-e-Roghan, Bela
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
It was 13th June, 2010, and it was our expedition's 13th day. It has been a hectic schedule and most of the days we would wake up at 5am and sleep well after 12 at night. It was an expedition of extremes: We've been at Sibi, where the temperature was 49C; and we went to Ziarat where night time temperature dropped to 9C. So you can imagine what kind of place our biggest province really is. Yes, Baluchistan is a land mass which is perhaps Pakistan's 43%. Or, 48%. Or somewhere between it. And it always has something special for all of us.

No wonder then this beautiful, mysterious city known to local Baluch people as Shehr-e-Roghan (city of caves, city of Jinns, etc) was a fitting end to our brilliant expedition. I really liked roaming around this city. It was maddeningly hot and I was sure more heat was to grace us in Karachi itself. But Karachi appears some 170 Km from this place. I was impressed by the charms of this place. So should you be. I did not have GPS otherwise I would have put coordinates here.

So, this frame ends our expedition, which ran from 1st June, 2010, with a plane trip to Quetta from Karachi and ended at Hub, which borders Karachi.

More photographs of the expedition will be added later on. So you please continue reading this blog.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 13 / Road to Karachi

Road to Karachi
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
As Danial's IBM was due on Monday we had no choice but to head straight for Karachi. And it was Sunday today. After some road blockage near Khuzdar after a night stay there, we went for Karachi. And it was really hot. Yes, it should be. Kalat is at a certain height whereas Khuzdar is down the hill. And as you leave Khuzdar during summers, you really feel the music. But I found road really wonderful and agreed that if entire Baluchistan's roads are carpeted as this road, I am sure much benefit will come to the way of a poor Baluch, whose home this has been for many centuries now.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 12 / Carpet

Any visit to this most beautiful region is incomplete without a mention of hand knotted carpets or its photographs. I really love carpets and when there is a light shining on it. The real hand-knotted carpets are really expensive. But the most awesome carpet of all here in this palace wasn't the one photographed here - it was in the drawing room. And I really have to curse myself for not properly photographing it.

Our Baluchistan expedition was fully funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 12 / Reading Quran sharif

Reading Quran sharif
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
We were shown a small masjid, which is inside the main complex of the Palace of Khan of Kalat. And like every other place within the palace, this place was also full of carpets. Light was filtering from one of the windows as asar namaz timing was nearing; we decided to have khadim read Quran sharif so that we may photograph him. Here's the result.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 12 / Palace of Khan of Kalat

Palace of Khan of Kalat
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
This is the main Palace building and was built, according to the grandson of the Khan of Kalat, after that devastating 1935 earthquake, which levelled much of Quetta and parts of Kalat as well.

I was lucky to find clouds and a very friendly light and the temperature was just fine enough for such a good shot. I think, Dr. Kalim's lens, 10-20mm Sigma also helped greatly.

This expedition was funded by

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 12 / Gun of Khan of Kalat

Gun of Khan of Kalat
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
Today, we woke up late and left Quetta finally at 12 noon. Because I had to shop for dry fruits which my mother had specially asked me to bring from Quetta. I also got my favourite perfume from here: BOSS. And then we headed straight for Kalat, a place of my dreams. I immediately photographed this gun of the Khan when I saw it. And the sky was just fantastic here.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 11 / Dump Ghosht, Quetta

Dump Ghosht, Quetta
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
I am not sure how to spell it. But this thing is cooked like this: Sacrifice a goat, pull out everything from its belly, stuff rice and some dry fruits, as per your taste. Stitch the whole goat so that rice don't fall out and cook the goat under ground. Or whatever. And the taste is so unique you have to taste it to understand the whole idea. No wonder Pathans and visitors alike love this dish. It was our last dinner in Quetta and ensured it was the best.

