Derawar Fort or Qila Derawar is a gigantic citadel in Bahawalpur district, on the edge of Cholistan Desert, in southern Punjab, Pakistan. Square in shape and towering over the wide stretch of surrounding semi-desert, the massive fort can easily be seen from miles. It looks glowing gold particularly when the early morning rays hit the fort and during evening sunset on the fort. Derawar Fort is considered as one of the most impressive structures in the area that dwarfs other Nawab Palaces in architecture. As a must explore landmark it makes an exciting trip from the city center.
Historically the fort was built in the 9th century under the kingship of Rai Jajja Bhati, a Hindu Rajput from Jaisalmer in the Rajasthan state India. It was captured by the Abbasi Nawab of Bahawalpur, Sir Sadeq Mohammad Khan I, in 1733. The fort was said to have rebuilt by the Nawab to its present looks. The fort was once lost owing to Bahawal Khan’s preoccupation at Shikarpur but was regained by Nawab Mubarak Khan in 1804.
The Cholistan desert covers 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq miles) and extends into the Thar Desert to India. The desert surrounding the fort was once well watered by Hakra, the then Ghaggar River known as the Sarasvati in Vedic times. Until 1960 when the Sutlej was diverted, Derawar was still watered by a canal but afterward, it was deserted and dried out. The fort has already lost most of the features and is in a state of turmoil. Along the 500km of the dried up river, there are almost 400 archaeological sites and most of the sites date back to Indus Valley Civilization.
The red brick edifice has been fortified by a 5 foot thick and 30 meters high walls with a series of bastions on each side. Most of the bastions present geometric design made by burnt bricks. Running 1500 m in circumference with each side measuring 204.8m in length, the square fort is the most robust and glorious stronghold.
Inside of the fort, there are several buildings including quarters of the royal family and quarters for Nawab’s army. However, the entire building is deserted and turning to dust. In the dusty courtyard of the fort, there are two old vintage guns mounted on pedestals. There are small underground cells on the western side now infested with bats and wood being eaten by termite. It still looks more impressive from outside than from inside.
The impressive Derawar mosque is situated nearby which is the exact replica of Moti Mosque at the Red Fort in Delhi and was built in 1844 AD. Moreover adjacent to the fort is the magnificent site of the burial ground of Nawabs family. Visiting the burial site requires prior permission. Moreover, there are some shops nearby but it is recommended that all visitors arrange prior arrangements for food/drinks, etc.
Derawar Fort is located about 45 kilometers from Ahmed Pur East (Dera Nawab Sahib) and about 95 km from the city of Bahawalpur taking roughly 3 hrs to reach. A 4WD is preferred for this trip. The gate of fortress located on the southern side is reached by a winding ramp. Prior permission from the present Amir of Bahawalpur to get into the premises of the fort and royal graveyard is required.
Bahawalpur is the capital city of district Bahawalpur located in the south of Punjab province of Pakistan. It is the 11th largest city of Pakistan and the 6th largest city of Punjab province. It has remained a princely state under the rule of the Abbassi Nawabs from 1748 to 1954. The Nawabs made it a glorious city by erecting some of the mesmerizing landmarks in the city during their 200-year reign. The architectural legacy bequeathed by the Abbasid Nawabs is still well preserved and serves as the hallmark of the city.
The city is ideal to visit between October and February. Bahawalpur has an airport but one can still fly to Multan and drive to the nearby city of Bahawalpur. The city is accessible by air from Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi while one can travel by road from Karachi and Lahore also.
Major highlights of Bahawalpur are listed as below:
A must-explore site to visit, Darawar Fort is a gigantic citadel located on the edge of the Cholistan Desert in Bahawalpur. It makes an exciting trip from the city centre and located about 95 km taking roughly 2 hrs to reach. The square-shaped fort is so massive in size, towering over the surrounding semi-desert, and can be easily cited from miles. The red brick edifice has been fortified by a 5 foot thick and 30 meters high round bastioned walls, running 1500 m in circumference, making it the most robust and glorious fortification. It looks more impressive from the outside than from inside.
