Saidpur Village, nestled in the lap of the Margalla Hills, echoed with music and tranquility on Saturday evening. I wondered if it always is this beautiful or was it just today. Surrounded by luxuriant green trees in the soothing setting of centuries a wooden gateway welcomed us, undoubtedly adding to the beauty of the area. This 400-500 years old village has its own myths and legends. This place consisted of approximately 2000 registered voters. It was known for its manure delivery or for the goat at the time of slaughtering is now a big tourist spot since the renovation done by the CDA in 2008. The project was worth nearly 400 million rupees. But the effect is tremendous.
There is a vast parking space (almost 500 vehicles) as soon as you enter the village. A cool breeze that blew across the village made the evening quite pleasant as we went around awed by the transformation of the village. The last time I visited the place was in 2006, right after the plan to redo the village was laid.
Saidpur Village is hardly a 5 minute drive from the Murghazar Zoo and the Margalla Hills (which are celebrated tourist spot themself). It is easily accessible being on the main road. But location is not the only aspect which fancies one to it. Everything in the village is the epitome of tradition and culture – the temple, the stones on the walls, the hay stacks, the houses, the color scheming and everything else.
The ‘nomad gallery’ is the only shop available there which can also be categorized as the souvenir shop. It holds all the embellishment one can think of. They have put on display the artwork of in the form of photography, portraiture, calligraphy, potter, and glass work. They have even put on display some of the traditional clothes. These items vary in range according to the amount of work put in on each piece. Further more, this shop has a seating arrangement on the outside with traditional chairs and a rounded coffee table along with the old-style lanterns to give the light. They also provide fresh mineral water, some bakery fresh eatables as well as a delicious coffee.
Going further there will be one thing that catches your eye instantaneously; a Hindu temple which is prominently situated and newly restored. Alongside the temple are two domes in bright color. They are probably a Sikh Shrine as the language on the plaques of the wall is Gurmukhi. Between the two is another tall building. On investigating I found that this big old building was once an orphanage. The reason for there survival till now was that after partition, these buildings were utilized as government schools. This school was shifted when the renovation process took place. The shrine and temple were restored but the orphanage was transformed into a gallery with pictures of the old photographs of Islamabad. These pictures start from President Ayub Khans’ regime and go on to explaining the whole process of making-of-Islamabad.
During my short visit, I also met an elderly man, Rahim Dad, who was a potter by profession but was also acting as the informer for the whole village. He knew every story that ever took place in this village. Ranging from who got married to whom and which family was in power till what era! Rahim Dad also described to me the myth of the “living saint” (Zinda Pir). His shrine was some feet above the temple. It was a small hike but when I reached the top, I was surprised to see that people were actually visiting that area to pray. They were lighting candles and tying pieces of cloth which signifies the priority level for their dua (prayer). This was the place where the saint had supposedly worshipped himself. In terms of respect for the saint, the visitors took off their shoes.
All in all, the Saidpur Village is a great development. It is a real treat for the tourists, who wish to go back in time to the real culture and traditions’ of Punjab. The place is well maintained. Local people still reside there, giving it a natural touch. This was, however, a community project and CDA is still facing some problems related to reallocation and compensation. When this project started, there was fear that the vision may change the whole environment of the village, but CDA needs to be applauded to have carried out the job in a commendable manner. Although the project deadline was extended to 2008, this was a job well done. More projects need to be focused on in the same way so that the capital city which is considered soul-less is revived and filled with all the spirit!