Murree Oh Beautiful Murree
Murree is Pakistan’s most popular hill station. Murree lies 50 kilometers northeast of Pakistani capital Islamabad. It was initially known as Murree Sanitarium (US sanatorium). In pre partition times, It was one of two important hill stations in the Punjab, other being Simla, in present day Hamachal Pardesh state of India. It consists of four gradually increasing supers. On highest among them is situated Murree city itself at height of 7500 feet. Others include Patriata, Kuldana and Gharial. It is bounded by River Jehlum in the east, NWFP districts of Abbottabad and Heripur to the North and West, Islamabad Capital Territory to the Southwest and Kotli Sattian Tehsil (town) of Rawalpindi district to the South. Murree town was built in line with the European cities with Church in the center and main road, The Mall, running along with commercial places and administrative offices around the same. The Mall was and still is still the center of attraction. Non Europeans were not allowed access to the Mall till independence in 1947.
Historical Background of the Place: According to one theory Murree derives its name from local Marrhi which means a ridge. According to another it is derived from Turkish marg which means a meadow. It was only on 1875 that present spellings, Murree were adopted .According to yet another explanation Murree derives its name from Hazrat Marriam, or Virgin Marry, who is said to be buried at Pindi Point which is one of the highest places around. There is no record indicating that the whole territory known as Murree today had the same name before British occupation of the area in 1846. During the Afghan as well as Sikh rule the area was referred with the name tribe inhabiting the same. It was only after transfer of the hill tract, including Murree, from Hazara district to Rawalpindi district in 1850 that Tehsil Murree was created. At that time it consisted of 92 villages divided in five areas or 'Ilakas of Phulgran, Charhan, Dewal, Kotli and Karor.
Parts of the areas which were placed under the rule of Raja of Muzaffarabad in 1831 along with Murree and Kahuta area including territory from Khanpur near Taxila in Haripur District to Boi on the confluence of Rivers Jehlum and Kunhar were however not retransferred to Rawalpindi. Instead these areas were merged into Hazara District. Sometimes later Pulgran was transferred to Rawalpindi Tehsil and now forms part of Islamabad Capital territory. In 1990s Kotli and some villages in then Karor ilaka were separated to form Kotli Sattian Tehsil.
Buildings and Tourist Attractions: Murree houses headquarters of 12th infantry division of Pakistan Army and large number of educational and training institutions of Pakistan Army which situated at Upper Topa, Kuldana and Barain. Combined Military Hospital established to cater the needs of civilian population of Murree and adjoining areas. Pakistan Air Force also maintains base at Lower Topa. For administrative purposes the military areas of Murree are divided in two separate cantonment cantonments, Murree Cantonment and Murree Hills Cantonment. Murree Houses residence for Punjab Governor at the Kashmir point. The imposing building was built in nineteenth century by the British. There are Punjab and Sindh Houses to cater needs of the provincial government. A large number of government, semi government and private departments and institutions maintain guest houses in Murree. A number of diplomatic missions based in Islamabad established their camp offices in Murree in the 1960s. The same however are seldom used now.
In recent years Bhurban and New Murree also known as Patriata, have also developed as a tourist center. The whole Murree Galliat region is known throughout South Asia for its scenic beauty and fascinating greenery. Mountains overhung with pines and oaks, bubbling with gurgling springs, crisscrossed by rivulets, dotted with sprawling lawns and orchards overloaded with fruits present spectacle of Paradise on earth. Bhurban, boosting with five star Pearl Continental Hotel owned by Pakistan's best hotel chain and a nine hole Golf course has cropped recently as another tourist attraction in Murree area. Lying at an altitude of 6000 ft., Bhurban is situated at a distance of 13 kilometers from Murree on one of main roads leading to Azad Kashmir. Punjab government is planning to develop New Murree city at Patriata fifteen kilometers southeast of Murree. Punjab Tourism department constructed resorts at the virgin forests on the Patriata ridge in 1987 besides a 3 kilometer sky ride from Gulara Gali to the top of Patriata ridge. Patriata is connected with Islamabad and Murree through a number of all-purpose roads.
Climate: Weather plays and important part in life and economy of Murree. It has four distinguishable seasons. Spring in Murree starts in March and ends in middle of May. Maximum temperature during this period hovers between twelve to twenty and minimum between four and ten. The area receive heavy rain and hail storms during this season. The fruit trees laden with flowers give a spectacular view. Summer spans from middle of May to end of August. The lowest temperature during this season is between 13 and 16 while highest temperature is around twenty to twenty five. This is the best season in the area and it receives most number of visitors during this season. With the advent of September autumn creeps in and last till the starts of winter in early December. This is the seasons of clear sky in the region when one can enjoy full view of mountains around without cloud hindrance. Temperatures are mild.
Winter starts in December and normally brings heavy snowfall. Murree and its surrounding areas are covered with thick sheet of snow during most part of the season. Temperature mostly hovers around the freezing point. That’s the best time to be there and play with ice.