Sialkot is one of the oldest and most important cities in Pakistan and has the sights to prove it. The foundations of its ancient fortress go back thousands of years and the city is the birth place of national hero Allama Iqbal. It’s quite an old-fashioned city, but also a friendly and enchanting one. In fact, Sialkot might just be Pakistan’s most charming destination.
Head to Sialkot’s century-old Clock Tower, the focal point of the Saddar Bazar, to witness its bustling streetlife. Here you’ll experience the bustle of the city first-hand as throngs of locals barter for daily essentials at shops, markets stalls and traditional food stands. Heading south will bring you to the Main Bazar, the place to go for some delicious breakfast phanien – a traditional deep-fried dough.
Sialkot has a diverse religious history and sacred monuments from many faiths abound. The Baba Beri Sahib is a centuries-old Sikh shrine where Guru Nanak is said to have stayed. The city is also home to the Shawala Teja Singh Temple, which is over a thousand years old. Then there’s the Imam Ali-ul-Huq Shrine dedicated to the man credited with converting Sialkot to Islam in the 13th century, as well as Sialkot Cathedral – a handsome red-and-white church built during the British Raj.
Sialkot is a major manufacturing city, so if you’re here on business – or simply interested in learning more about the city’s economic lifeblood – head to the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce to discover just how important the city is as global supplier of sporting goods, clothing, surgical tools and musical instruments.
People and Traditions
The people of Sialkot are friendly and welcoming towards foreigners. Its success as a hub of business and trade owes much to the hospitality of its citizens, as well as an enviable resilience that has produced some fascinating quirks. For instance, during the British Raj era, the subcontinent’s first bagpipe factory was opened here and many bagpipe bands continue to perform around the city to this day.
Sialkot’s climate sees cool to mild winters and scorching hot summers, with temperatures dropping considerably at nighttime. In December and January, temperatures can vary from about 5ºC to 20ºC, while May and June see lows in the mid-twenties and highs reaching 40ºC. Low humidity makes the heat easier to deal with but watch out for monsoon season in July and August.
Sialkot has many nice green areas well-suited to leisure activities. Gulshan-e-Iqbal’s is one of the nicest, with waterfalls, boating lakes and fairground rides. It’s also home to the Sialkot Hockey Stadium, where you can see one of Sialkot’s most popular sports being played. Or head to the other side of the city to enjoy Pakistan’s national pastime, cricket, at Jinnah Stadium. On the other hand, families with young children will want to visit the Sindbad Amusement Park.
If you fancy getting away from the city, take a trip out to the Marala Headworks. This impressive feat of engineering helps regulate the flow of the Chenab River but is also a sanctuary for many endemic and migratory birds. It’s the ideal place for picnics or fishing. Sialkot also provides easy access to other major Pakistani cities, particularly Lahore and Islamabad.
Sialkot boasts several fascinating landmarks with a rich history, beginning with the Sialkot Fort. Most of the ruins date back to the 2nd century, but one of its walls is thought to be about 5,000 years old. The 2nd-century reconstruction was led by Raja Salban, who, according to legend, ordered the torture and murder of his own son, Puran. The prince’s arms and legs were cut off and he was thrown into a well, only to be rescued and reborn as a revered spiritual leader. Traveling to Sialkot’s northeastern outskirts will take you the site of this legend, Puran’s Well.
Learning about a city’s local heroes is your gateway to understanding its people. Sialkot’s most beloved son is the great poet Allama Iqbal. Visit his birthplace on the Old Town’s Iqbal Road. It’s now a museum that covers the life of Pakistan’s “Spiritual Father”. Fans of the poet can also make the journey to Lahore to visit his burial site.