Next Day: To Kalat and Khuzdar.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 11 / Melon farmer, Baluchistan

I really like this image. Farmer is bending, there are mountains in the background and you can see what he is harvesting in the low, left corner: a fully grown melon. And we bought 5-6 of them for Rs.100 and gladly returned to our vehicles for a trip back to Quetta.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 10 / Money changer, Taftan

Money changer, Taftan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
If you visit Taftan and if you don't get to see Iranian notes, then I think the entire exercise is not completed. Therefore, I first photographed these notes and then got one for my brother, Ovais Adhia. Because he is a great collector of currency notes from around the world.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 11 / Back to Quetta

I mention this photograph in this running blog just because it has a sign board which I have never before photographed. And the moving truck makes it more relevant. The road itself is a patch work of various works: Iranian, Pakistani, no road and Japanese. Well, we were very tired so we stayed up at Dalbandin for night and then moved later on.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 10 / Pakistan-Iran border, Taftan

Well, this is the farthest point we visited on this expedition. And it was a moment we both were waiting for. The place is not so hot as I had imagined earlier. Taftan surely is a place to remember. One may cross into Iran, if one has the visa.

For your information, our electricity for Taftan is purchased from Iran. Additionally, one may buy SIM cards, shampoos, chocolates, soaps and other Irani products from its markets. The trade is excellent and one will be fascinated to find so many different men walking around the streets.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 9 / Lakhpass to Taftan

Lakhpass to Taftan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
This pass appears suddenly and un-expectedly just after where the board states, Noshki. It is a pass to the wonders of border, which is nothing less than 800 KM from this place. And it is this Lakhpass for which you have to pay the toll. The journey begins here.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 9 / That's the point.

That's the point.
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
Just for the record I photographed this board. In a place full of surprises (read: Baluchistan) one is bound to mix things up. So I know that it was Day 9 of our 'Expedition Baluchistan' and I also now know that we were in for a great surprise

Baluchistan Diary - Day 9 / Lakhpass Toll, Baluchistan

That's where we started off our long, fascinating journey to the ends of Pakistan: Iran border. A place full of wonders and trade and of fascinating history and all. It was a jam-packed two-days sensation.

This expedition and subsequent research in Baluchistan is fully funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 8 / Quetta, Night frame

Quetta, Night frame
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
That's probably the last frame from the koh-e-Murdar mountain on the edge of Quetta, which I took on Day 8 of our expedition. I took this shot without the help of any tripod.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 8 / Koh-e-Murdar, Quetta

Koh-e-Murdar, Quetta
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
Our 8th day of travel was in Quetta. Which means that we had a rest day after a serious and hard work of 7 days across Western Baluchistan. So we went to Koh-e-Murdar, which is a mountain over-looking Cant area and Maliabad mohalla of Quetta. Our plan was to photograph this part of Quetta from the top. And we both did some photography in our own ways. However, before any work I messaged my friend, Raja Islam, and informed him about my position. Thank God that my network, Mobilink, worked here. However, it seriously failed in most parts of Baluchistan.

Look out for next photograph for a shot of Quetta from here during sun-set.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 7 / Ziarat Residency (Back view)

Lot of people have seen a frontal view of this magnificent colonial structure called Ziarat Residency. But far lesser number of them have actually troubled themselves with a different view of this place. I did and was fascinated by it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 7 / Crazy for Cherries

Danial Shah, my travelling companion for this 13-day expedition to the heartlands of Baluchistan, took this shot and subsequently uploaded it to his account. It was our 7th day of travel and we were in Ziarat. Here is what he wrote for this frame:

"Its been 7 days and Ameer Hamza has gone crazy for Cherries, and continously consuming it more and more every day.

I never knew Balochistan has such fruitful places. Traveling always gives me a great experience to understand each and every place.

The Picture was taken in Ziarat Valley, Cherry orchards."

Baluchistan Diary - Day 7 / Ziarat Residency

Ziarat Residency
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
After I had paid my salam to the Tombs of Hazrat Mulla Khan (RA) and Kharwari Baba (RA), we drank some wonderful kehwa (2 cups for me; 4 cups for Danial) and moved via Vigo towards Ziarat Residency, made famous due to Quaid's last Earthly stay. It is a place of singular magnificence and it is really not hard to imagine its beauty and charm attracting the eyes of our Great Leader. The Residency is positively surrounded by Juniper forests, one of the oldest in the world with some trees reaching a mature age of 4,500 years old. An added attraction of this place is that our currency note of Rs.100 has this Residency photographed on it.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 7 / Tomb of Hazrat Kharwari Baba (RA)

And this the Tomb / Mazar Sharif of Hazrat Kharwari Baba (RA) in Ziarat, where I wanted to go specially because my mother had specifically asked me to in order to fulfill a certain man'at (request). As that request has been granted to my mother, it was obligatory for her to personally visit this Mazar. As I was going first, I fulfilled man'at.

