Not long after Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan wrapped up their 10-day tour of Africa, Prince William and Duchess Kate jetted off on a five-day tour of their own—to Pakistan. The couple’s trip was the first official visit to the country by members of the British royal family since Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla traveled there in 2006. William’s late mother, Princess Diana, memorably visited solo in 1991, and the Queen went in 1961 and again in 1997.
During their tour, William and Kate visited schools in Islamabad; hospitals in Lahore; the Chiatibo glacier, which is tucked into the Hindu Kush mountain range; and the stunning Badshahi Mosque. They also spent time with Prime Minister Imran Khan and played cricket at the National Cricket Academy.
The aim of the trip was largely on “showcasing Pakistan as it is today—a dynamic, aspirational, and forward-looking nation,” a spokesperson for the palace told People. “From the modern leafy capital of Islamabad, to the vibrant city of Lahore, the mountainous countryside in the north, and the rugged border regions to the west, the visit will span over 1000 kilometers [620 miles], and will take in Pakistan’s rich culture, its diverse communities, and its beautiful landscapes.”
Here, AD takes a closer look at some of the gorgeous sites and epic architecture they encountered on their journey.
Margalla Hills National Park
The day after their arrival, the Duke and Duchess met with children from three local schools at Margalla Hills National Park, learning more about what the pupils are doing to help Pakistan meet its sustainable development goals. Established in 1980, the 67.13-square-mile park is known for its rich Sino-Himalayan fauna, and boasts a diverse 600 plant species, 250 bird varieties, 38 mammals, and 13 reptile species. The stop was no doubt of great interest to the Duchess, who unveiled her own “Back to Nature” garden at the Chelsea Flower show and then at Wisley Gardens in Surrey earlier this fall.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Residence
The royal couple met with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (a good friend of Princess Diana’s) on Tuesday at his home in the Bani Gala neighborhood of Islamabad. Last fall, it was reported that the sprawling residence will be converted into a postgraduate institute. At the time, Education Minister Shaft Mehmood told the media that the decision was made in response to the public’s annoyance at the government’s “royal” way of living—though this past summer, Khan opened up the lavish dwelling for a wedding.
Pakistan National Monument
Kate and William were feted on their second night in Pakistan at a reception hosted by the British High Commissioner at the impressive Pakistan National Monument. The couple arrived by decorated rickshaw, with the Duchess in a sparkling floor-length Jenny Packham dress and William in a matching green sherwani. There, William delivered a speech at the center of the monument, which was constructed to look like four opening flower petals. Built in 2005, the unique design was proposed by Arif Masoud, and won out against 21 other submissions entered in a nationwide design competition surrounding the themes of strength, unity, and dedication. The design is deeply rooted in Mughal architecture, with modernized versions of muqarnas engraved in the structure. The four petals represent each of Pakistan’s four major cultures: the Punjabi, the Balochi, the Sindhi, and the Pakhtun. Three smaller petals that stand between the four larger ones represent minorities, Azad Kashmir, and the trial areas. A star and a crescent representing the flag of Pakistan sits in the very center of the monument, and is made up of black granite and stainless steel. The petals are made of granite.
On the third day of their tour, William and Kate visited the mountainous northern part of Pakistan, specifically the ruins in the Bumburet village of the Kalash Valley in Pakistan’s Chitral District. There, they met with an expert who spoke about how climate change has massively impacted the nearby Chiatibo Glacier, damaging the village and affecting the lives of villagers who depend upon the land there.
Later that same afternoon, they visited a settlement of the Kalash people, believed to be Pakistan’s smallest ethnoreligious group, and learned more about their unique crafts and culture.
The royal pair were also treated to a rousing, colorful performance in the village’s stone amphitheater. The Kalash people live primarily in three neighboring mountain valleys— Bumburet, Rumbur, and Birir—and largely live off the land, growing sheet, maize, apples, apricots, walnuts, and grapes (for wine), among other crops.
National Cricket Academy
At the National Cricket Academy, the royals both grabbed bats and joined a rousing game. The gorgeous Gaddafi Stadium, formerly known as the Lahore Stadium, towered over the field, providing a stunning backdrop to the afternoon festivities. Designed by famous architect and engineer Nasreddin Murat-Khan, the stadium was built in 1959 and renovated several decades later, in 1996, for the Cricket World Cup finals. Architect Nayyar Ali Dada, who oversaw the renovation in 1996, redid the stadium in the Mughal style, with signature red, hand-laid brickwork and arches. It is to this day the largest cricket stadium in all of Pakistan.
On the fourth day of their tour, the Duke and Duchess donned formal outfits—a crisp light gray suit for William; a green shalwar kameez and headscarf for Kate—and visited the Badshahi Mosque in Pakistan’s capital of Lahore, where they met with faith leaders and listened to readings from the Quran.
The mosque was built in the 17th century by Khateeb Maulana Abdul Khabeer Azad, and was considered a symbol of power in the Mughal Empire. Because of its tremendous size, however (it can easily welcome up to 10,000 worshippers), it was exploited for military purposes when civil war broke out in the region at the turn of the century, with Sikhs using the mosque as a stable for their horses and other military units. The mosque continued to be used for military storage during British rule, but in 1947, when Pakistan became an independent Muslim state, it underwent extreme repairs to be converted back into the beautiful house of worship that it is today.
The exterior of the mosque is decorated with carved red sandstone with marble inlay, and the interiors are decorated with elaborate white marble carved with a floral design that is immediately recognizable in Mughal artworks. The front entrance to the mosque also features a muqarna, an architectural feature special to the Middle East that is essentially an ornamented vaulting that resembles a honeycomb. It is meant to be a symbolic representation of universal creation by God.
From Architectural Digest