Abbassi Mosque or the White Marble Mosque
Abbasi Mosque BahawalpurThe white marble mosque standing in front of the Derawar Fort is Abbassi Mosque also known as the White Marble Mosque and locally as Abbasi Masjid. It was built in 1849 for the Nawabs Bahawal Khan’s personal holy man, Pir Ghulam Farid. The Abbasi Mosque is an exact replica of the Moti Masjid at the Red Fort in Delhi, India. It was entirely built with white marble looks like a pearl in the desert of Cholistan. The mosque has a large hall and a courtyard and can accommodate up to 1000 people at a time. Its high minarets can be sighted from a far distance of Cholistan desert. The mosque is still well maintained by the local residents.
Abbasi Royal Graveyard
The Abbasi Royal Graveyard is the final resting place of the Abbasi family. The graveyard is situated close to Abbasi Masjid in Derawar. The graveyard is owned and controlled by the Nawabs’ surviving family members. It is a covered area with a large rectangular room that houses the graves of 12 Nawabs that ruled the state of Bahawalpur. The room also has the graves of Nawabs who held honorary title following the merger of the state of Bahawalpur with Pakistan. The other tombs outside the main rectangle room belonged to the immediate family of the Nawabs. All these tombs are erected with architectural dexterity and accomplished artwork including the calligraphy, engravings, patchwork, and patterns. Prior coordination and permission to visit the graveyard is mandatory.
Lal Sohanra National Park
The Lal Sohanra National Park is one of the 14 major national Parks/ protected areas of Pakistan located about 50 km east of Bahawalpur developed in 1972. It is declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO and is one of the largest national parks in South Asia. The park has an enormously diverse landscape spreading over an area of 127,480 acres (51,368 hectares) – 20,974 acres (8,491 hectares) make up green land (irrigated plantations), 101,726 acres (40,942 hectares) covers dry land (desert), and 4,780 acres constitutes wetland (ponds and lakes). The park is the home to many animals and birds, including the rare Chinkara Gazelle and plentiful wild boar. In winter there are abundant ducks in the lake. The Park is crossed by the dried-up bed of the Hakra River featuring an important wetland of Patisar Lake. For accommodation, there is a small facility by Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) and camping can also be done in selected campsites.
Sadiq Garh Palace
The elegance and glory of Sadiq Garh Palace dwarf even other mesmerizing palaces in Bahawalpur. Surrounded by lush green lawns filled with beautiful plants and flowers, and covered by a huge fortification, the sky building topped by a central dome surrounded by bastions at every corner truly presents the outstanding taste of the Nawabs family for architecture. It looks even more graceful at night when it is glowing with lights of different colors. Its interior is embellished with the furniture and other supplements of the best quality. It was established in 1882 by Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan (IV) under the supervision of expert engineers and its cost fifteen lac rupees. It took 10 years for the palace to be completed.
Darbar Mahal is one of the several royal palaces in Bahawalpur commissioned by Nawab Bahawal Khan (V) in 1904. Originally conceived as “Bahawal Garh”, the fort was completed in 1905 and dedicated to one of the wives of the Nawab. Its architectural grandeur is cleverly blended with local and foreign influence including the Mughal, Indian, Sikh, and European makes it a unique edifice ever built. The exterior in red with white color topped while the interior painted light gold-tan colored displays both robustness and peace. Even it has an excellent view from outside if not allowed to get in as the fort is under the custody of Pakistan Army since 1971.
