Murree city is a popular hill station and a summer resort, especially for the residents of Islamabad, and for the cities of the province of Punjab, Pakistan. Murree is also the administrative centre of Murree Tehsil, which is a sub-division of Rawalpindi district and includes the Murree hills.
The name Murree is derived from ‘marhi’, “high place” although there is a popular belief it is named after the virgin Mary.
Murree is one of the largest resort towns in the Galyat area of Pakistan, and is the capital city of Murree Tehsil (which is an administrative division of the Rawalpindi District). It is situated on the southern slopes of the Western Himalayan foothills as they ascend to the northeast towards Kashmir. During British Rule in the nineteenth century, its altitude was established at 7,000 feet (2,100 m), but its actual altitude has now been determined as 2,300 m (7,500 ft) above sea level.
Murree is accessible by road from the centre of the Islamabad and Rawalpindi areas. It is still associated with Britain; many British fruits (including cherries, raspberries and strawberries) thrive locally. There is a church, built in 1857, located at the centre of the town, which is still used as a place of worship. Many houses around the church are still standing, functioning mostly as hotels. Old traditional restaurants have been replaced by fast food shops and newer restaurants. Some old places of accommodation, such as the Rich Villa Inn and Gulberg Hotel, have completely disappeared. A typical hotel usually provides a motel type accommodation with breakfast and communication access. Newly built hotels are also accessible.
Murree has expanded since 1947 at a rate much greater than that which its infrastructure can sustain. Securing water and electricity has been a constant challenge. The jam-packed bazaar has caught fire a number of times in the last century, and the growth of tourism and a construction boom have had an adverse effect on the local environment.
Murree was founded in 1851 by the Governor of Punjab, Sir Henry Lawrence, and was originally established for the British troops garrisoned on the Afghan frontieras a sanatorium
The permanent town of Murree was constructed at Sunnybank in 1853. The church was sanctified in May 1857, and the main road, The Mall, was built. The most significant commercial establishments, the Post Office, general merchants with European goods, tailors and a millinery, were established opposite the church. Until 1947, access to the Mall was restricted for non-Europeans.
Until 1876, Murree was the summer headquarters of the Punjab local government; after 1876 the headquarters were moved to Simla.
The railway connection with Lahore, the capital of the Punjab Province, made Murree a popular resort for Punjab officials, and the villas and other houses erected for the accommodation of English families gave it a European aspect. It was described in the Gazetteer of Rawalpindi District, 1893-94 as follows:
In 1901 the population of the town was officially 1844, although if summer visitors had been included this could have been as high as 10,000.
1857 War of Independence
In the summer of 1857, the local tribes of Murree and Hazara, including the Dhond Abbasi and Tanoli, planned to attack the British Army. The campaign was led by the chief of the Dhond Abbasi tribe, Sardar Sherbaz Khan, and by Malik Nawab Bahadur Khan of the Tanoli tribe. They fought respectably against the British Army, giving the British considerable difficulties. The British Army eventually signed an agreement with the local Abbasi tribe, which was refused by the Tanoli tribe, thereby dividing the opposition to the British. The British Army later ignored the agreement to take control of Murree again..
After the British forces’ occupation of Murree and Abbottabad, many English soldiers and administrators went there during the summers for the cooler climate of the area. The British settled here and raised families. Some prominent people who were born here include:
” Bruce Bairnsfather – a famous cartoonist during world War I
” Francis Younghusband – an army officer and explorer. He established the Bible Society in the Christian High School in Geryal Murree. The society did in depth research into the local languages. This society translated a chapter of new testament book Loqas in Dhondi that was noted by the compilers of the “Linguistic Survey Of India”.
” Reginald Dyer – officer responsible for the Amritsar Massacre
The main tribe of Murree are the Dhond Abbasi, other tribes are the Kethwals, the Dhanyals and the Satti.
As well as being tehsil headquarters, Murree is also a Union Council, it is bounded to the north by Darya Gali and Rawat, to the west by Ghora Gali, to the south by Numbal and Mussiari, and to the east by Ghel and Charhan.
Journalism in Murree
The earliest records of newspapers being sold in the Murree Hills are from 1936 during British rule. Today there are four daily newspapers (Daily Ousaf, Daily Musalman, Daily Azkar, and Daily Nawa-i-Hazara) published in Islamabad but edited by people in Murree Hills and Circle Bakote, including well-known local political personalities of Jhika Gali and Mussyari. There are also two weekly newspapers, the Hill Post and the Hill News.
The Murree Union of Journalists was founded in in 1983. The first president of the union was Salim Shwalvi, a well known journalist from Kashmir.
New Murree Project
The government of Punjab is at the brim of initiating the “New Murree Project” to promote tourism. The location selected for this project is Patriata after considering the other three , Ban, Barian and Charihan. This project will cover 4,111 acres (16.64 km²) of land, including 3,849 acres (15.58 km²) of the Murree Forest Division and 262 acres (1.06 km²) of the Rawalpindi North Forest Division. The water for New Murree City will be supplied from River Jhelum.
Famous people from Murree include:
” Mohammad Khaqan Abbasi (Former MNA)
” Shahid Khaqan Abbasi(MNA)
” Sardar Khala Khan (Rawat)