Lahore is a city that flirts with one’s imagination and unleashes a thousand stories all in a moment. Its narrow, brick lined streets, the colour of autumn on fire, have witnessed the romance of poets, the whispers of soothsayers, the wisdom of scholars and the pain of lost lovers. It is a city that inspires the architects and the artists, the visionaries and the dreamers. There is respite in the lofty shadows cast by the Badshahi Mosque and sublime peace in the embrace of the Shalimar Gardens. It is a city of harmonious contradictions, where gothic buildings stand besides majestic Mughal architecture – separate but in mutual respect. Lahore has a personality that arouses curiosity in people and invites them in to explore.
Over the decades, Lahore has become a Mecca for writers, poets and intellectuals, who come together to think, question, create and instigate change. The Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) has further fuelled this social movement and turned a small community of book lovers into a magnificent living, breathing force that has the power to exert influence and nurture humanity, tolerance and compassion. This homage to the written word is not limited to hosting literary events. Lahore houses some of the best libraries and bookstores in the country and this burgeoning literary culture encourages the dissemination of both local and foreign literature – enabling a seamless flow of ideas, experiences and thoughts. It is this genuine passion and belief in the power of the written word and the creative arts that has earned Lahore a place in UNESCO’s coveted list of creative cities as the City of Literature 2019.
It is wonderful to see that a city as traditional and cultural as Lahore has preserved its originality while still modernising and reinventing itself. The wide roads, the vibrant malls, the bustling eateries, the glistening domes – all paint a picture of a place that has much to offer, and many layers to uncover. The newly acquired status of City of Literature portends good times for Lahore. Tourism, both local and international, will see a boom, which will help boost the economy. Sustained social stability and growth, supported by literary and cultural activities, will continue to bolster Lahore’s image in the international market, leading to more opportunities for the city to showcase itself at a global scale.
The latest feather in Lahore’s crowning glory is its selection as the city to host AdAsia – Asia’s largest and most prestigious ad congress, held once every two years. This comes after a gap of 30 years, in which Pakistani cities were largely left out of consideration due to the political and social volatility that prevailed in the country.
The fact that AdAsia is happening in Lahore and is showcasing international talent, including people such as Cory Richards (National Geographic Explorer of the year 2012), Sir Martin Sorrell (founder of WPP, the world’s largest advertising and PR group), Randi Zuckerberg (CEO of Zuckerberg Media) among others, speaks volumes about the city, the country and the world’s changing perceptions of both.
Where the Lahore Literary Festival launched Lahore as a connoisseur of fine writing, AdAsia 2019 will establish the city as a hub of creative thinking and innovative communication. Bringing the crème de la crème of the advertising and media worlds together in this glorious city is an achievement in itself, but how this opportunity is handled is critical – both for Lahore and for Pakistan. AdAsia 2019 will put Lahore in the limelight, and with all eyes focused on this dot on the map, it is imperative that the city puts up a show for its guests that proves to the world that Lahore and Pakistan are ready to play and be recognised at an international level. It is time we show the world that we can have our cloak tails proudly steeped in tradition and still move ahead into the 21st century.
Sheherzad Kaleem is a documentary filmmaker based in Dubai. firstname.lastname@example.org