Quetta is the 5th largest city of Pakistan. Known as the Fruit Garden of Pakistan due to the diversity of its plant and animal wildlife, Quetta is situated at an average elevation of 1,680 meters (5,500 ft) above sea level, making it Pakistan's only high-altitude major city. The population of the city is between 896,090 and 2.8 million, which makes it the 6th largest city in Pakistan.
Sitting in northern Balochistan near the Durand Line border with Afghanistan and close to Kandahar province, Quetta is a trade and communication center between the two countries. The city lies on the Bolan Pass route which was once the only gateway to and from South Asia.
Quetta is also spelled Kuwatah which is a variation of Kot, a Pashto word meaning "fortress. It is believed the city's name is derived from the four imposing hills (Chiltan, Takatu, Zarghoon and Murdaar) that surround the city and form a natural bulwark.
The first detailed account of Quetta is from the 11th century when it was captured by Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi during one of his invasions of South Asia. In 1543, the Mughal emperor Humayun rested in Quetta on his retreat to Safavid Persia, leaving his one-year-old son Akbar in the city until his return two years later.
In 1709, the region fell to the Hotaki dynasty and by 1747 Ahmad Shah Durrani made it part of the Durrani Empire. In 1828 the first westerner to visit Quetta described it as a mud-walled fort surrounded by three hundred mud houses.
The predominantly Muslim population supported the Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement. On joining Pakistan, Quetta was made the capital city of the newly created province of Balochistan before it was combined with other Balochi princely states (Kalat, Makran, Lasbela and Kharan). Quetta remained the capital of the province until 1959 when the provincial system was abolished under Ayub Khan.
On the reinstatement of the provincial system Quetta was once again made capital of Balochistan.
Quetta has an area of 2,653 km2 (1,024 sq mi) and consists of series of valleys which act as a natural fort surrounded on all sides by hills; these are named Chiltan, Takatoo, Murdar and Zarghun. There are no natural boundaries between Quetta and its adjoining districts of Dera Ismail Khan to the northeast, Dera Ghazi Khan and Sibi to the east, Sukkur and Jacobabad to the southeast, Karachi and Gawadar to the south and Ziarat to the northeast. The closest major city is Kandahar in Afghanistan which is located to the west of the Quetta region.
Quetta has a semi-arid climate with a significant variation between summer and winter temperatures. Summer starts in late May and goes on until early September with average temperatures ranging from 24-26 °C (75-78 °F).
The highest temperature in Quetta is 42 °C (108 °F) which was recorded on 10 July 1998. Autumn starts in late September and continues until mid-November with average temperatures in the 12-18 °C (55-65 °F) range. Winter starts in late November and ends in late March, with average temperatures near 4-5 °C (39-41 °F).
The lowest temperature in Quetta is -18.3 °C (-0.9 °F) which was recorded on 8 January 1970. Spring starts in early April and ends in late May, with average temperatures close to 15 °C (60 °F). Unlike more easterly parts of Pakistan, Quetta does not have a monsoon season of heavy rainfall. In the winter snow is the principal form of precipitation, and this falls mostly in the months of December, January and February.
The city saw a severe drought from 1999 to 2001, during the drought the city did not receive snowfall and also received below normal rains. In 2003 the city received snowfall after a long period of five years. In 2004, and 2005 the city received normal rains after three years with snowfall while in 2006, 2007 and 2009 the city received no snow except in 2008 when Quetta received a snowfall of four inches in four hours on the 29 of January, 2008. On the 2 of February, 2008 Quetta received ten inches of snow in just 10 hours which was the heaviest snowfall for the city in the last ten years. During the winter of 2010 it received no snow and saw below normal rains due to the presence of El-Nino over Pakistan.
Government and Politics
Under the latest revision of Pakistan's administrative structure, promulgated in 2001, Quetta was restructured as a City District, and divided into two towns. Each town in turn consists of a group of union councils (U.C.'s).
Quetta Railway Station is one of the highest railway station is in Pakistan at 1,676 meters (5,495 ft) above sea level. The railway track was laid in the 1890s during the British era to link Quetta with rest of the country.
The extensive network of Pakistan Railways connects Quetta to Karachi in south, by a 863 km (536 mi) track, Lahore in northeast (1,170 km or 727 miles) and Peshawar further northeast (1,587 km or 986 miles). A road runs alongside the railway that connects Quetta to Karachi via Sibi, Jacobabad and Rohri.
Quetta is connected by roads to the rest of the country. A road connects it with Karachi through Mastung, Kalat, Khuzdar and Lasbela. Other major roads are Quetta to Karachi Following the Sibi, Jacobabad, Sukkur and Hyderabad route and two roads from Quetta to Lahore one (the older) via Sibi, Sukkur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur and Multan the other route via Khanozai, Muslimbagh, Loralai, Fort Mondro, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan. Quetta is connected with Afghanistan through Chaman and to Iran through Mastung, Noushki, Dalbandin and Taftan.
