Lying on the banks of the Chenab River, Multan was one of medieval India’s most important trade routes and attracted so many Sufi mystics throughout the 11th and 12th centuries that it was dubbed the “City of Saints”. It is a city that exudes history, albeit one that also struggles to maintain the upkeep of its old monuments. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating place to visit with some of the most incredible landmarks you’ve never heard of.
The traditional centre of Multani life is the Ghanta Ghar, or clocktower, in the middle of the city. From here you’ll be able to navigate every corner of the city’s culture, from its shops and markets to its historic and modern monuments to its beautiful parks and gardens.
To explore the religious culture of Multan, simply head to its mosques. The Char Minar Masjid and the Masjid Ali Wali Muhammad Khan are two of the most prominent, but chief among them is the tremendous Eidgah Mosque and its extravagant blue tilework. The St. Mary Cathedral is a fascinating Christian alternative, but if anything else challenges religion in importance for Pakistanis, it’s cricket. You can watch games at both the Multan Cricket Stadium and the Ibn-e-Qasim Bagh Stadium.
People and Traditions
The main language in Multan is Saraiki, followed by Punjabi and Urdu, although English is commonly spoken among the educated. Most Multanis are Muslim, but there are significant populations of both Hindus and Sikhs.
Temperatures in Multan vary greatly between day and night, although daytime temperatures stay warm throughout the year, rarely lower than 20ºC. From April to September, however, temperatures regularly exceed 40ºC, while November to February can see lows dip beneath 10ºC.
Multan has many wonderful parks to enjoy. Cantonment Park is located near the aforementioned Garrison Mess and has many themed gardens to explore, including Japanese, palm and cactus gardens, as well as multiple floral displays. Families should visit Chaman Zar Askari Lake Park or Jinnah Park for the rides and other attractions. You can rent a boat at the former’s artificial lake, while the latter is better for picnics or taking advantage of the food stalls. For shopping, head to the Hussain Agahi Bazaar for the best deals on everyday essentials or the United Mall for top brands.
Multan’s foremost landmark is thousands of years old and lies largely in ruins, but the site of the Multan Fort is still crucial to understanding the city’s history – as are the monuments that stand in its place. The fort was destroyed by the British in retaliation for the execution of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Vans Agnew by the Sikh governor, an act that would have political reverberations throughout the subcontinent. On the site was erected the Monument to Alexander Vans Agnew, which still stands to this day. You can still tour the old fort ramparts and enter through its surviving Delhi Gate, to see a couple of restored bastions, the Baqar Khan Well, and the tombs of Shah Rukn-e-Alam and Hamid Ali Khan. There are also newer attractions such as the Nigar Khana art gallery housed in the old ammunition storage hall, a sports stadium and an out-of-service jet fighter.
To learn all about the city’s history in one place, head to the Multan museum, which houses a great collection of old coins, medals, stamps and documents, as well as ancient and medieval artworks from stone and wood carvings to camel-skin paintings. Multan also has countless mausoleums and shrines to the many Sufi saints and fakirs who once lived here. Among the most beautiful are the shrines of Shah Yusuf Gardezi, Khawaja Awais Kagha and Mai Maharban, and the tombs of Shah Rukne Alam, Bahauddin Zakariya and Shah Ali Akbar. Architecture fans and foodies alike will also want to swing by the elegant Multan Garrison Mess, which serves great food in a grand, old-fashioned dining hall.