Muzaffarabad city in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan

Muzaffarabad city

Muzaffarabad

Muzaffarabad, the administrative capital, is the largest town and is one of the ten districts of the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. It is also the 60th largest city of Pakistan located about 138 km from the capital city, Islamabad, and 79 km from Abbottabad. Muzaffarabad is bordered by the Kaghan Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province to the west, by the Kupwara and Baramulla districts of the disputed territory of Jammu & Kashmir to the east, Bagh district to the south, and the longest Neelum district of Azad Kashmir to the north.

At an altitude of 2400 ft above sea level, Muzaffarabad is located at the convergence (Domel) of the sky-blue Neelum River and the earthy-brown Jehlum River. A few miles down, the confluence of Neelum, and Jehlum is joined by the Kunhar River and streams all the way to meet the Arabian Sea. The administrative capital is surrounded by lush green valleys, snow-topped mountains, and high-altitude scenic picnic points.

History

The original name of Muzaffarabad was Udabhanda. The eminent Buddhist pilgrim Hieun Tsang was said to have entered India in 631 A.D. via Udabhanda and Baramula gorge. Udabhanda was the capital of the Shahi/Shahiya dynasty. The successive shahi dynasty ruled Gandhara (northern Pakistan and Kashmir) and a portion of Kabul from the decline of the Kushan Empire in the third century to the early ninth century.

Muzaffarabad was established during the Mughal era in 1646 by Sultan Muzaffar Khan, a pioneer of the Bomba Dynasty (in 1652), who ruled Kashmir. The term “Muzaffarabad” was therefore named after Sultan Raja Muzaffar Khan. He set up the red fort in the city to defend it against the Mughals. Following the 1948-49 war, Muzaffarabad was made the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Tourist Attractions

There are some unique tourist attractions in Muzaffarabad and its surroundings.

  • One can start the day by visiting the historic Red Fort at the meeting point of the Neelum and Jehlum Rivers.
  • To the east of the city is a road climbing above the town to Pir Chinasi. At 2900 meters and 30km from the city, the adventurous road leading to Pir Chinasi provides breathtaking views of the Jhelum Valley and the higher mountains above the Neelum to the north. The Shrine of Saint Shah Hassan Bukhari attracts a huge volume of devotees to pay homage and rejuvenate their hearts. During summers; Pir Chinasi remains busy and filled with tourists and devotees. In winter, Pir Chinasi remains snow-bound.
  • To the west of the city, Lohar Gali is a great place to be, walk along the ridge looking over the Jhelum and Kunhar rivers, and for a beautiful and amazing overview of the city. A few km away is 3,890 meters from Makra Mountain also visible from Muzaffarabad and continues on to Shogran in the Kaghan Valley.
  • Likewise, Shaheed Gali, at a height of 1640 meters above sea level and 16 kilometers west of Muzaffarabad, is a lush green valley that sometimes hides in mist and is accessible by a narrow metal road.
  • Another 4 km adventurous drive from Shaheed Gali leads to “Sri Kot“- a tourists’ heaven that almost bounds and fascinates by the serenity.
  • Patika at 19km is the gateway to the Neelum Valley and is a great excursion to take.
  • Within the city, the architectural heritage includes AJK Assembly, AJK Supreme Court, Mosque, Assembly Secretariat, and Khurshid Tomb.
  • If you are traveling from Islamabad via Murree, then do not forget to take a break at Kohala Bridge, visit Dolai waterfall by crossing the bridge, and the Dak Bangalow at the bank of Jehlum River in Kohala now known as Quaid-e-Azam Memorial Rest House. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah stayed here on 25 July 1944 on their way back from Srinagar to Rawalpindi.
  • Muzaffarabad is a gateway to Neelum valley and Jehlum valley and one can think about day excursions and overnight stay tours from Muzaffarabad to the Neelum valley and eight different districts of Jehlum valley.

Shopping

The thriving cottage industry in the region revolves around woodwork – furniture making, wood carving, embroidery work, and garment making. Muzaffarabad is known for its variety of exclusive furniture using Dayyar (Deodar) and Akhrot (Walnut). Different types of chairs, tables, beds, gift boxes, racks, and decoration pieces besides customized orders are produced in Muzaffarabad. Moreover, hand-woven carpets, Kashmiri shawls, Phairan (Kashmiri traditional dress) kangri (pot with iconic patterns), and a variety of other crafts are available. In Kashmiri bazaars, there are two types of carpets: “Ghubba” (bigger rugs) and “Namda (smaller rugs). One can also find other products including fresh and dry fruits, mushrooms, honey, and medicinal herbs & plants. It is sometimes possible to get a good bargain.

Food

Traditional must-try delicacies include Goshtawa, Kashmiri Pulao, Hareesa, and Rice Rajma, and to complement Sawaiyan, Firni, kheer, Panjeeri, and other fulfilling desserts. For breakfast, Kashmiri pink chai, Qulcha, and Bakar Khani are the traditional food items of Muzaffarabad and are liked at national and international levels.

Climate

Mostly, the climate of Muzaffarabad remains moderate and predictable. Mild summers (June and July) and chilly winters (December to February) with snowfall are both attractions for visitors. The ideal time to visit is autumn with clear skies and scenic beauty. The transparent blue Neelum River presents a unique beauty and plays a dominant role in the overall microclimate of Muzaffarabad. Due to the weather clothes worn by the natives are mostly of woolen nature.

Access

These two routes to access Muzaffarabad – from Islamabad via Murree Hills and Kohala in almost 4 hours (138km) and from Islamabad to Abbottabad, Mansehra, Garhi Habibullah, and Lohar Gali in 5 hours. For people driving from the north (Gilgit and Naran), the route via Mansehra and Gari Habibullah is recommended.

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