Quetta sits near theDurand Lineborder withAfghanistanand is an important trade and communications centre between the two countries as well as an important military location occupying a vital strategic position for thePakistani Armed Forces. The city lies on theBolan Passroute which was once the only gateway to and fromSouth Asia. The city was the closest city to the1935and the2008 earthquakesboth of which resulted in a great deal of damage to the city and significant loss of life.
Quettais also spelledKuwatahwhich is a variation ofKuatta, aPashtoword, orKotaBrahuiword meaning "fort".It is believed the city's name is derived from the three imposing hills (Chiltan, Takatu, Mehrdar) which surround the city.
The area was originally inhabited byKasi, ofPashtuntribes andShahwaniofBalochtribes. The first detailed account of Quetta is from the 11th century when it was captured byMahmud of Ghazniduring one of his invasions of the Indian sub-continent. In 1543, the Mughal emperorHumayunrested in Quetta on his retreat to Persia, leaving his one-year-old son Akbar in the city until his return two years later. TheKhan of Kalatruled Quetta until 1556, when the Persians conquered the city, only to have it retaken by Akbar in 1595. In 1828 the first westerner to visit Quetta described it as a mud-walled fort surrounded by three hundred mud houses. Although the city was occupied briefly in 1839 by the British during theFirst Afghan War, it was not until 1876 that Quetta became part of the British Empire, withRobert Sandemanbeing made the political leader for Baluchistan. The arrival of British troops led to the establishment of road and rail links and the introduction of schools, mainly for strategic purposes.
The British made the largely Pashtun area part ofBritish Balochistan. In April 1883 it was combined with Pishin into a single administrative unit.
By the time of the earthquake on 31 May 1935, Quetta had developed into a bustling city with a number of multi-storey buildings. The earthquake, the epicentre of which was close to the city, destroyed most of the city infrastructure and killed an estimated 40,000 people. In the years since the city has been rebuilt mainly with local funds. Structures are now generally earthquake resistant comprising single storey structures built with bricks and re-inforced concrete.
On joining Pakistan, Quetta was made the capital city of the newly created province of Balochistan before it was combined with other Balochi states (Kalat, Makran, Lasbela and Kharan) to form the Baloch province. Quetta was to remain the capital of the province until 1971.
Quetta has adesert climate(KöppenBWk) 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 10th 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 8th January, 1970.Spring starts in early April and ends in late May, with average temperatures close to 15 °C (60 °F). Unlike most of Pakistan, Quetta does not have a monsoon season of sustained, heavy rainfall. Highest rainfall during 24 hours in Quetta is 113 millimetres (4.4 in) which was recorded on 17 December, 2000., Highest monthly rainfall is 232.4 millimetres (9.15 in) which was recorded in March, 1982.and the highest annual rainfall is 949.8 millimetres (37.39 in) recorded in 1982.In the winter snow is the principle mode of precipitation with snow falling mostly in the months of December, January and February.
The city saw droughts in the year 2000, and 2001. During these years the city didn't received snowfall and received below normal rains. While in 2003 the city received snowfall after a long period of five years. In 2004, and 2005 Quetta received normal rains with snowfall while in 2006, 2007 and 2009 the city doesn't revived any snow, except 2008 when Quetta received snowfall of four inches (102 mm) in four hours on 29 January, 2008.While on 2 February, 2008 Quetta received more than one foot of snow in just 10 hours.These are the heaviest snowfall for the city for the last ten years. During the winter of 2010 it doesn't received snowfall land saw below normal rains due to the presence ofEl-Ninoover Pakistan.
The city of Quetta comprises approximately 2,653 km2(1,036 square miles) and consists of series of valleys which act as a natural fort surrounded on all sides by a number of imposing hills namedChiltan, Takatoo, Murdar and Zarghun. There are no natural boundaries between Quetta and its adjoining districts ofDera Ismail Khanto the northeast,Dera Ghazi KhanandSibito the east,SukkurandJacobabadto the southeast,KarachiandGawadarto the south andZiaratto the southwest. The closest major city isKandaharinAfghanistanwhich is located to the west of the Quetta.
Under the latest revision of Pakistan's administrative structure, promulgated in 2001,Quetta was restructured as aCity District, and divided into two townsEach town in turn consists of a group of union councils (U.C.'s).:
Quetta Railway Stationis one of the highest railway stations in Pakistan at 1,676 metres (5,495 ft) above sea level. The railway track was laid in 1890's during the British era to link Quetta with rest of the country. The extensive network ofPakistan Railwaysconnects Quetta to Karachi in south, by a 863 km (536 miles) track,Lahorein northeast (1,170 km or 727 miles) andPeshawarfurther northeast (1,587 km or 986 miles). A metalled road runs alongside the railway that connects Quetta to Karachi viaSibi,JacobabadandRohri. A track from theIraniancity ofZahedanlinks to Quetta viaTaftan. Service was temporarily discontinued in 2006 due to unrest inBalochistan. More recently railway service has come under renewed attack by the Balochs, especially in the Bolan Pass area, resulting in passenger deaths and creating a sense of insecurity amongst the travelling public.
Quetta is a tourist attraction for foreigners to whom it is advertised as a "thrilling location, full of adventure and enjoyment". Among the attractions are the bazaars located on the Shahrah-e-Iqbal (Kandahari Bazaar) and Shahrah-e-Liaquat (Liaquat Bazaar and Suraj Gang Bazaar. In the bazaars are colourful handicrafts, particularly Balochi mirror work and Pashtunembroideryboth of which are admired world-wide. The Pashtun workers are expert in making fineAfghan rugs, with their pleasing and intricate designs, fur coats, embroidered jackets, waist-coats, sandals and other traditional Pashtun items. Also in the city is the army administered Askari Park, constructed in the 1990s and located on Airport Road, which has a children's playground equipped with modern rides, toys and entertainment.
