Words & Pictures: Saifuddin Ismailji/ Founder e-Travelers Club travel update
On my journeys around the globe, visiting some of the great capitals, I take respite in open space at City Parks to escape from urban hustle and bustle, and seek solitude and relaxation in the realm of nature. Some of the city parks like Vienna Prater Park (1766), Lumpini Park Bangkok, Hyde Park London, Golden Gate Park San Francisco; Kyoto Gyoen and the Peace Park Hiroshima has been an inspiration over the years.
The concept of urban Park was first introduced in 1574 with the establishment of
La Alameda in Seville, Spain. This perception is adopted in development of National Park and Sub-National Park System, not necessarily owned by the national government, with an objective of preservation and protection of the area from human development and pollution and allowing visitors to enjoy the park and activities within the Park’s enclosure.
City parks are as vital as the lung that allow a breather in congested urbanized atmosphere. Humbled with the honor being assigned a project by Army Heritage Foundation, my recent visit to Ayub National Park, Rawalpindi (Pakistan) got me stunned – how on earth I had missed this grandest of all the grand city parks in the world, a stone’s throw away from my home.
A spectacle of great foresight, Ayub Park is under the absolute organized and disciplined Institution: Army Heritage Foundation (AHF). The basic philosophy of the Park is based on Experiential Parking to allow open space, dotted with fresh water lakes, for the benefit of visitors and local residents. The Park, has carefully allocated the vastness cared by waste management plant, with 14 gardens abound a huge variety of trees, accommodation at Jungle Barracks, meeting/ wedding facility at the Marquee, flora and birds, recreational activities on the lakes and at the Jungle World, educational, historical museum, entertainment, gastronomy, professional fields of hockey and football, Army Heritage Museum and a stimulating hands-on artillery display of Pakistan Armed Forces at the Vintage Vehicle Park.
Today, the state of the planet is broken, the repercussion of mankind’s suicidal war on nature. Suffering the worst impact of Global Warming in form of floods, hurricanes, cyclones, continents on wild fires, islands swallowed by rising sea water level, melting glaciers and ice sheet melt in the arctic region – never before mankind recognize the harsh consequences of climate change. The world is experiencing unprecedented climate change, and cities are choking up due to high level of air and noise pollution.
Green places like Joyland Ayub Park and Theme Park is an ambitious example bailing out nature in polluted urbane living condition, with a concept of experiential park, keeping abreast with modern park system without disturbing natural fauna and flora, involving visitors and local residents to indulge in park activities. Spread over 290 acres, the park area comprises of four fresh-water parks, lush gardens abound a thick canopy of trees and plants. Local residents are motivated to a healthy living, providing strict safety and security to early morning joggers on marked walkways as well as inviting grounds for family picnic with a round the clock security, closely monitored by CCTV.
At the main entrance, I take the Park’s battery car (buggy) that takes visitors around the park – on asphalt road, at a nominal charge. Its autumn in full bloom and the Park’s beauty is enhanced in the hues of green, yellow and red. Being a resident, I was unaware, until recently, that the Park also provide luxury accommodation at the Jungle Barracks.
The Park has allocated an area for luxury accommodation at the Jungle Barracks. Amidst the wilderness of the Park, the bed down comprises of Presidential suite, spacious family rooms and standard rooms. The rooms in the old wing refurbished by a creative interior designer: Mrs. Rabia Raheel of Biaa’s Interior, www.facebook.com/biaasinterior. Designed with a conviction to give value for money at this most astute getaway, color toning is conceived in harmony with the outdoors. High quality linen, the mattress – all ensures luxury and maximum comfort. Each room well stocked with amenities, including a mini bar, tea-coffee making facility, and a spacious bathroom in lavish fitting.
Unlike, in other world renowned City Parks that I have visited, the Army Heritage Museum and the Vintage Vehicle Park that exhibit hands-on armed forces artillery, showcases the many interesting features of Pakistan Armed Forces. The tale telling museum portray the glorious work of the army for the country supported by pictures, narration and artillery display including a tent used by soldiers on the field. This section at the Park lead to keenness among our young folks, how proud we are to our honorable army, their success and what it takes for the defense and taking care of our beloved motherland.
Next to it is the remarkable Ayub Park Museum, which depict a time line of the modern history of the land now Pakistan. On display, armored attire and weapons of rulers of the yore like Mahmud Ghaznavi and also artifacts and pottery excavated around Potohar region.
