When you travel 13km southward from Saidu Sharif, a beautiful lush green
Valley of Marghazar welcomes you. There is narrow curly metalled road running among
lofty mountains, trees laden with fruits and unique houses of mud and stone.
This greenery of gorgeous landscape persuaded King of Swat Gul Abdul Wadood in
1935 to build a summer resort here. The King brought marble from Agra, bronze
from Belgium and artisan from Turkey who not only designed it but also
constructed it. Thus, in 1941, a beautiful palace of white stone was erected
which was first named Swatti Taj Mahal, later Motti Mahal and now Sufed Mahal(White
Palace). Then it was enriched with selective fauna and flora that made it mini
zoo as well as mini botanical garden.
When we, me and my family, reached near White Place, a beautiful lawn teeming
with flowers laid on green carpeted grass offered welcome greeting. When we saw
up the splendid White stone building saluted us and when turned out eyes still
higher a sky high mountain hailed us. For a moment, a wave of ecstasy ran
through entire body. In this state of trance, a voice: “Salam, there is lot
more to see!” of Mr. Naveed Ahmad, broke the spell of enchantment. He further
added: “I am Manager of the hotel”. After brief introduction from both sides,
he showed us every inch of the palace. Mr. Naveed Ahmad Awan is permanent
resident of Mianwali, did his BBA and Hotel Management Course from Manchester
UK. Then the love of country took him back and has been working as Manager of
White Palace for the last 10 years. Finding a golden opportunity, I started
asking questions in an interview style.
the interior of Palace, he disclosed that there are 24 active spacious
decorated rooms and started showing us the palace. First, we saw Royal Suite (ex-King’s
bedroom) where once Queen Elizabeth also stayed for three day. There are two
big conference halls where King Abdul Wadood used to hold cabinet meetings.
There is a Noor Restaurant equipped with cooking facility of Chinese, continental
and Pakistani food. There is King’s lobby to have beautiful view of the Garden
Lawn. On the right side, there is a king’s Veranda to have a glimpse of swirling
stream of water. The stream of water is not only cool but also pleasant in taste.
Water seeps through different coloured stones to present a kaleidoscopic view.
On the left side of palace is situated six-roomed
Lord’s Block for the residence of ministers and advisors. From there we climbed
stairs and reached eight-roomed Prince Block, it is totally enclave in tree and
shrubs. Climbing further stairs, we reached twelve-roomed Queen’s block. King Abdul
Wadood had two wives so he built this block in way that each wife got 3 rooms,
3 servant rooms and a separate lawn in her share. The counterpart portion of
second wife is replica of the first one. In front of the lawn, there is single
balcony with marble benches and table with engraved painting of grapes. From
here, one can see a marvelous boulder mountain. On the top of mountain, there
is a house with electricity available since 1941. It was amazing.
About the material of White Palace, Mr.Naveed
told that marble was imported from Jaypure India, the same quarry that supplied
marble to the Taj Mahal Agra. Chuna (lime) is used as binding material in place
of cement. It is so compact to be drilled. The height of ceiling is 30-35ft to
give extra strength and ward off heat. Ceiling fans were imported and installed
in 1941 and are still working.
The king paid special attention toward roof construction. It has many
layers; first bronze layer, deodar wood layer, lime layer, mud layer, again
deodar wood layer and finally top layer of iron. This multilayered roof gives
extra strength and keeps heat at a bay.
In the meanwhile, we returned to lawn, where we saw a beautiful green
coloured insect known as Ghana Kai(leaf beetle).Here Mr Naveed pointed towards
a kachchi road(unmetalled road) on the east, leading to Koh-e-Elam; mountain of
10,000 ft height with thick forest, springs, meadows, etc. According to a
tradition, Rama Chandra spent 14 years of his exile at mount Elam. It is said
that Rama Takhat (seat of Rama) still exists in good condition. There is also a
small pond. This mountain has Buddhist place of worship, church and mosque. It
is considered sacred by the Buddhist and the Hindu. It is 4 hours trekking from
the palace, horses are also available. Foreigners whenever stayed at White
Palace, essentially visited Koh-e-Elam.
