Pakistan Ka Plus – Cholistan Desert
My name is Rizwan Ahmed, and I work for Punjab’s department of archaeology. My work takes me to places far and wide. This also means that I get to see some fascinating sites in Pakistan. From the glacial regions of Gojal in Gilgit Baltistan to the dry, arid lands of interior Sindh, I have trodden the most famous places my country has to offer. The place I am about to narrate in this blog is the Cholistan Desert.
If memory serves me well, it was September of 2014 when I was instructed by my bosses to pack my bags and get ready for an expedition to the Cholistan. The much revered Cholistan Desert automatically became my next destination. I had been to Punjab before but never really got the chance to demystify the desert of Cholistan so, this served as the perfect opportunity.
Before setting a course for my journey, I did a little research on the desert and found that it is rich in biodiversity and some of the world’s endangered animals are found there. Besides, the desert holds the much anticipated Cholistan Desert Rally that takes place once in a year. I was quite excited to get all that information and soon embarked on my latest adventure.
A Desert Full of Colors and Life
It took me approximately 15 hours to reach Cholistan via bus. I was completely zoned out and didn’t take a second to hit the sack in my hotel room. The next day I woke up fresh, went to the site of my work and went straight to the desert. One of the things that struck me instantly was the presence of ‘life’ on the desert; that too in abundance.
I witnessed women carrying clay water pots on their heads. The women in question were wearing traditional clothes that were vibrant in color and rich in texture. Venturing deeper into the desert, I witnessed Gazelles chasing each other and birds singing melodious tunes high in the sky. Who said that deserts were arid and void of life?
I went to one of the huts, and the gentlemen greeted me with the utmost respect, as their women covered their faces with a scarf at the sight of a stranger. They were speaking a language that certainly was not Punjabi or Sindhi, as I can comprehend them both well. Upon asking, they told me that it is an ancient rendition of the Majhi language and is rarely spoken by contemporary people of the region.
The family offered me quail gravy with naan. It was scrumptious, I asked them what type of spices they used and he told me that the spices were homemade. He further stated that they have a tradition that whenever a guest comes, they slaughter one of their quails and serve it to them. I was completely won over by their gesture as I paid my highest gratitude to them before leaving.
Moving on in the jeep, I saw several sand dunes in the desert that were crafted so expertly that one could easily be fooled into believing that they were man-made. It was all so peaceful and tranquilizing; I knew that I would not be robbed off of my belongings or threatened by the force of a raging traffic of vehicles.
It was almost 5 p.m., and I could feel a cool breeze hit me. My partner on this journey told me that he wanted to show me something beautiful. He took a left turn and went to a region where there was a color belt, consisting of shrubs, vegetations, and even some trees. It was a beautiful contrast to what we had seen earlier. I understood that no matter what the circumstances, life finds a way.
The next 2 days were busy. However, on my last day of the trip, I got the chance to see the talk of the town ‘Jeep rally’, and it was spectacular. The jeeps with their roaring engines were blazing past onlookers, with gushing wind and debris suspended in the air. I had never seen a live race in my life, so it was an enthralling experience.
I savored the most memorable moments on camera for my family to see. They were visibly happy and excited to see them. I pledged them that soon we would travel to explore the desert of Cholistan and discover this hidden gem of Punjab.