Makran Coastal Highway Attractions
Posted in Balochistan City Breaks Roads & Highways

Makran Coastal Highway Attractions

The Makran Coastal Highway in Blochistan, also known as National Highway 10 (N-10), is a 653 km road connecting the western provinces of Sindh and Balochistan and running mostly along the Arabian Sea coast. The highway is decked with unique attractions becoming prominent to the world. Major Makran Coastal Highway Attractions are:

Princess of Hope

It was not discovered until the Hollywood actress Angelina Julie visited the area in 2002 and named the naturally carved rock formation as “Princess of Hope”. The standing lady is a fascinating natural mud structure in Hingol National Park that it appears to be a masterpiece of a skilled artisan. It is located about 275 km from Karachi and can easily be sighted while travelling on the Makran Coastal Highway. God knows for how long it has been standing there bearing all kind of weather conditions.

princess of hope
princess of hope

The Sphinx

About 150 km from the Zero Point of Makran Coastal Highway and about 280 km from Karachi, past Kund Malir beach, the Sphinx-like structure is another natural formation. The coast of Makran mostly constitutes of muddy hills with very fast winds blowing year round. These fast blowing winds cut through the muddy hills result in the formation of natural structures like the standing lady (Princess of Hope) or sphinx. The Sphinx is largely associated with Egypt, which were carved shapes as Egyptian goddesses. The Natural Sphinx is although not as sharply shaped as the Sphinx in Egypt, however, the structures are worth seeing.

The Sphinx
The Sphinx

Hingol National Park

Hingol National Park stretches over an area of 1,650 square km along the Makran coast in southwestern Balochistan contains a variety of topographic features. It is one of the largest national parks in Pakistan and was established in 1988. The park has some 250 plant species, 35 species of mammals, 65 species of amphibians and reptiles and 185 species of birds.

Hingol National Park
Hingol National Park

Hingol Mud Volcanoes

The Hingol mud volcanoes, also called Chandragup Mud Volcanoes, located about 200 km west of Karachi and about 8 kilometres off the main Coastal Highway leading from Lasbela to Gwadar. The unique construction of all of the muddy hills and statues in Hingol National Parks is an artwork of these mud volcanoes constantly erupting with clay. Only the locals may provide guidance to the exact location. A landmark, however, is an SSGC installation. The site has total 21 volcanoes including 3 major mud volcanoes. The site is also a sacred Hindu worship place.

Hingol Mud Volcanoes
Hingol Mud Volcanoes

Hinglaj Mandir

Hinglaj Mandir or Hinglaj Mata is a Hindu temple in Hinglaj town in the middle of the famous Hingol National Park on the Makran coast. It is also named as Hinglaj Devi or Nani Mandir considered to be one of the oldest temples in the world and an important place of pilgrimage for the Hindu population in Sindh. The Mandir is located in a narrow gorge on the west bank of Hingol River about 19 km inland from the Arabian Sea on the coastal highway, 250 km to the northwest of Karachi, at the end of Keerthar Hill range in the Makran Desert stretch. Unlike other shrines having manmade images, the Hinglaj Mandir has a small shapeless stone smeared with Sindoor (Vermilion) in a small natural cave which is worshipped as Hinglaj Mata.

Hinglaj Mata Mandir
Hinglaj Mata Mandir

Kund Malir Beach

Kund Malir is one of the serene beaches located in Hingol National Park, some 145 km from the Zero Point, around 270 km from Karachi. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in this world. However lacking the basic facilities like hotels, restaurants, fuel stations and no cell phone signals it still is worth visiting with a really calm peaceful and soothing environment. Apart from Kund Malir, there are long stretches of Arabian Sea beaches along the Coastal Highway which turns this long ride into a driving delight.

Kund Malir Beach
Kund Malir Beach

 

Ormara Beach

Ormara Beach is located on the midway between Karachi and Gwadar on the Makran Coastal Highway – about 360 km west of Karachi and 230 km east of Gwadar. Ormara basically was the name given to the town and then to the beach from one of the generals of Alexander the Great called “Ormoz” who died here when Alexander the Great and his army stayed there on their way back after conquering Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces of modern-day Pakistan in 326 BC.

Ormada Beach
Ormara Beach

 Pasni

Pasni is an important small town at the Arabian Sea in Gwadar. Its significance relates to the discovery of rock formations including the ancient ruins of the Harappan era and the presence of antique Hindu temples, and proofs of Alexander’s passing the coastal belt.