Quetta has a number of institutions of higher education:
Group of Islamia Schools which was quoted by Quid-e-Azam as Chota (small) Aligarh
Federal Government (FG) Degree College
Tameer-e-Nau Public College
The Military Command and Staff College was founded by the British in 1905, its centennial was celebrated in 2005
The University of Balochistan established in 1974
Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, (BUITAMS)
Sardar Bahadur Khan Women's University
Bolan Medical College
The Geological Survey of Pakistan
Flora and fauna
Mammals such as Markhor (wild sheep), are to be found in the Quetta region. Local birds species include partridge, warblers, shikra, the blue rock pigeon, rock nuthatch, golden eagle, sparrows, hawks, falcons and bearded vultures.
A total of 225 species of flora have been identified in the area including pistachios, juniper, wild olives, wild ash and wild almonds. Also found are shrubs including wild fig, barberry, wild cherry, makhi and herbs such as ephedra intermadia and gerardiana. Hanna Lake, which nestles in the hills ten kilometres (six miles) east of the city, is a turquoise body of water that contrasts markedly with the bare surrounding hills. It is an attractive destination with facilities for boat hire. At one end there is an irrigation dam, while on the eastern shore there is Hayat Durrani Water Sports Academy, the only water sports training center in Balochistan Province. The Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, 20 km (12 mi) south-west of Quetta, Markhors is a protected park area. The name of the park, "Hazarganji" literally means "Of a thousand treasures" is spread over 32,500 acres (132 km2) at an altitude ranging from 2,021 to 3,264 metres (5,625 to 10,700 feet). In the folds of the mountains, according to legend, there are over a thousand buried treasures, reminders of the passage over the ages of great armies including the Bactrians, the Scythians, the Muslims, and the Mongols. Pir Ghaib is a waterfall and picnic spot located 70 km from the Quetta City in the historic Bolan valley. Kharkhasa is located 10 km (6.2 mi) west of Quetta in a 16 km (9.9 mi) long narrow valley that contains a variety of flora and fauna species. The Chiltan Hill Viewpoint in the park provides a panoramic view of the city. A visit to the nearby cities of Kirani and Ziarat are popular scenic places for tourists travelling to and from Quetta.
The Quetta Geological Museum, located on Sariab Road has a collection of rocks and fossils found in Balochistan.
The Command and Staff College Museum is a museum dedicated to British military history. It is housed in the former bungalow of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
The Quetta Archaeological Museum, has a collection of rare antique guns, swords, manuscripts and a display of Stone Age tools, prehistoric pottery and articles found in Mehrgarh. There are also coins, manuscripts and photos of Quetta before the 1935 earthquake.
The Balochistan Arts Council Library houses arts and crafts from Balochistan province.
The city has expanded from a population of 11,000 in 1891 to a total of between 1,865,137 and 2,076,941 according to the 2012 reports which makes it the 6th largest city in Pakistan.
Festivals and shopping
Cultural and religious festivals are held in the city every year. The two Eid festivals which mark the end of fasting and the end of the Hajj allow the majority Muslim community to put on musical shows, distribute sweets and presents. Buzkashi is a festival celebrated by Pashtuns in which two teams on horse-back attempt to snatch a goat from each other. Quetta's bazaars are the Shahrah-e-Liaquat (Liaquat Bazaar and Suraj Gang Bazaar, the Shahrah-e-Iqbal (Kandahari Bazaar) and Jinnah Road. Colorful handicrafts are sold, particularly Balochi mirror work and Pashtun embroidery. Afghan rugs, fur coats, embroidered jackets, waistcoats, sandals, and other traditional Pashtun items are also sold. Pashtun rugs and Balochi carpets are made by the nomadic tribes of the area. They are generally not as fine or as expensive as either the Persian products or the Turkoman tribal rugs from further north, but they are generally more authentic than the copies of Turkoman and Persian designs often found in the major cities of Pakistan.
The Pashtun traditional dishes such as Kadi kebab and Lamb Roash and Balochi Saji and other traditional dishes are available around the city. The Pashtun tribal cuisine "Roash", which non-locals call "Namkin", is served in both city restaurants as well as in the outlying areas. Some of the finest mutton in the country is raised around Quetta and is a mainstay of local cuisine. The Pashtun tribal dish, "Landhi", is made of a whole lamb which is dried and kept fresh during the cold winters. "Khadi Kebab" is a lamb barbecue while "Sajji" (leg of lamb) and "Pulao" are other local dishes. The Shaheed Nauoroz Stadium is the largest stadium in the city. The city also has Ayub National Stadium, a multipurpose stadium used for football and cricket.