The walled city of Lahore was not the haphazard jumble of closely packed houses and narrow streets as people are apt to assume, but a masterpiece of design that the city planners of today look upon with awe and respect. The city consisted of designated quarters for trades and had houses of every type from palaces to the humblest of abodes. The gems in the Lahori crown, however, were the havelis - beautiful residences of the affluent class and nobility. A typical haveli consisted of a huge arched door, large enough for an elephant to get through, leading into an outer courtyard. This was surrounded by rooms, some of which served as accommodation for guests, who were not considered intimate enough to be allowed into the inner sanctum. The other rooms consisted of baithaks, living quarters for domestics and stables. Another inner arched door provided access to a dewrhi or covered passageway that led to an inner courtyard, which was paved and in many cases decorated with fountains and potted plants. Doors around the courtyard led to multi-storied tiers of spacious rooms with jharokas overlooking the area. Rooftops were expansive with barsaatis or covered verandahs where one could sleep or sit through the cool monsoon season. Large havelis consisted of more than one courtyard linked together by covered passages. Basements formed the sub ground levels and were used as storage and to escape the heat of the hot summer season. It was during the rule of the Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah that three members of noble birth Bahadur Ali, Nadir Ali, and Babur Ali began construction of a grand residence inside Mochi Gate. There was great joy in the family, as the structures completion coincided with the arrival of a male child to Bahadur Ali, giving the haveli its name - Mubarak Haveli. Many years later, the grand structure was taken over by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to serve as one of his residences and the royal guest house. The fugitive Afghan King Shah Shuja and his family were kept in this premises and forced to hand over the world famous Koh-e-Noor diamond to the great Sikh ruler. Passing through many hands, the premises was finally bought and put under a trust by a leading citizen of Lahore, who was also a descendant of the original owners. The haveli was and remains the traditional starting point of major Muharram processions, which wind their way through the city to culminate at Karbala Gamay Shah. Haveli Mian Khanwas was located between Rang Mahal and Mochi Gate. Its construction was begun by Nawab Saadullah Khan of Chiniot, who was the Prime Minister of Emperor Shah Jahan, but it was completed after his death by Nawab Mian Khan, his son. This haveli consisted of three parts - Mahal Sarai, Rang Mahal and Kalai Khana. Rang Mahal was later converted into Rang Mahal Mission School in the days of the British Raj. The size of the haveli can be gauged by the fact that 10 wells supplied water to it. Perhaps, the biggest haveli in Lahore was constructed close to an old Mughal era mosque known as Begum Shahi Mosque or the Mosque of Mariam Zamani Jodha Bai, wife of Emperor Akbar. The mosque is situated near Masti Gate of the Lahore Fort in the area known as Chuna Mandi. This grand residence was built by the wealthy Nawab Asaf Khan, father of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Emperor Shah Jahan and the inspiration for TajMahal at Agra. During the Sikh rule, the premises were occupied by Raja Dhian Singh, who was the Prime Minister of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Naunehal Singhs haveli in Maidan Bhaiyan, inside Mori Gate is perhaps one of the most ornate structures of Lahore. It belonged to Naunehal Singh, grandson of Ranjeet Singh, who met his death when a portion of masonry fell on him, as his royal procession passed under an arch, while returning from the funeral of his father Kharak Singh. The haveli consists of numerous spacious chambers, halls and balconies, with their ceilings and walls decorated with paintings and mirrors. It is now government property and houses the Victoria Girls High School. Lahore's Lal Haveli, also known as Chandu Di Haveli, was the place associated with the martyrdom of the fifth Guru Arjan Dev and Bhai Mani Singh. It is said that the great Sikh guru was incarcerated and tortured here by Chandu in 1606. When the sixth Guru Hargobind visited Lahore in 1619, the Sikhs dragged Chandu through the streets and killed him near a well in the haveli. The spot is known as Lal Khoo and is also the site of a Gurdwara. For the purpose of this weeks column, I have picked up only a few of the grand structures that dot the old city of Lahore. It will, however, be appropriate, in the least, to mention others such as havelis associated with Judge Latif, Raja Dina Nath, Diwan Baij Nath, Nawab Imamuddin Khan, Kabuli Mal, Dhyan Chand, Rai Diwan Chand, Asif Jah, Haveli Barood Khana and Haveli Alif Shaheeyan. It may be worth its while for readers to one day venture out from the isolation of suburban Lahore to explore these heritage sites. n The writer is a freelance columnist.