Astola Island

About 25 km south of the nearest part of the coast and 39 km southeast of the fishing port of Pasni is a small uninhabited island called Astola Island or Jazira Haft Talar. It is known to be largest offshore Island measuring 6.7 km long and 2.3 km wide, and 246 ft above sea level. The Island is accessible by motorboat in about 5 hrs or by helicopter. It is a popular eco-tourism destination with no lodging facilities on the Island. Anyone planning for an overnight stay must carry a tent and food. The Island is famous for scuba diving, fishing, and to observe turtle breeding.

Astola Island
Astola Island

Gwadar

The term Gwadar is a combination of two Balochi words Gwat (meaning the wind) and Dar (meaning Gateway) thus Gwadar means “The gateway of wind”. There is a slightly different concept which suggests that the world Gwadar was derived from “Gedrosia” which was the ancient name of Balochistan given by the Greeks to the arid area making up the southern part of Balochistan.

Gwadar today is a port city on the southernmost coast of Balochistan at the Arabian Sea near the border with Iran located to the east of Persian Gulf and opposite Oman. However, historically, the city and environs were possessions of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman from 1783 until Prince Karim Aga Khan purchased it on September 8, 1958, and presented to Pakistan. Pakistan assumed the territory on December 8, 1958, and integrated into Balochistan Province on July 01, 1970 as Gwadar District. It used to be a medium-sized settlement of fishing community.

In 2015 Pakistan and China announced the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as part of One Belt One Road.

Gwadar
Gwadar

Jiwani

Jiwani is a town and commercial port strategically located in the Gwadar District along the Gulf of Oman some 80 km west of Gwadar city and 34 km east of Iranian border. With an estimated population of 25000, the town making up the eastern end of Gwadar Bay duly shared between Pakistan and Iran and the area around the bay constitutes important mangrove forest which habitats a wide variety of wildlife. The town is also adjacent to the shipping lanes, has a small naval base and a 5500 ft runway. The town was used in WWII as an airfield and there is Victoria Hut built for Queen Victoria who planned to visit the area to watch the sunset. It is still not confirmed whether Queen Victoria visited or not but the Victoria Hut is still maintained.

Recommendations

The journey from Karachi to Gwadar is long enough without any proper shops, fuel stations, cellular connection or other provisions. Careful planning is very important before undertaking a journey along the Coastal Highway. Here are some recommendations.

  1. Start as early in the morning as possible to make it to Gwadar on time.
  2. Top up fuel tank in Karachi and refuel at Hub fuel station as there is no fuel station on the way.
  3. Keep basic tools and extra tires. Make sure the wheels are in good condition.
  4. Make necessary calls before Zero Point, mobile signals recede beyond Zero Point.
  5. Kund Malir Beach (Agor) and Ormara beach are major stopovers on the way.
  6. Keep enough water, cookies, dry/fresh fruit etc as reserve stock during travel.
  7. Make a hotel reservation in advance.
Balochistan
Posted in Balochistan

Balochistan Province of Pakistan

Balochistan is the largest of the four provinces of Pakistan spreading over an area of 347,190 Sq km., constituting 44 percent of the total area of Pakistan. As compared to that of other provinces, Balochistan has clustered population in smallest proportions. The province has a diverse landscape from the 760 km long southern coastal line through the deserts and plains to the hilly ranges.

Geography

Balochistan has a strategic location bridging the Middle East and southwest Asia to central Asia and South Asia. The province has the closest oceanic frontage for the landlocked countries of central Asia.  It makes up the southwest of Pakistan bordering Iran to the west and Afghanistan to the north, the Arabian Sea to the south, Karachi to the east, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the northeast.

 Major cities

Balochistan’s 6 divisions subdivided into 34 districts/cities. Major cities of the province include Quetta, the capital city; Gwadar, the port city, Ziarat, the land of Junipers; Turbat, the historical city; Kalat, the former kingdom of the Khan of Kalat; Hinglaj, the sacred place of Hindus; Hub, the town bordering Karachi; Chaman, northwestern town bordering Afghanistan; Pishin, a lush green agriculture town; Sibi, the city of famous Bolan pass; and Taftan, the town bordering with and accessible from Iran.

History

Balochistan has an exciting history tracing as far back 9000 years Mehergar civilization. The unique human settlements unearthed from the site prominently reveal a distinct shift from Stone Age hunters & gatherers to a settled life society for the first time in human history. Major features of the Mehergarh civilization included the domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and pottery making. However, before the birth of Christ, the region had trade links with the then Babylonia.

