Beautiful and Historic Surroundings of Lahore, Virginia
By C. Naseer Ahmad
Lahore has stood on the crossroads of history through the centuries. Sometimes the storied city has been the seat of power of majestic empires and other times it was a stopover, both of military and political campaigns.
The beautiful city with a rich cultural history has also been a city of colleges providing education to people who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics as well as reach heights of political achievements. It is also a city of dreamers and poets. The Poet Philosopher of Pakistan Allama Iqbal rests in eternal peace in Lahore.
Thousands of miles across the oceans exists another Lahore in the beautiful rolling hills of Virginia. It is a storied town as well which has stood on the crossroads of history. The town is about less than two hours drive from Washington and is not far from the famous Brandy Station Battlefield – the site of the largest predominantly cavalry engagement of the American Civil War.
The journey to Lahore, Virginia takes one along the path where some of the bloodiest battles were fought during the American Civil War that cost about 750 thousand casualties – combat as well as other causes included. Then heading towards Brandy Station along the James Madison Highway (Route 15) towards Charlottesville we see signs for Montpelier the eternal resting place of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States and considered as the “Father of the Constitution.”
Going half an hour further on this road would take us to Charlottesville and onto Monticello, the eternal resting place of Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers who also founded the University of Virginia now known for its excellence in education.
Instead of going to Charlottesville, one needs to turn left onto the Zachary Taylor Highway which is a scenic route in the beautiful countryside and takes us to the town of Mineral and Orange County. The road is named after President Zachary Taylor, a national hero in 1850.
Further along this road, one finds the town of Lahore which incidentally was also named in 1850 by a general store merchant after reading a book about India.
More than thirty-six years ago, it took me almost all day to find Lahore because in the dead of the winter hardly anyone was on the road and it was easy to zoom through Lahore, Virginia without even realizing it. Thanks to the wonders of technology like the iPhone and Google maps, one can get to Lahore from Washington pretty much in time and without losing one’s way.
“Lahore is Lahore, even if it is in Virginia!” wrote the Editor Pakistan Mail Online on November 7, 2009. This story has some interesting points. For instance, the Editor Pakistan Mail Online starts with: “Yesterday my very dear FB (FaceBook) friend Qaisar Janjua posted a picture on my page that gave an impression that a car in America might have a registration number of Lahore.” Reading further along one finds that “it happened so often that I did not get mail from Canadian colleagues which they would insist they had sent. The anomaly was resolved soon when we discovered that our mail was going to Lahore, Virginia instead of Lahore, Pakistan!”
In reality, in Lahore Pakistan one can get lost because of the sheer size of the city and confounding streets. But, while Lahore, Virginia cannot match the original Lahore in the size of its population, it is just as easy to get lost in Lahore, Virginia due to the natural beauty in the surrounding countryside along Lahore Road (Route 629).
As dreamers have been attracted to Lahore, Pakistan they have also been attracted to Lahore, Virginia. In the “Field of Dreams,” the protagonist hears the voice “if you build it, he will come.” Noor Naghmi, son of the famous Pakistani broadcaster Abul Hasan Naghmi had some big dreams which were reported in a Washington Post story more than ten years ago and which Pakistan Mail Online stated that “his $3 M deal will turn Lahore, Virginia into a regional tourist attraction for South Asians and others. His plans include a banquet hall fashioned after his hometown’s famous Shalimar Gardens. He envisions a library and a museum dedicated to the histories of both Lahores. He wants to open a bed-and-breakfast place to serve chickpea curry alongside eggs and toast. He wants to organize Basant with all its fanfare and pomp, in American Lahore.”
As of July 3, 2017, a lonely shed stood on Lahore Road where hope remains eternal.