It is a brilliant place and the weather remains cool. Cutting of trees is a major issue. But certain controls have occurred over past few years now. Let us see what will begin of the forest around this Tomb.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 7 / Tomb of Hazrat Mulla Khan (RA), Ziarat

At the end of our trekking trip on Day 7 of our Baluchistan expedition, we reached the Mazar of Hazrat Baba Kharwari (RA). As per his wishes, one must first visit the Tomb of Mulla Khan, his relative before visiting Baba's Mazar. Hence, I did the same and paid my homage to this Saint first.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 7 / Juniper fruit, Ziarat

Juniper fruit, Ziarat
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
On our trek we saw many beautiful sites and wondered why Juniper grows so slowly. It only grows 1 inch per 5 years. That makes it one of the slowest growing trees in the world. Here I have photographed Juniper fruit along the Hazrat Baba Kharwari trek.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 7 / Ziarat ht.

Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
We photographed the ht. above sea level of Ziarat using Danial's watch and his own hand. In the background is the famous 4000 years old Juniper forests, now under state protection after years of neglect. From here we began our trek of Baba Kharwari Tomb, which is probably only 7 Kms from the main Ziarat town. The trek photographs will be uploaded soon.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 7 / Map of Ziarat

This is the map of town of Ziarat, which is a very popular hill station some 2.5 hours driver from Quetta, provincial capital of Baluchistan province, Pakistan. I really like the look and feel of this colouration on this concrete map, which stands on the outside of Ziarat town.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 6 / Way to Ziarat

A tree is framed from a car window. This road leads from Loralai to Ziarat and is a beautiful route to take, if you are a forest lover.

This marks the end of Day 6 and beginning of Day 7 of our expedition Baluchistan 2010, a project funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 6 / Loralai water supply

Loralai water supply
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
This is a beautiful place for many reasons. Firstly, it sits on a platform from where mountains rise up. Secondly, there are around 18 places from where water gushes out and is supplied to the city of Loralai. Thirdly, it is a place of much beauty with crystal waters and overhanging grapes.

Here, I would like to add one thing. This pond and subsequent water supply to the entire town of Loralai is a salute to the British engineering in our part of the world. Here, 18 water points have been blocked in a single building and channelized. Open channel goes to the city while the enclosed channel supplies water to the Cant area below, just as it has done since past 100 years.

This expedition is funded by

Friday, June 11, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 6 / Rickshaw

Rickshaw, Baluchistan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
After moving away from the mountains where I had earlier photographed Vigo, we stopped at this small town for a fast shoot of this rickshaw. That was the 6th day of our travels across Baluchistan and we wanted to have some shooting of the place. The ANP written on the first floor of the shop gives you some idea on the placement of the frame. ANP stands for Awani National Party and is one of the rare secular parties in the country.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 6 / Way to Loralai

Way to Loralai
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza is funding our expedition to the previously not photographed places in Baluchistan. For that purpose, the've provided us with 4 x 4 Toyota VIGO and a capable driver.

This is my favourite frame of the place among the rains as well as the vigo itself. I think this day [Day 6] was the happiest day of this expedition. And that happiness shows in this frame.

Baluchistan Diary - Day 6 / Pishin

Pishin, Baluchistan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
We met him on our way to the railway station known as Kanmehtarzai. It is blogged earlier in my blog. The only reason for uploading this frame is that I really like the colours and the framing of the shot. It also tells the story of the place as it is. The roof is wooden and the walls are mud plastered, as is common in this region.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 6 / Kanmehtarzai Railway Station

Our main target for Day 6 was to travel up towards Pishin area and visit the now dis-used Railway station called KANMEHTARZAI. It is said to be the highest station in Asia but I am really not sure about it. I will have to recheck it with some authentic railways data. But I must say that there was this spectacular scenery ahead and I hope that Government of Pakistan will once again make it a destination. Meanwhile, all tracks have been taken away and proabably sold as scrap. We moved on.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 5 / Dopasi, Baluchistan

Dopasi, Baluchistan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
We found this structure standing alone, half of it washed away by flash floods. This Tomb is of a Saint and there are similar tombs nearby as well. I am not sure about the history of this tomb nor can I say with surety who lies burried here. This place is reached via Dhatar (28 KM from Sibi town) on a left turn when you are travelling from Sibi to Quetta.

