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The Margalla Hills

Margalla Hills
Margalla Hills 
The Margalla Hills — also called the Margalla Mountain Range and simply known as Margalla, is a hill range part of the lesser Himalayas located north of Islamabad, Pakistan. Margalla Range has an area of 12,605 hectares. The hills are a part of Murree hills. It is a range with many valleys as well as high mountains. The hill range nestles between an elevation of 685 meters at the western end and 1,604 meters on its east with average height of 1000 meters. Its highest peak is Tilla Charouni. The range gets snowfall in winters. On 6 January 2012, after almost six years, Pir Sohawa, the city’s highest tourist spot, received few inches of snowfall

Etymology

Two different legends describe the origin of the word 'Margalla'. According to the first legend, these hills have always been known as an abode of snakes. Mar means 'snake' in Persian, Pashto and galla means 'herd', therefore Margalla means a place with a lot of snakes.
According to the second legend, the word 'Margalla' was derived from Mar Galla, meaning 'to strangulate'.[citation needed] Mar means 'hit' and Galla means 'neck'. It is believed that there were lots of bandits and robbers who used these hills as a sanctuary and would strangle travelers in order to rob them.[citation needed]
It has also been suggested that the name derived from Mārĩkalā, the Persian equivalent of Takshaśilã (Taxila).[2]

Roads and Communication

Khayaban-e- Iqbal, arises on the north east side from the 4th Avenue (Nur Pur Shahan), runs between E and F sectors and ends at Service road West of F 11 and E 11 (Golra) sectors in the south east. It will be extended up to Grand Trunk (GT) road in the near future and then it will be able to connect Nur Pur Shahan with the GT road. [3]Pir Sohawa road starts from Khayaban-e-Iqbal, near the zoo and traverses across the Margalla hills and connects with Jabbri road. Margalla road starts from setor D 12 and runs across the Margallas to connect with Jabbri road near Khanpur. Grand Trunk road (GT road) passes through Margallas through Tarnol pass near Nicholson's obelisk.

Paleontology and archeology

The hills' rock formations are 40 million years old, and fossils of marine life abound, indicating that the Margalla Hills were at one time under the sea. According to the research carried out by scientists and archaeologists of the project "Post-Earthquake Explorations of Human Remains in Margalla Hills”, the formation of the Margalla Hills dates to the Miocene epoch. The dominant limestone of the Margalla is mixed with sandstone and occasional minor beds of shale. The archaeologists of the project have also found two human footprints over one million years old here, preserved in sandstone.[4]
Saidpur is a Mughal-era village on the slopes of the Margalla Hills and located off the Hill Road to the east of Daman-e-Koh in Islamabad. The village has the footprints of various civilizations, including Gandhara, Greek, Buddhist, Mughal, Ashoka and the British colonial periods, and now serving as a popular recreational spot for both local and foreign visitors. The plant species on Margalla hills belong to various families of trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, grasses and fodder crops. The vegetation of the southern slopes is deciduous and evergreen trees with most of flowering trees like Bauhinia variegata, Ficus carica, and trees like Pinus roxburghii, Quercus leucotrichophora. In the north stand pines, Eucalyptus, Peepal trees (Ficus religiosa), Paper Mulberry and groves of oake.g silver oaks. Over the years, however, the hills have suffered considerably from illegal logging and wood collection used for cooking and heating. But,CDA has planted 385000 saplings every spring.
There are around 250 to 300 species of plants on the Margalla hills. As many as two third of them are used by the people for their medicinal effects to treat or cure various diseases.[5]
 
The Margalla Hills are home to various species of wildlife, including monkeys, exotic birds and carnivores such as the rare and presently endangered Margalla leopard.[6][7]Commonly found animals in the Margallas include Rhesus monkeys, jackals (often heard cackling at night near the hills), wild boars, porcupines, mongoose and the pangolin or scaly anteater. The wild boar in particular can be seen at some of the least expected places in the city. While they generally stay close to the hills, occasionally (particularly in winter when the hills are cold and it snows on the peaks of Margalla hills) they can be seen quite far from the Margallas. Often the boars will have small hideouts in the green belts in and around the city. The increasing practice of throwing litter near the hills also attracts both monkeys and wild boar to come and forage through the rubbish. The wild boars can be quite large, very solidly built and usually travel in large groups.
 
Much less common are leopards, which occasionally come down from the Murree area but usually remain high up in the hills. Wild life of Margalla Hills There is another group of animals that deserves mention: the snakes of Margalla Hills. There are a number of species of poisonous snakes in the area, including cobras, Russell's Vipers, kraits—known in local parlance as the half-minute killer and indian phython. The snakes hibernate in the winter months; but tread carefully in the hotter months and particularly the monsoon months, when snakes abound. While they are to be found mainly in and around the hills, occasionally an overgrown garden can prove the ideal home.
High diversity of birds in the Margallas is due to the combination many ecological components that together make it a unique location. No other Pakistani location could come even near in the number of species seen. As a result of a series of faunal survey of the park, 54 species of butterflies, 37 species of fish, 9 species of amphibians, 20 species of reptiles, 380 species of birds, 21 species of small mammals and 15 species of large mammals have so far been recorded.[8]
 
Birds in the park include Himalayan griffon vulture, laggar falcon, peregrine falcon, kestrel, Indian sparrow hawk, Egyptian vulture, white cheeked bulbul, yellow vented bulbul, paradise flycatcher, black partridge, cheer pheasant, Khalij pheasant, golden oriole, spotted dove, collared dove, larks, shrikes, wheatears and buntings.

Activities

Bird watching

The Margallas are an excellent place for bird watchers. The area is home to a large number of birds, including robins, sparrows, kites, crows, larks, paradise flycatchers, black partridge, shrikes, pheasants, spotted doves, Egyptian vultures, falcons, hawks, eagles, Himalayan Griffon vulture, Laggar falcon, Peregrine falcon, Kestrel, Indian sparrow hawk, White cheeked bulbul, yellow vented bulbul, Paradise flycatcher, Cheer pheasant, Khalij pheasant, Golden oriole, Spotted dove, Collared dove, Wheatears and buntings. [3]
The cheer pheasant, indigenous to the North West Frontier Province, is being reared in Margalla Hills as a part of conservation campaign.[9]

Hiking and trekking

The Margallas are excellent for hiking and cater for both the regular serious hikers and the less serious occasional enthusiasts. For foreigners, it is advisable to go for hiking in a group, because a few incidents of mugging have been reported in the last few years. The safest and most frequented hike path is from the Zoo park to Daman-e-Koh. The best season for hiking is from February to April, when there is less rain and the weather is extremely pleasant. Asian Study Group is a community service organization and conducts hikes in Margalla Hills. For more information check out the Asia Study Group (ASG) publication "Hiking Guide: In and Around Islamabad" (1992, Revised Edition).[10]

 

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