Noor Mahal was the palace of the fifth the ruler of the Abbasi family, Nawab Sir Muhammad Sadiq. The imposing double-storey Italian style building has 32 rooms and 14 basements and was built in 1885. Although it was built as a residence of the Nawab yet he did not stay for a single night here. It was, however, used as the state guest house and had the honor of hosting some of the nobles and high profile guests. The palace currently houses some of the antiquities of the family besides the exquisite furniture and remarkable fixtures. Besides, the Noor Mahal Palace is richly adorned with arms, muskets, and swords on walls. The palace was used as an army club in 1999 and is still in the possession of Army. The Noor Mahal Palace has now been protected under the Antiquities Act of 1975.
Gulzar Mahal was constructed in 1902 and has the privilege of being the first ever building to have concealed electric wiring in Bahawalpur. It was commissioned by Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV. Its architectural influence bears distinctly European influence and is a place worth a visit.
Jamia Masjid Al Sadiq
Jamia Masjid Al-Sadiq is among the largest mosques in Pakistan built by Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi by donating his personal property. It was built on a 12 ft elevated platform and its foundation stone was laid by Great Sufi of Chishtia clan and the Spiritual Master of Nawab of Bahawalpur Hazrat Noor Muhammad Maharvi more than 200 years ago. The mosque has a capacity to accommodate 50 to 60 thousand people at a time. It is one of the most beautiful mosques embellished with marble work and a great feat of engineering, particularly in acoustics. Its renovation was carried out in 1935 by Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V. This beautiful mosque is located in the heart of the town’s main bazaar area. It serves as Bahawalpur’s major Friday mosque.
The Tomb of Bibi Jawindi in Uch Sharif
Uchh Sharif is an ancient town situated about 50 km west of Bahawalpur. It is founded by Alexander the Great and famous for the ancient shrines and for Sufi culture. The tomb of Bibi Jawindi in Uchh Sharif was built in 1493 by an Iranian prince, Dilshad, for Bibi Jawindi, the great-granddaughter of a famous Sufi saint. The structure of the tomb is built by bricks and is decorated by stunning blue glazed tile mosaic while the turrets feature with a bunch of broad flowering leaves. This unique design makes it different from Multani tombs. The entire structure is a three-storey building – the ground floor is octagonal in shape, the second storey is surrounded by a narrow gallery to walk around while the third and the top floor is a hemispherical dome crowning the building. The aesthetically carved wooden mehrab in the west wall of the building signifies the typical pattern of Multani architecture. The tombs of Hazrat Rukn-e-Alam and Baha-ud-Din Zakria are built with the same pattern.
Bahawalpur has a modest museum housing a good variety of collections. The museum has various sections featuring galleries housing different artifacts. The Pakistan Movement Gallery has a great collection of photos; the Islamic art gallery is rich in arms, textiles, graphic arts, and metalware; the archaeological gallery houses relics from Moenjodaro and Harappa; the Coins and Medals Gallery has items by the former state of Bahawalpur; the Ethnological Gallary features handicrafts from Cholistan and Bahawalpur; the Fabrics Gallary has a variety of regional costumes from the region; and the Manuscripts & Calligraphy Gallery is rich in wood and stone carvings of Islamic and pre-Islamic era as well as camel silk paintings. The museum is located about less than 1 km southeast of Farid Gate.
Bahawalpur Central Library
Its design bearing Italian Architectural influence, the Bahawalpur Central Library is the second largest library in Punjab and considered one of the best libraries of Pakistan. Its foundation stone was laid on March 8, 1924, by Sir Rufus Daniel Isaacs, the then Viceroy and Governor General of India on the eve of the coronation of the Nawab of Bahawalpur State, Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Khamis Abbasi. The library houses an impressive collection of more than 100,000 books. It also stocks all the editions of major national newspapers since 1947. The Bahawalpur Central Library has more than 12000 active members and is located next to the Bahawalpur Museum.
The Farid Gate is one of the seven gates of the walled city of Bahawalpur still surviving today. Conservation efforts are underway to preserve it and the surrounding areas to their former glory.
Sadiq Public School
Sadiq Dane High School