History had it that Alexander the great passed through Balochistan in 325 B. C. and had an encounter with the Sibia tribe of Balochistan. However, following his death, Balochistan came under the rule of Seleucus Nicator whose descendants lost power to the Graeco-Bactrians. Great conquerors and warriors including Macedonians, Arabs, Ghaznavids, Mongols, and Mughals have all marched and left their imprint in Balochistan in the past.

The arrival of Muhammad Bin Qasim in 712 A.D. established the Muslim rule in the region. Mehmood Ghaznavi came to Balochistan in the 11th century. Ghorids succeeded the Ghaznivids and in 1219 it was annexed to the dominion of Sultan Mohammad Khan of Khwarizm (Khiva). The Mongols landed in the year 1223 in the south of Makran and later in 1595, it became a part of the Mughal Empire. However, later Nadir Shah of Persia captured it. But Ahmed Shah Durrani of Afghanistan established his rule in 1747 before the Khanate of Kalat emerged in 1758 when Nasir Khan-I revolted against the Afghans.

The two major Afghan wars between 1839 and 1879 helped the British to consolidate their power in Balochistan right before the arrival of Muslim rule. The British government negotiated a number of treaties with the Khan of Kalat during 1854 to 1901through the chief strategist and architect of British strategy Sir Robert Sandeman, who later became Chief Commissioner of Balochistan. The British Government gained control over the leased territory of Chaghi, Bolan Pass, Quetta, and other areas through these treaties. Other princely states including Makran, Kharan, Lasbela and Kalat state acceded to Pakistan following 1947. Balochistan was merged into one unit of West Pakistan in 1955 but following the dissolution of one-Unit, the province emerged as one of the four new provinces of Pakistan.

 Culture and Heritage

People

Balochistan province is populated by a tribal society of nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes and clans. Despite its scarce population, Balochistan has an uncommon racial and tribal diversity.  Major tribes include Baloch, Pashtoon, and Brahvi and speak their respective language, usually with an additional language or two fluently. The Baloch originally are believed to have come from Arabia or Asia Minor can be further divided into the Sulemani and Mekrani. All these major tribes are further subdivided into sub-tribes. Each tribe is headed by a Sardar (Chieftain) and each sub-tribe is headed by a Malik, Takari, or Mir.

The Balochi speaking tribes include Rind, Lashar, Marri, Jamot, Ahmedzai, Bugti Domki, Magsi, Kenazai, Khosa, Rakhshani, Dashti, Umrani, Nosherwani, Gichki, Buledi, Notazai, Sanjarani, Meerwani, Zahrozai, langove, kenazai, and Khitai. Among the eighteen major Baloch tribes, the principal ones are Bugtis and Marris settled in the ramparts of the Sulemania.

The Pashtoon tribes include Kakar, Ghilzai Tareen, Mandokhel, Sherani, Luni, Kasi, and Achakzai.

Brahvi speaking tribe include Raisani, Shahwani, Sumulani, Sarparrah, Bangulzai, Mohammad Shahi, Lehri, Bezenjo, Mohammad Hasni, Zehri , Sarparrah, Mengal, Kurd,Sasoli, Satakzai, Lango, Rodeni, Kalmati, Jattak, Yagazehi and Qambarani.

Clothing

Men in all three tribes (Balochi, Pashtoon, and Brahvi) of Balochistan wear the same dress with slight dissimilarities. The traditional dress constitutes Turban, a common headwear, wide loose trouser (shalwar) and knee-long shirt (Qameez) of different colors. Woman wear typical shirt having embroidery work on usually with embedded small round mirror pieces having a big pocket in front. To cover up, long rectangular scarf (Dopatta or Chaddar) piece of cloth cascading down the shoulders, are used.

Religious affiliation

Although the cultural landscape of Balochistan portrays various ethnic groups and people speak different languages yet there is a similarity in their literature, beliefs, moral order and customs based on Islam which provides a strong foundation for unity and common social order.

Arts & Craft

Balochistan has a long and a rich tradition of producing handicrafts and are known all over the world for unique and intricate production of handicrafts including hand-made Balochi shoes, fine mirror work, embroidery, marble work, and fine quality precious stones. Their needlework, especially “Kowchik” stitching, “Jok” and “Moshamka” using with various colors and shades is unique to different parts of the province. Women particularly are skilled at embroidery and their skills usually are reflected in their traditional costumes, caps, purses, belts, tablecloths, cushions, wall hangings etc with elaborated geometric and abstract designs. Balochi nomadic tribes have alluring arts and crafts famous for their design, decor, and durability.

