The name of Quetta is derived from the Pashtu word for fort, “kot”. Lying at the head of the Shal Valley, encircled by rugged and daunting mountains, the Baluchistan capital commands the strategic Bolan Pass and the Khojak Pass into Afghanistan.
Quetta’s recorded history begins in the eleventh century when it was captured by Mahmud of Ghazni. By the middle of the sixteenth century it was the westernmost extension of the Mughal Empire, remote and prone to attack. Indeed, the Mughals were forced to its defence on several occasions to thwart the empirical ambitions of the Persian Safavids.
During the First Afghan War the British briefly occupied the city but did not establish a permanent presence until 1876, when Sir Robert Sandeman was installed as political agent.
Devastated in 1935 by one of the greatest earthquakes yet recorded, more than 20,000 people died and the whole city was flattened; Quetta was completely rebuilt and has developed rapidly since Independence.
Set 1,680 metres (5,500 feet) above sea level, Quetta is uncomfortably hot in high summer and bitterly cold in winter. It has an international airport and the high mountains which ring the capital form a dramatic approach through the many passes and what, for many, is a hair-raising landing. There is also a railway station.
How to reach:
Quetta, 715 kilometres (4-44 miles) from Karachi and 1,489 kilometres (925 miles) from Islamabad, is served by regular air and rail services.
Which time to go?
Quetta is often completely closed during the winter months. It is pleasant in April and early May and in September and October but excessively hot in the high summer.