by Ameer Hamza, Jan 26, 2005 | Destinations: Pakistan / Islamabad

Basic Introduction: It is a city that lies at the edge of world famous desert: Thar. Part of this tremendous desert lies on the Pakistani side and the other lies in the Indian side. Umerkot is known as Umerkot by the Muslims of the town, and Amerkot by the Hindus. It was Basically Amer Singh who is credited with creating this city. Later on, Umer captured it and since then, the name has stuck. Being a Muslim country, in Pakistan the official name of the town is Umerkot. It really depends on you what you call it. Who can go: The Indians can't due to the prevailing tension between India and Pakistan. And Umerkot happens to be the largest town near India border on Pakistani side. And interestingly, it is a Hindu majority town that puts Pakistani army on the defensive. In fact, as of 2005, no foreigners can go without permission from the Pakistan Embassy. Pakistanis can go but ISI (Pakistan's version of Mossad and CIA) will interview and will follow you until you run away. Visa: When you get the visa for Pakistan, it is specified where you can go and where you cannot go. For example, on the Indian passports the embassy of Pakistan writes down the names of the cities they can visit. So check out whether you are allowed here or not. Please note that Israeli nationals are not given Pakistani visas and vice versa. Travel by: There is no airport here. The nearest you can get to Umerkot by from air is Hyderabad. And Hyderabad?s airport is small and only few airlines flow in. Better that you drop in Karachi and get a bus and reach Umerkot. There are excellent buses that ply on this route. And if you want to enjoy more then get to Mirpurkhas from Karachi. Then take a train (an old British engine of 19th century) that runs every Monday morning and takes so many hours to reach that you will feel the heat. Check the exact timings from Mirpurkhas railway station. What not to take: No detailed maps please. If you are found with them, you are gone. Even if you are a Pakistani, that is a no go area. Cameras, yes. But, please don?t even try to photograph any satellite, army jeep or personal, army camp and everything related to army/police/rangers. Most popular: The Fort of Umerkot is its prime attraction. And, there is a long history attached to it. Its final rulers were there treacherous British. Now, Archaeology department has its responsibility. Other sites: 1) Syed Mazar (Tomb of a Muslim saint) outside Umerkot 2) Shiv Mandir (Hindu temple) near Syed Mazar 3) Akbar?s Quba 4) Thar bazaar 5) There are four other Temples inside the city. 6) Momal Rana A note: People in this city act strangely if you tell them that you have come on a trip. They will be even more suspicious if you look out for all temples, mosques and bazaars. So, take a 4-wheeler and a driver who knows Sindhi language. That will immensely help you out. What times to visit: The best time is the time of rain, and the rains can come any time. Usually, they appear sometime between June and August. Everyone is happy and there are tourists around. And there are lots of snakes out from their long hibernation. So, be careful. What to eat: 1) Krishan?s sweet (drink milk from here as well) 2) Ask for the best samoosa wala (Samoosa seller) 3) Try daal and vegetables from any hotel along Main bazaar of Umerkot. Transport System: There are many taxis to take you around. Being a small town, you don?t need one. But, you will need a rickshaw to take you to Momal Rana. And, finally the speciality of Thar is there to see and sit: Keckras. The Russian army jeeps turned into buses and everything else. Hotels: There is only one decent hotel in Umerkot by the name of Karoonjhar Hotel. Charges are Rs. 200 and cheap rooms cost Rs.120/night. Security: Immense security as all 12 Intelligence agencies of Pakistan operate there. In any case, Interior Sind is famous all over Pakistan for its security level. Beware of terrorists as they frequent Umerkot and try to ignite Muslims against Hindus, as Umerkot has Hindus in majority.