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Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, 1692 metres above sea level, lies at the mouth of Bolan Pass. It has three large craggy mountains. Chiltan, Zarghun and Koh-e-Murdar,that seem to brood upon this pleasant town. There are other mountains that form a ring around it. Their copper red and russet rocks and crests that are powdered with snow in winters add immense charm to the town.
Quetta is connected to the rest of the country by road, rail and air. The R.C.D. Highway connects it to Karachi and then on (via Koh-e-Taftan) to Tehran, Iran, 1435 kms away. The road to Sibi connects it with Punjab and upper Sindh. The road via Loralai - Fort Munro -D.G. Khan and Multan is a short route for Punjab. The Chaman Road is a link between the county and the Afghan border. Quetta is linked by PIA with Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad by daily flights.
Quetta is an excellent base for further exploration of Balochistan. Kan Mehtarzai (224 metres), the highest railway station in Asia, is a two-hour drive away. Loralai, the almond bowl of the country, is 265 kms away. Besides, there are numerSpecialities
Quetta can rightly be called the fruit basket of Pakistan. Plums, peaches, pomegranates, apricots, apples, guavas (locally called zaitoon), some unique varieties of melon like "Garma" and "Sarda" and cherries, pistachios and almonds are all grown in abundance. Some pistachios also grow in Qila Saif Ullah also. Saffron grows very well on mountains around 5000 ft (1524 metres) high. It is being cultivated on a commercial scale here. Tulip is an indigenous flower of Pakistan. The yellow and red varieties of tulip grow wild around Quetta.
ous other valleys that are fascinating places to be in for explorers.
The inhabitants are mainly Pathans, Balochs and Brahuis. You can also find Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkamen rubbing shoulders with the other inhabitants. Nomadic tribesmen pass through Quetta Valley during spring and autumn with their herds of sheep and camels and their assorted wares for sale. This seasonal movement adds colour to the life of the city.
The rugged terrain has made the people of the area hardy and resilient. They are known for their friendliness and hospitality. To make a visitor comfortable is part of their tradition, like the rest of the people of Pakistan.
Prominent bazaars of Quetta are on Shahrah-e-lqbal (Kandahari Bazaar) and Shahrah-e-Liaquat (Liaquat Bazaar and Suraj Gang Bazaar). Here you can find colourful handicrafts, particularly Balochi mirror work embroidery which is admired all over the world. Carpets, with their pleasing and intricate designs, fur coats, jackets, waistcoats, sandals and other creations of traditional Balochi skills.
In the old bazaars one comes across quaint old tea-shops. These are the local "clubs". There are also many popular eating houses offering different types of delicacies. Among the delicacies you must try is "Sajji" (leg of lamb), which is roasted to a delightful degree of tenderness and is not very spicy.
The tribesmen of the valley also enjoy "Landhi" (whole lamb), which is dried in shade and kept for the winters. "Kebab" shops are very popular, the best being Lal Kabab, Tabaq, Cafe Farah and Cafe Baldia. They serve Pakistani and Continental food Some of the finest mutton in the country is raised around Quetta. It has a delicious smell which can be sampled in the "Pulao" that most of the eating houses offer., while Cafe China specializes in Chinese cuisine.
The Archaeological Museum at Fifa Road has a collection of rare antique guns, swords and manuscripts. Geological Survey Department on Sariab Road (6 kms) has a collection of rocks and fossils.
Hazarganji Chiltan National Park :
In the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, 20 kms south-west of Quetta, Markhors have been given protection. The park is spread over 32,500 acres, altitude ranging from 2021 to 3264 metres.
Hazarganji literally means "Of a thousand treasures". In the folds of these mountains, legend has it, that, there are over a thousand treasures buried, reminders of the passage of great armies down the corridors of history. The Bactrains, Scythians, Mongols and then the great migrating hordes of Baloch, all passed this way.
Markhor of which there are five distinct kinds, is the national animal of Pakistan. The kind that is photographed the most often is the Chiltan Markhor which, because of its long horns looks very conspicuous. Ever since the Markhor has been given protection its number has multiplied.
Other animals in the park are straight horned markhors, "Gad" (wild sheep) and leopards which occasionally migrate to the park from other areas, wolves, striped hyena, hares, wild cats and porcupines.
Many birds like partridge, warblers, shikras, blue rock pigeon, rock nuthatch, red gilled choughs, golden eagle, sparrow, hawks, falcons and bearded vultures are either found here or visit the park in different seasons.
Reptiles like monitor and other wild lizards, geckos, Afghan tortoise, python, cobra, horned viper and levantine may also be seen in the park.
Amongst the flora of the Park are the 225 species of plants. Prominent are the pistachios, juniper, wild olive, wild ash and wild almond. Many shrubs like wild fig, barbery, wild cherry, makhi, etc., provide food and shelter to the foraging animals, birds and other life forms. Medicinal herbs like Ephedra intermadia, gerardiana and nabro (densis) and Artemista (scoparia and martima) are also found in the park. There is a splash of colour in spring when most of the plants are in bloom. Nature lovers, students, scientists and researchers are welcome to visit the park at any time of the year. Permit to visit the park can be obtained from the Divisional Forest Officer, Spinny Road, Quetta.
Rest House facilities are available for overnight stay. Transportation to the park and food arrangements are not provided but cooking facility is arranged on request. Park Rangers help the visitors to see animals. Access trails have been developed in the park for visitors. A small museum of natural history/ in located near the park entrance.