From the mighty stretches of the Karakorams in the North to the vast alluvial delta of the Indus River in the South, Pakistan remains a land of high adventure and nature. Trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting, wild boar hunting, mountain and desert jeep safaris, camel and yak safaris, trout fishing and bird watching, are a few activities, which entice the adventure and nature lovers to Pakistan.
Pakistan is endowed with a rich and varied flora and fauna. High Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindukush ranges with their alpine meadows and permanent snow line, coniferous forests down the sub-mountain scrub, the vast Indus plain merging into the great desert, the coast line and wetlands, all offer a remarkably rich variety of vegetation and associated wildlife including avifauna, both endemic and migratory. Ten of 18 mammalian orders are represented in Pakistan with species ranging from the world’s smallest surviving mammals, the Mediterranean Pigmy Shrew, to the largest mammal ever known; the blue whale.
Pakistan is a treasure house of Muslim architecture. Lahore, the cultural hub of Pakistan, is situated along the bank of Ravi River. The city has witnessed the rise and fall of many dynasties like Ghaznavis (1021-1186 AD), Ghoris (1186-1202 AD) and Slaves (1206-1524 AD) before the arrival of the Mughals. The city was conquered by Babur of Ferghana (situated in Uzbekistan), the founder of the Mughal dynasty (1524-1764 AD).
All the important monuments like the Royal Fort and the Mosque, Wazir Khan’s Mosque, Tombs of Jehangir, Asif Jah, Noor Jehan and the Shalimar Gardens, Hiran Minar etc., were constructed during this period. On the other hand, the shrines, mosques and forts located in and around Multan and Bahawalpur are masterpieces of the early Muslim architecture. Some important buildings are; Forts at Multan and Derawar (Bahawalpur), shrines of Shaikh Bahauddin Zakaria, Shah Rukan-e-Alam, Hazrat Shams Tabrez at Multan and Tomb of Bibi Jiwandi at Uch Sharif near Bahawalpur. The tombs at Chaukundi, 27 km out of Karachi, the remains at Banbhore (64 km from Karachi) and the necropolis of a million graves scattered over an area of 10 sq.km at Makli Hills, near Thatta, together with the Shahjehan Mosque of Thatta, are exquisite specimens of Muslim architecture, stone carving and glazed tile decorations.
Modern Pakistanis are a blend of their Harappan, Indo-Aryan, Indo-Iranian, Saka, Parthian, Kushan, White Hun, Afghan, Arab, Turkic, and Mughal heritage. Waves of invaders and migrants settled down in Pakistan through out the centuries, influencing the locals and being absorbed among them. Thus the region encompassed by modern-day Pakistan is home to the oldest Asian civlization (and one of the oldest in the world after Mesopotamia and Egypt), Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC – 1500 BC).
The modern state of Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947, but the region it encompasses has an extensive history that overlaps with the histories of Ancient India, Iran and Afghanistan. The region was a crossroads of historic trade routes, including the Silk Road, and was settled over thousands of years by many groups, including Dravidians, Indo-Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Parthians Kushans, White Huns, Afghans, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols; the region is often referred to as “a museum of races.” Historian and geographer de Blij Muller characterized the historical embodiment of the land when he said, “If, as is so often said, Egypt is the gift of the Nile, then Pakistan is the gift of the Indus.” The earliest evidence of humans are pebble tools from the Soan Culture in the province of Punjab, dated from 100,000 to 500,000 years ago.
The Indus region was the site of several ancient cultures including Mehrgarh, one of the world’s earliest known towns, and the Indus Valley Civilisation at Harrappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
The Indus Valley Civilisation collapsed in the middle of the second millennium BCE and was followed by the Vedic Civilisation, which extended over much of northern India and Pakistan. Successive empires and kingdoms ruled the region from the Achaemenid Persian empire around 543 BCE, to Alexander the Great in 326 BCE and the Mauryan empire. The Indo-Greek Kingdom founded by Demetrius of Bactria included Gandhara and Punjab from 184 BCE, and reached its greatest extent under Menander, establishing the Greco-Buddhist period with advances in trade and culture. The city of Taxila (Takshashila) became a major centre of learning in ancient times – the remains of the city, located to the west of Islamabad, are one of the country’s major archaeological sites.
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