Culture

Historically free from foreign invasion and influence, the Balochi culture retains a unique identity in the history of mankind. Its cultural heritage dates as far back as to Stone Age and inherits relics in the form of stone tools, rock carvings, and engravings to date. Since the hunting and gathering era people came and left their distinct cultural heritage in the region and the legacy continued.

People are hospitable, sincere in dealings, and welcoming with open arms. The lifestyle, particularly the dress code and traditions are very alluring and distinct from that of other communities. Balochi handicrafts are very famous that included woolen items, rugs, leather and metalwork, jewelry, musical instruments, baskets, and ropes. Likewise, gold ornaments such as necklaces and bracelets are an important aspect of Baloch women’s traditions. The most favored items of women’s jewelry are dorr; heavy earrings fastened to the head with gold chains and also a gold brooch (Tasni) made in different shapes and sizes by local jewelers and is used to fasten the two parts of the dress together over the chest.

Balochi people have a rich traditional melodious culture. The tradition of a Baloch mother singing lullabies to her children has played an important role in the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation since ancient times. Folk songs and tribal poems are sung all over the country and famous folk dances including Attan, Chap, Lewa, and jaffarki and considered the identity of the people. Balochi people annually on March 2 with festivities to celebrate their rich culture and history

Languages

There are three major provincial languages spoken in Balochistan – Balochi, Pashtu and Brahvi. The Balochi language is an ancient language with its roots tracing back to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family.  It has resemblance with languages such as Sanskrit, Avesta, Old Persian, and Phalavi, which are either at the verge of extinction or considered to be as dead languages. Most of the people living in the cities and towns usually understand and speak more than two local languages. In addition to local languages, the majority of the population understands and speaks Urdu, the national language, while English is the source of communication in the literate fraternity and in official correspondences. Seraiki and Sindhi are the languages spoken in Kachhi and Sibi districts of Balochistan. Quetta, the capital city, is the melting pot of all linguistic groups accommodates not only Urdu, Balochi, Pashtu, Brahvi and Sindhi speaking people but Darri and Persian speaking ones as well. Moreover, Dehwar tribe of Sarawan sub-division in Kalat also speaks a language derived from Persian.

Festivals

Tracing its roots back to the ancient Mehergar civilization, the Sibi festival is one of the major attractions drawing tourists every year which is characterized by folk music performance, cultural dances, handicraft stalls, cattle shows and a number of other amusing activities. Likewise, Buzkashi is a peculiar festival showing velour of Balochi people on horse-back by two teams using unique skills of snatching a goat from each other.

Attractions

The province of Balochistan is endowed with tremendous tourist attractions. Its scenic beauty is characterized by a diverse landscape from the golden beaches at the Arabian Sea to the hills of Sulaiman Range. The land is rich in marine life, mud eruption volcanoes, natural beauty, sacred places, archaeological sites, caves, historic monuments, hiking trails, passes and highways, cultural heritage, fruit orchards, flora & fauna, and mineral deposits. Balochistan has the second largest Juniper Forest in the world in Ziarat, Zarghhon and Harboi hills.

Economy

Balochistan is the largest and the richest province blessed with natural resources. Its economy is largely based upon the production of natural gas, coal, and other variety of minerals. Though the province remained largely underdeveloped during the past, several major development projects including the construction of a new deep sea port at the strategically important town of Gwadar, and the Gwadar International airport are underway which are believed to bring about tremendous economic gains in near future. The port is projected to be the hub of an energy and trade corridor to and from China and the Central Asian republics.

Climate

The upper highlands of Balochistan are very cold in winters and warm in summers while lower highlands vary from extremely cold in the north to mild conditions near Makran coast. Summers are usually hot and dry with temperatures rising as high as 120 degrees F (50 degrees C). Winters are mild in the plain areas usually temperature remaining above freezing point. Its desert areas are hot and arid with strong windstorms sometimes making these areas quite inhospitable.

Balochistan is extremely arid with average annual precipitation of 2 to 20 inches (50 to 500 mm). Even its wettest hilly areas receive 8 to 20 inches (200 to 500 mm) of rain annually while the western deserts receive 1 to 2 inches (25 to 50mm). However, when it rains, it comes in sudden bursts and causes temperatures to vary enormously. Evaporation rates are higher than the precipitation and generally, vary from 72 to 76 inches (1830 1930 mm) per annum.

