While walking through the alleys of the walled city of Lahore, overflowing with people, motorbikes and donkey carts squeezing through, noise coming from everywhere, I spot two colourful minarets pointing to the sky high above me. I have arrived at the north side of Wazir Khan mosque, and I climb the stairs to arrive in the Carpenter's Bazaar, which runs adjacent to the eastern wall of the compound in which the mosque is located. This is the first mosque to include shops, but the shops are empty: the bustle of the market outside stops at the entrance gate. After leaving my shoes at the caretaker, I step through the gateway, into a rectangular courtyard. Right before me, the prayer hall rises from the other side, with two minarets, and a pool in the middle. Sunset is less than an hour away, and the sun is already going down into the haze on the sky behind the mosque.
Parts of the mosque are under reconstruction and covered in scaffolding. I walk past the pool where men are sitting to clean themselves before proceeding to the prayer hall. I stop frequently to take in the views. When I reach the prayer hall, I find people walking in and out, people praying, some approaching me, asking where I come from. The closer I get, the more I realize that the walls are decorated from bottom to top. Same goes for the octagonal minarets, all covered in rich and colourful mosaics. I move slowly to marvel at the walls, the niches, all covered with extremely rich decorations and calligraphy. What to the others is a sacred location for prayer where they come every day, for me is a work of art that is revealing its beauty with every step I take and every meter I move my eyes over the walls and ceiling. All these works of art were constructed in the early 17th century, under Mugal ruler Shah Jahan, who also commissioned the Taj Mahal much further east.
When more people come to pray, I walk back to the other side of the courtyard, where I meet a local photographer who has taken pictures from all angles of the mosque, in all seasons, over the years, and is preparing a book about this pearl of a mosque. He advises me to come back for sunrise, and I can immediately imagine that is a good time to visit, so I am back well before sunrise. The bazaar is empty, and I enter through the main entrance, the Timurid-style iwan on the east side, with richly decorated walls and balconies. When the sun finally appears above the walls, I see its orange ball rise over the dome and minarets, and the warm rays of sunlight shine make the tile-work on the minarets and walls even more beautiful than the previous day. I watch as the mosque comes to life, people trickling in, the reflection of the walls, arches, prayer hall and minarets in the pool. The photographer shows up, and shows me around some corners I had not seen or could not see before. We climb to the first floor of the iwan, with great views over the courtyard - before leaving for another walk in the old city of Lahore.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Wazir Khan mosque (Pakistan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Wazir Khan mosque. Read more about this site.