Heera Mandi, Lahore – Pakistan

On my way to the Lahore airport, I stopped for dinner at a rooftop restaurant in the old walled city next to the Badshahi Mosque and across from the Lahore Fort



Looking down the narrow lanes between the buildings, I was drawn to the people and the architecture. The streets and buildings in this neighborhood date back to the 15th through 18th centuries. I still had quite a few hours before my departure, so I grabbed my cameras and took a walk through Heera Mandithe "Diamond Quarter."

Sometimes referred to as the Royal Neighborhood (Shahi Mohalla), Heera Mandi was originally the center of Lahore’s tawaif (concubine) culture. The tawaif were highly sophisticated and wealthy entertainers catering to the nobility during the Mughal era. Like geisha in the Japanese tradition, tawaif were masters of etiquette and rigorously trained in music, dance, theater, and literature. Originating with the Hindu nobility, this tradition existed on the Indian subcontinent for over 2000 years. 

The puritanical and hypocritical regimes of both the British Raj and now the Islamic Republic of Pakistan drove the tawaif underground and to near extinction. Today shabby, littered and poorly maintained, Heera Mandi is still an area for entertainers, musicians, instrument shops and prostitutes – but only as a shadow of its former glory.

I’m intrigued by Heera Mandi’s history and architecture and I found the residents open, friendly and most welcoming, as well as very easy to photograph. These photos were made in less than an hour. I want to return...perhaps rent a room, get to know the neighbors, give away prints and create a book or a film. 

To purchase prints on this page, see my Pakistan collection.


Three boys walk by a huddle of meth addicts with Badshahi Mosque minaret in background, Heera Mandi 2023


  Old man welcomes at the gate, Heera Mandi 2023


Beggar with columns, Heera Mandi 2023


Girl in pink dress with blue sunglasses, Heera Mandi 2023


Guitar shop, Heera Mandi 2023


Blind beggar, Heera Mandi 2023


Drummer, Heera Mandi 2023


Albino boy with yellow sunglasses, Heera Mandi 2023


Beggar with ladder, Heera Mandi 2023


Fruit seller, Heera Mandi 2023


Junk seller, Heera Mandi 2023


Man with horse, Heera Mandi 2023


Old man with bike, Heera Mandi 2023


Shoe store, Heera Mandi 2023


Shopkeeper, Heera Mandi 2023


Three doors, Heera Mandi 2023

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