Put food, shopping, an open-air amusement park, a hyper market, a 3D Cineplex, and a sports stadium in one place and what do you get? If you’re in Lahore, you get the all-famous Fortress Stadium. As the name suggests, this favorite shopping and entertainment spot of the city is a sports stadium built like a fortress. Located in the Lahore Cantonment, it comes into sight right as one gets off the Mian Mir overhead bridge.
We can try to list down the reasons why Fortress Stadium, known affectionately as simply Fortress, is so dear to Lahore. Being the city’s second most popular cricket venue in a country that is incredibly cricket crazed could be one. It is also the host of one of Lahore’s cultural hallmarks, The Horse and Cattle Show, so that’s another. The festival is a showcase of livestock from all over the country along with dancing camels and horses, folk dances, traditional music and tent pegging competitions, held at the end of February to coincide with the arrival of spring in the city. Over the past few years, it hasn’t been held regularly but the memories of the fantastic event remain vivid as the city dwellers hope that it resumes soon.
Fortress is home to one of the first amusement parks of Lahore called Joy Land. From the Ferris wheel to the Mono Train, the swirling Tea Cups, Dodging Cars and the Magic Carpet, this is a place of true magic and wonder for kids and adults alike. In a psychedelic glow of neon bulb sand flashing signs, massive metal structures painted in the brightest colors imaginable, spin, slide and move as cheerful faces can be seen clutching tickets for their favorite rides. Once you get on the rides, the world seems to whizz in and out of focus and excited screams and boisterous laughter infects the air.
Outside, the world rotates on a different pace as glittering shops around the stadium bustle with happy shoppers. Fortress stadium has seen an expansion of sorts over the years. While the old shops and restaurants located on the outside walls of the stadium and the opposite side of the circular road remain the center of attraction, a small park has been developed on the side of the stadium acting as a square around which new retail outlets continue to open. As a shopping destination, Fortress holds an important position on Lahore’s map, with some of the city’s oldest boutiques and fashion outlets, interior decorators and music shops housed here.
If you’re not going to Fortress for the rides or the shopping, you may end up there to watch a movie in the 3D Cineplex called Sozo World. With its massive screens and special laser and water show, it is a true entertainment extravaganza.
All this entertainment can leave one very hungry. For that reason, Fortress is generously littered with local and international food chains to serve the appetite. Whether you crave steaming barbecued tikkas, kebabs and parathas, or you’re in the mood for some fast food, whether you want to dine in at a restaurant or just walk around with your fresh shawarma, and steaming cup of coffee, whether you’re a frozen yogurt kind of person or the towering cones of vanilla and chocolate ice creams drizzled with syrup are your thing, Fortress has something for every one, making sure the foodie dream is realized.
When done with feeding the stomach, there’s also some food for the soul. The music shops in Fortress have much to offer with some smashing mix tapes of the latest music from around the world alongside other variations to suit your taste. Another almost regular feature is the pop up book fair on the front lawns. Here, one can find an array of titles ranging from fiction to autobiographies, poetry and drama, children’s literature and paperback novels. These little treasure troves always hold gems for the discerning eye and they are substantially discounted. Book lovers will always find it a difficult choice to risk spending all their money on the fair before heading for the shops or postponing the visit till after the shopping and missing out on some good titles when in Fortress.
At the end of your trip, as you walk towards your car with your shopping bags loaded with pretty clothes, trinkets, music and books, you will find that this amazing place has given you much more than just things. You will drive away with fond memories, the ticket stubs from your Joy Land rides or the movie in your pocket, the sweet taste of hot cocoa still on your tongue, the big smile on your face still intact, promising yourself the next time you visit Fortress, you’ll stay for longer.
(June 22, 2017)
(June 14, 2017)