This expedition is funded by

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 5 / Mehrgarh site, Baluchistan

Mehrgarh, (Urdu: م‍ﮩ‍رگڑھ ) one of the most important Neolithic (7000 BC to c. 2500 BC) sites in archaeology, lies on what is now the "Kachi plain" of today's Balochistan, Pakistan. It is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats) in South Asia."[1].

The site is located near the Bolan Pass, to the west of the Indus River valley and between the present-day Pakistani cities of Quetta, Kalat and Sibi. Mehrgarh was discovered in 1974 by an archaeological team directed by French archaeologist Jean-François Jarrige, and was excavated continuously between 1974 and 1986. The earliest settlement at Mehrgarh—in the northeast corner of the 495-acre (2.00 km2) site—was a small farming village dated between 7000 BCE–5500 BCE.

[This information is taken from wikipedia].

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 5 / Way to Mehrgarh, Baluchistan

We finally left Sibi and drove towards Dhadar town, which is situated some 28 KM on the road to Quetta. From there we picked up a local guide, Barkat Ali, and he took us, first, to the ruins of Raisani home and then to actual neolithic site called Mehrgarh.

Details on this one of the most important sites in history may be had here:

This expedition is funded by

Monday, June 7, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 5 / Memorial hall, Sibi

Memorial hall, Sibi
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
When you hear of Sibi, you hear of penetrating heat which can reach a whooping 52C in June and July. But you really never hear of this most charismatic colonial structure called Memorial Hall, which was constructed way back in 1903 and has since been usef for various purposes. Its last purpose was that it was being used as a museum.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 5 / Baba, Sibi

Baba, Sibi Bazaar
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
This is perhaps one of the best portraits of this trip so far and I really liked the feel of this person against the brick wall. He was enjoying his tea. And that tea was the best we got.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 5 / Leather factory, Sibi

Leather factory, Sibi
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
We visited this British era factory for leather processing. It was of a considerable size and must have been very active in its time. It was finally closed down in 1975 for unknown reasons. Last year someone sold all those antique metal roofs along with the machinery of colonial era. The rest of this factory is slated for complete destruction. I hope not.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 5 / Sibi School

School, Sibi
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
I really liked this school. It was the first day of holiday and therefore, we had this vast British era school to ourselves for this shoot. Clouds helped us set the tone for the rest of the day 5, which saw us cover the likes of Tehsil Office, Museum, and Sibi market. We also covered 7,000 years old site called Mehargarh the same day.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 5 / Sibi Bazaar

Sibi, Baluchistan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
Danial, my travelling partner on a sponsored expedition to the heartlands of Baluchistan, shows the photograph to an old man on his LCD screen. Sibi is the hottest region of Pakistan, where temperature can top a whooping 51C. But it was better today, when the shot was taken.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 4 / Chakkar Fort, Sibi

Sibi (Urdu: سِبی) is a city of Balochistan province of Pakistan. The city is located at 29°33'0N 67°52'60E at an altitude of 130 metres (429 feet) and is headquarters of the district and tehsil of the same name.[2]. According to the 2001 census of Pakistan the population of Sibi is 52,100. The hottest place within the country is 52.6 °C (126.7 °F).

Details of this fort called Chakkar Fort were not immediately available on internet. As soon as I get hold of them, I will add the rejoinder.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 4 / Bolan

Bolan, Baluchistan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
After stopping at Kolpur we stopped here at Bolan to photograph this beautiful railway bridge passing just next to our road. We were on our way to the hottest place in the country: Sibi.

Bolan itself is a very hot region during summers but is also a favourite spot for families to stop over. Dramatic scenery like this one with a rail bridge built during British Raj in Sub-continent is one of its chief attractions. Another is a blue stream of water passing through the region.

This expedition is funded by

Baluchistan Diary - Day 4 / Kolpur

Kolpur, Baluchistan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
This is a small but beautiful town of Kolpur, which is very near to Quetta. In fact, while travelling from Sibi to Quetta, Kolpur is the last major town. And its location and harmonic relations between resident Hindus and Muslims make it one of the most cherished places in the province.

In this photograph: Danial.