Best time to visit

Spring (March-May) and autumn (Sep-Nov) with haze-free pleasant days and cool nights are the ideal times to visit Balochistan. Spring is characterized by green fields full of wildflowers while in autumn mostly orchards filled with ripe fruits and trees expressing themselves in diverse colors. Summers are always very hot in major cities with the temperature hitting as high as 52 degrees while the hill resorts remain comparatively pleasant with temperature on average remains around 30 degrees.

Things to do

Balochistan’s rich cultural and traditional heritage, archaeological treasure, its alluring landmarks, natural beauty, deserts, mangroves, serene beaches and rock formations along the Makran Coastal Highway make the province a destination of choice. Besides its landscape, the warmly welcoming people and their delicious collection of traditional food is yet another strong basis to visit Balochistan.

Access

Balochistan shares a running border with Iran to its west and is accessible from Iran via Taftan through a metal road. To its northwest, Balochistan is connected with Afghanistan by Chaman Border while the south is connected with Karachi via RCD highway. Balochistan is also well connected with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa via Zhob. One of the easiest yet scenic way to reach Quetta capital of Balochistan is from Sukkur via Bolan Pass the terrain is very scenic and spectacular.

Makran Coastal Highway Balochistan
Posted in Balochistan Roads & Highways

Makran Coastal Highway

The Makran Coastal Highway, also called National Highway 10 (N-10) is a 653 km artery running mostly along the Arabian Sea coast connecting Karachi in Sindh province with Gwadar and Jiwani in Balochistan Province of Pakistan. In between, the picturesque highway passes through and gives access to a number of attractions including some off-the-beaten-path-wonders; natural rock formations (Princess of Hope and the Sphinx), long stretches of serene beaches (Kund Malir, Ormara, Pasni, and Gwadar), the oldest Hindu shrine (Nani/Mata/Hinglaj Mandir), world’s largest mud volcanoes, Hingol National Park, Buzzi Pass, the Astola Island – a rare Arabian sea island near Pasni, and a WWII Museum in Jiwani. It is considered to be one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world.

Construction

The construction of the highway was completed on December 14, 2004. Before the construction of the Makran Coastal Highway, Karachi was linked to Gwadar by a dirt track and the journey would take almost two full days to drive from one city to the other. The best alternate option to travel safely, a detour, was the route via Quetta. The completion of Makran Coastal Highway reduced the average time to between 6 and 7 hours with comparatively economical transportation costs. The construction contract was awarded to Frontier Works Organization (FWO) and was completed in 3 years. Its maintenance is the responsibility of National Highway Authority of Pakistan.

History

Initially, the Makran Coastal Highway was conceived and constructed by the government to develop infrastructure along the disused coastal line to bring about economic activities, to benefit the coastal towns of Ormara, Pasni, and Gwadar, and possibly to turn them into major port cities. This would ultimately establish a strong connection of coastal towns with mainland Balochistan. Moreover, there involved high costs and time to transport fresh seafood from Gwadar to Karachi and construction of Makran Coastal Highway reduced both time and expenses. No doubt, it has further improved transportation and communication within Balochistan as well as with the rest of Pakistan.

Development

The Makran Coastal Highway project, now, is a segment of greater Gwadar plan which is aimed to bridge various sectors of the economy. The project will help create economic activities in the region and will generate employment opportunities for the poor communities living along the highway and along the 800 km long coastal belt. Through this route, not only China but also the land-locked countries of Central Asia will also be connected, and immense business activity will be carried out between east and west. Balochistan province itself will also gain much attention and will start to function with an ultimate potential by starting to manipulate the rich natural resources.

Recommendations

  • The journey from Karachi to Gwadar is long enough without any proper shops, fuel stations, cellular connection or other provisions. Careful planning is very important before undertaking a journey along the Coastal Highway. Here are some recommendations.
  • Start as early in the morning as possible to make it to Gwadar on time.
  • Top up fuel tank in Karachi and refuel at Hub fuel station as there is no fuel station on the way.
  • Keep basic tools and extra tires. Make sure the wheels are in good condition.
  • Make necessary calls before Zero Point, mobile signals recede beyond Zero Point.
  • Kund Malir Beach (Agor) and Ormara beach are major stopovers on the way.
  • Keep enough water, cookies, dry/fresh fruit etc as reserve stock during travel.
  • Make hotel reservation in advance.
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