Paddle a boat to enjoy the serenity of the lakes and merge in nature. Boating facility is available at Lake 2, 3 and 4 and the best time to be at the Lake 3 is during the golden hour of the day – at sunset. On Lake 2, the Timber Restaurant offers organic healthy food and snacks. Not to miss the local delicatessen: Dahi Baray (Vegetable patty with condiments and spices on the side and served with yoghurt) and Gol Gappa or Paani Puri (wheat dumpling) served with organic spiced sauce. The menu also includes delicious chicken sandwich and other snacks that I enjoy while looking over the tranquility of the lake.
Next to the Timber Restaurant is the Snake House for study and learn about some of the deadliest on the planet.
Moving on, I visit the theme park at the Jungle World, covering an area of 40 acres, which offers exciting rides, and like children – the grownups indulge in as much fun and thrill on the many rides including the Dodgem Cars, Shaking-Head Flying Chairs, Tea-cups, Simba Tower, Swinging-boat, Mono-train and many more including the huge Ferris Wheel, which affords a 360 degree view of the entire Park.
Another center of attraction at the Jungle World is the Award-Winning Zoo (Best Zoo 2018), with recent addition of 49 animals from the Islamabad zoo, boasts a variety of animals and mammals. The entire area is meticulously clean and very well maintained accept that I see disappointing sights of some visitors drop litter in the Park area despite the many litter disposal bins placed all around the Park area and there is a fine of Rs.500.
A pair of albino tiger is the prime attraction at the zoo. Caring hands nurture the animals in spacious area of the cage and looks after a pair of puma, a pair of lion, five Bengal tigers and other animals including bear, different kinds of deer including the rare black buck, zebra, ostrich, emu, blue bull (neel gai), recently introduced silver jackals.
Visitors are also joyed watching at close-hand a large collection of birds. A large pond area is home to many variety of duck including flamingos, Black Swan and other ducks from overseas including China and Russia. I also spent much time at large area covering colorful peacock, pigeon, dove and pheasants like the Ring-necked, golden pheasant and other sorts. Before heading to the cryptic Mystery House, I take a break at the Desi Restaurant that serves, in a village setting, just one authentic Punjabi dish: Sarson ka saag (mashed Mustard in local butter) with corn bread. Or you can rest at a café nearby.
I enter the Bhoot Bangla (Mystery House), a marvel brainchild of the 1st Director General (DG) Brigadier Mansoor of Army Heritage Foundation, and I am very much impressed with the world class creation of horror show and creating an earthquake effect before making an exit. This is a must visit, but with care and caution for the very young ones.
The Jungle World has many more attractions: the Shooting Gallery, Bird Show, indoor games for children and much more.
Around the park, there is a Zip line for the fun of flying in midair; Food Street and a marvelous Pride Rock – the portrait of our National Heroes, honored with Nishan-e-Hyder, sculpted on a rock face. You can ride a horse, a camel and there is also a stylish Victoria Horse-drawn carriage for the family to take a ride in the Park.
In other areas of the Park, there is open air gym, swings and also a professional Hockey Stadium (inaugurated in 2019) and football field that facilitate professional matches and also as training ground for new talent.
More recently (October 2020), in the Park’s vicinity, the Moto Tunnel, built during the British Raj period, was inaugurated after fully restored by the KP Forest and Wildlife Department in cooperation with Ministry of Climate Change and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
In a pleasant meeting with the present Director General who has a vision to develop the Park to ensure sustainability, with a foresight of giving a natural platform to the local residents to enjoy and immerse in nature. I learn more about the future of the Park.
There will be tree plantation campaign beginning in 2021 with some 10,000 trees, including fruit orchard, per month with a target of planting some 250,000 trees around the Park area by 2022. This will create a dense jungle environ and reduce carbon emission. The Jungle Barracks will have its own restaurant for fine healthy dining.
The Miracle Garden at the Bara Dari will be an exotic design garden proposed to open in 2021. The Park is also dreaming on the idea of conceiving a Tunnel Aquarium, which will contain exotic fish including small shark variety and on the cultural side, an open theater to stage and promote folk heritage.
Having done an in-depth research on the Park and after a one on one interviews, I am inspired with the vision and high level of competency of Army Heritage Foundation (AHF), it is my wish and a dream that the present site of Islamabad Marghazar Zoo come under the patronage of AHF and the vast area be converted into a Night Safari and Zoo – the natural setting of the site is ideal for this kind of a project, with a suggestion that some appropriate personnel may be hired on contract from Singapore Night Safari, as consultant.
For Park’s Timing and more details, visit: www.ayubpark.com
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