Balochi carpets are made by the nomadic tribes of the area. They are generally not nearly as fine or expensive as either the Persian city products or even 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 rugs range in price and size, from lower priced crude examples to fine and valuable pieces. Many are small enough to be portable.
For those interested in local cuisine, there are many dishes to try. The famous Pashtun tribal cuisine “Roash” which non-locals call “Namkin” is to be found 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 best restaurants are the Green Hotel, Gulab Hotel, Lal Kabab, Tabaq, Usmania and the Abasin Hotel all of which serve both Pakistani and western food, while the Cafe China is one of the oldest and most reputable Chinese restaurants. A number of small hotels on the Alamdar road provide accommodation for tourists.
Hanna Lake, which nestles in the hills ten kilometres (six miles) east of the city, is a startling turquoise pool which contrasts markedly with its bare brown surroundings. An attraction for holidaymakers, with facilities for boat hire and a lakeside restaurant, it is crowded by hikers and campers in holiday periods. At one end there is an irrigation dam while on the eastern shore line there is Hayat Durrani Water Sports Academy, the only water sports training center in Balochistan Province. The Hana Lake Development Authority, the Hayat Durrani Water Sports Academy and Merck Marker (Pvt.) Ltd. have planted a range of trees in the Hanna Lake Mountains both for beautification and the protection of the environment .
TheHazarganji Chiltan National Park, 20 km (13 miles) south-west of Quetta, Markhors is a protected park area. The park, the name 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 treasures buried, reminders of the passage over the ages of great armies including theBactrians, theScythians, theMuslims, and theMongols.Pir Ghaib is a waterfall and picnic point located 70 km from the City Center on Sibi Road. Kharkhasa is located 10 km (6 miles) west of Quetta in a 16 km (10 miles) long narrow valley which contains a variety of flora and fauna species. The Chiltan Hill Viewpoint in the park provides a panoramic view over the city. A visit to the nearby cities ofKiraniandZiarathas been a popular scenic places for tourists traveling to and from Quetta.
The Quetta Geological Museum, Sariab Road (near Balochistan University) 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, Fifa Road 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 is a newly opened facility which houses a variety of arts and crafts from Balochistan province.
A number of 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. The Sibi festival is a cultural festival celebrating the history of the Balochi people with folk music performance, cultural dances, handicrafts stalls and cattle and horse shows.Buzkashiis a peculiar festival celebrated by Pashtuns in which two teams on horse-back attempt to snatch a goat from each other.
Pashtois the main language spoken throughout the city. Other languages includeBrahui,Balochi,Urdu,Hazaragi,Sindhi, andPunjabi. The city has expanded from a population of just 11,000 in1891to a total of between 565,137 to 676,941 according to the 1998 census which makes it the ninth biggest city in Pakistan.. Although the majority wererepatriatedback to Afghanistan through theUNHCR, a small number of registeredAfghan refugeesare still to be found in and around the city but are not counted in the national census of Pakistan as they arecitizens of Afghanistandeemed to be remaining in the country temporarily.
About 99% of the people areMuslims, which include the majoritySunnisect and the minorityShiasmost of whom are the Hazaras. There is also aChristian,Hindu, andSikhpopulation living in the city.
The residents of the city are avid sports fans. In Quetta, unlike most of Pakistan,footballrather than cricket is the most popular sport. Football teams from Quetta includeQuetta Zorawar, Afghan Football, Hazara Green Football, Baluch Football and Quetta Bazigars Club. Among its most famous footballers areAbdul Wahid Durrani(Wahido) Taj Senior, Taj Junior, Qayyum Changezi, Agha Gul, Mohammad Younas Changezi, Mohammad Ismaeel Durrani (a famous goal keeper) and his son, Dawood Durrani of the PIA football team, and Kazim Ali Sheralyat, the former captain ofPakistan. Other sportsmen include the bodybuilders Shoukat Ali Changezi (Mr. Norway), Din Mohammad Brohvi (Mr. Pakistan) and Noorullah Khan Durrani,(Mr. Pakistan Runner-up) and the cricketerShoaib Khan, a former member of thePakistan national cricket team.
Infield hockey, Quetta has produced Zeeshan Ashraf and Shakeel Abbasi, who are current members of the Pakistan national field hockey team. Inmountain climbingandcavingthere isHayatullah Khan Durrani(Pride of Performance), the chief executive of Hayat Durrani Water Sports Academy at Hanna Lake. InKayaking, Muhammad Abubakar Durrani, National Junior Champion was selected for the world Junior Canoeing Championship in 2009 in Moscow. InBoxingOlympians from Quetta include: Abdul Salam Khan Kakar, Syed Ibrar Ali Shah, Asghar Ali Changezi and Haider Ali Changezi.
Insquash, Hiddy Jahan Khan was ranked among the top-6 players in the world from 1970 through to 1986. British Open champion Qamer Zaman also hails from Quetta. Other famous squash players include: Zarak Jahan Khan, Abdul Wali Khan Khilji, Hamayoon Khan Khilji, Zubair Jahan Khan, Shams ul Islam Khan Kakar, Tariq Rahim Khan Kakar and Shaied Zaman Khan.
TheAyub National Stadiumis the largest stadium in the city and the site of international cricket and football matches.
Khalid Mehmood also Junior Pakistan in javelin throw.