Chinese travelers Fahein, Xuangzang and Sang Yun visited
this mountain and used this very route. According to another tradition,
Alexander the Great climbed to the top to hold Jopeer star (probably planet
Jupiter). There are many small villages on the way to mountain, for example;
Joghiano, Elam Kalay, Jauz, kodona, Biloo Khan, etc. There is famous flower
“Namer” having size of rose. It is of red color and eatable. One person who has
eaten this flower told it to be sweet in taste and has no seed. The Hindu regards
this flower sacred. This mountain is also famous for hunting desert sheep,
ibex, chikor (pheasant) and Murgh-e-Zarian(golden cock). On the other side of
the mountain is the city of Buner.
a question regarding fauna and flora in White palace, Mr. Naveed told that there
was a mini zoo containing pheasant, partridge, love bird, peacock, monkey, etc.
During the flood of 2010, it was shifted to Islamabad and not yet returned. Here,
he also informed that vulture in the area is facing extinction, dying of goiter
due to eating dead animal of dairy form as they are vaccinated profusely. King
of Swat planted apple, apricot, persimmon, plum, grapes, amlook, walnut, etc-
fruits tree of all seasons so that he could eat them the entire year. Woody
trees are deodar (Himalayan cedar), chinar, pine, poplar, dhreek(melia
azadarach), wild kikar(acacia), bekana, kathol (only present in white palace),etc.
question about the keen areas of tourist’s interest, Mr. Naveed said most
people visit to see the building; some likes the noise of running water of
stream and wind chime. Other likes bonfire; a famous event of White Palace
especially in cold season.
a question about promotion of tourism, Mr. Naveed told, there is no tower of
mobile in nearby vicinity so cell phone doesn’t work. Second, there has been no
facility of internet since the flood. Now a day these two things have become
part and parcel of our lives. So tourists get annoy and quit early.
In a question about the ownership of white palace, Mr Naveed told, after
the death of Mian Gul Wadood, Mian Asfand Yar of PML (N) became the owner but
was martyred in 2007. Now a day Mian Gull Aurangzeb of PML (N) is the owner.
About a question how much damage incurred in 2010 Flood, Mr. Naveed told,
flood washed away the back side of palace having water bank, bridge, washrooms
and a small lawn.
Water tank (reservoir) was not only a recreational
spot but also a main source of clean drinking water. He further said in
intermittent sentences; it rained for just four hours on 10th July,
2010 and a huge torrent of water came that rose to 3 feet level in the palace…
The American has “Harp technology” which creates waves under ocean… It may be activity
of sabotage… After the flood, USA provided help in 2010-2011 for development of
tourism, rehabilitation of economy and employment. USA AID poured but with a
condition to provide informational data. I handed over entire data to them… We
took blankets, television, refrigerator etc from Americans. Now they have data
of all the area and what will they do? God knows better! We are worried at the
moment as flood doesn’t seem a natural phenomenon!
question about the dignitaries who paid visit to White Palace. He said Queen
Elizabeth visited in 1961 and stayed here for three days as she discovered the
deep tradition and history which surround the Swat Valley.
Other includes Murtaza Bhutto, Pir Sabir Shah(
ex-Chief Minister Khyber-Pukhtonkhwa), Abdul Aziz Mirza (ex-Chief of Naval Staff),
justice Rana Baghwan Das, justice Javed Iqbal, D K Mehta Indian commissioner, Mustansar
Hussain Tarar and now you. I laughed, then we both, etc.
Finally he escorted us to Parking area where king of Swat made a Visitor
place. There were placed ortho benches of stone. They are cured in way, one who
sits; they take off all the signs of weariness and tiredness. Then there is 200
year old colossal chinar tree, serving as canopy for the visitors.
At the end we thanked him for his hospitality and information about
white palace and adjoining area. He advised us to see the place while returning
to Saidu Sharif. He said; at Mian Baba, there is a tomb of Hazrat Mian Baba, at
Sappal bandi Sindya Baba tomb and a newly discovered stone having naturally inscribed
name of Muhammad (PBUH).There are archeological remains at Bali Gram and Shana
Sha. Also visit Salampure Village, it has hundreds of khadian (weaving machines)
engaged in manufacturing of wool and silk cloth, blanket and Shawls. These
products have countrywide good reputation. Then we offered parting greeting and
departed. We followed his advice and visited almost all the suggested places.
Marghazar, literal meaning greenland, is really so with green valleys, splendid
mountains, pleasing atmosphere, cold water springs, fragrance of flowers, prettiness
of hanging fruits, etc. Its good looks
are further enhanced by White Palace and the myths of mount Elam mystify it. Amagnificent
matchless meadow of Marghazar multiplied by mammoth, mystifying mountains and marvelous
marble mansion—make mode of a man mellow.