This expedition is funded by

Friday, June 4, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 3 / Chaman border, Pakistan

Chaman border, Pakistan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
This photograph is a testimony to the valour and dedication of Pakistan's armed forces including this soldier from FC. They protect our borders with will power which is hard to imagine. And they do it without fail.

This expedition (Baluchistan 2010) is funded by [This website will go online by the end of June, 2010]

Baluchistan Diary - Day 3 / Khojak Pass Top

Height: 2415 meters.

Region: Khijak Pass, Baluchistan. This is the gateway to modern-day Pakistan. Today, along with Khyber Pass near Peshawar, this is the main trade route bPakistan and Afghanistan.

Thanks to Danial, my travel partner on this trip, for the best view of the watch.

This expedition is funded by [This website will go online by the end of this month].

Baluchistan Diary - Day 3 / Khojak Tunnel

Shela Bagh, Baluchistan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
Also known as Shehla Bagh (Shela Bagh) this tunnel is the largest in Pakistan and is so cold even in summers that it is hard to imagine. It's length is 3.91 KM and is not exactly straight. This tunnel is pictured in Rs.5 old note of Pakistan.

This expedition is funded by [This website will go online by the end of this month].

Baluchistan Diary - Day 3 / Lotas

Lotas, Baluchistan
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
Today, the day started with a good note. We found this bus over-loaded with lotas heading towards Chaman border and maybe onwards to Afghanistan.

This expedition is funded by [This website will go online by the end of this month].

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 2 / Liaqat Bazaar

Liaqat Bazaar, Quetta
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
Dr. Bano Road is part of Liaqat Bazaar, Quetta. It has lots of small gallis and bazaars and sellers from all over Central Asian region. We have Pashtuns from across the border, and we have Tajiks and Uzbeks. And Hazaras as well. And we have lots of cheap dry fruits coming in from Afghanistan.

Here at Liaqat Bazaar, I bought kala kishmesh for Rs.100 / 0.5 Kg; Green kiahmesh for Rs.160 / 1.0 Kg. I plan to buy Pakistani badaam INSHALLAH. I also intend to buy Khobani and other things as well when I am done with Chaman (3rd June, 2010), Sibi & Mehergarh (4th and 5th June, 2010) and Ziarat (6th June, 2010).

Till then, I will try and consume this wonderful kishmesh from Afghanistan. INSHALLAH.

This expedition is funded by [This website will go online by the end of this month].

Baluchistan Diary - Day 2 / Wali Tangi Dam

Where else on Earth do you find a bunch of happy people dancing away on top of a colonial era dam. Yes, that's what happened to us: We witnessed a proper dance sequence from the Pashtuns belonging to Urak valley, who had come here to trek and to have fun. Fun they had - and we had it too.

We reached the place after a lot of hassle on the route, which is not paved and is a dangerous one if you are a bad driver or stuck on a really bad day. Rains could easily make you go to hell. The stone is loose and slips easily. The drive is not smooth but is fantastic. What's more, you need a permission from core command, Quetta, to visit this place. And photography is not permitted. We got the pass and took the shots.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Baluchistan Diary - Day 2 / Coal worker

He is one of the countless Pashtun coal workers employed on daily wages by thekedars mining coal and then sending it across Pakistan. I shot this today on my way to dam. At first they were very apprehensive, which is very usual in our part of the world, but then they settled and went about their work. This particular coal worker was very striking in his pose and very elegant. He proves the point that elegance can be in a poor man and in a rich man. It is the natural class some men and women carry. I like how he is looking at my camera. Very determined and not at all apprehensive. Or, is he?

Baluchistan Diary - Day 2 / Urak

School Boy, Urak valley
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
After visiting Hanna gheel early morning with Danial, we headed towards Urak valley, which is further 30 minutes from the lake. The road is in excellent condition and as this is Pashtun belt with lots of schools and fine education, there is no sign of trouble here. Atleast, we did not notice any.

As we were passing this beautiful, apple growing region, we stopped for a quick shoot of this fallen building in the background. Sky got fair enough as clouds, which had been there since morning, vanished for some part. Thus, I got this shot with a school boy going happily to school. Going happily to school is something most of us never did. So it is a double reward - to be in Baluchistan and to be witnessing a happy school kid - for Day 2.

Ok, wait for more dispatches from the field.