When the winter winds blow, ’tis the season to be merry. ’Tis the season to fall in love. In a land not so far away, somewhere in the hinterlands of central Punjab there’s a magical place called Soon Valley. Here you’ll see glistening lakes, golden reeds, open vistas and heavenly sunsets that will transport you to an alternate universe of pure love and haunting solitude that stir your soul. But wait for it; the force that awakens you is the divine spectacle of the dancing flamingoes.

This issue is packed to the brim with many such wonders and hidden gems from the plains of Punjab. In a bid to bring the focus back to the area as a frontrunner in tourism and develop a formidable structure for sustainable tourism to protect not only its natural landscape and biodiversity but also its cultural heritage, we shed light on the different dimensions of Punjab’s rich and multifaceted history, legacy and environment.

A citadel of monumental proportions stands tall and proud in the historic capital city – the Lahore Fort carries a legacy that dates back to the 11th century. With extensive rehabilitation and restoration led by leading global institution Aga Khan Trust For Culture in collaboration with the Walled City of Lahore Authority which is spearheaded by visionary Kamran Lashari, many lost structures have been once more reclaimed. We shed light on these latest discoveries through the eyes of the experts who have made it all possible as well as leading creative forces who derive inspiration from its visual representation.

We also visit the iconic Mayo Hospital as it wears a new look and recaptures our attention. Principal Architect and Chief Executive of Lahore’s leading architectural firm, AEDL, Attiq Ahmed and his team have not only restored and rehabilitated this 19th century hospital’s architectural integrity but also given it a much needed social uplift via a series of significant structural renovations. This land of ours is sacred ground. Here people of multiple faiths come together to form a rich and vibrant fabric of society. From the Sufi shrines of Multan to the spirited gurdwaras dotted across its terrain and amongst the ancient temples of Hindu gods and pre-historic Buddhist relics, you’ll find divinity everywhere.

This year, which marked the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith, saw the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. A 4-kilometer journey that has taken 72 years in the making it was inaugurated and made open to Sikh yatris from across the border allowing them to visit one of their holiest sites, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, in Narowal, Punjab, completely visa-free. Dubbed as the “peace corridor”, the opening of the passage was a great diplomatic first and we were amongst the privileged few to witness it. Sadly,

Punjab’s vast potential for tourism is being hindered by what is now referred to as “the fifth season”. It is imperative that we combat the perils of this all-encompassing smog that is being caused by our collective lack of respect for the preservation and protection of the natural environment and wildlife of our spaces. Therefore, now more than ever, we need to be mindful, we need to be responsible and we need to be able to visit places without leaving carbon footprints – we need to enter as pilgrims.