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The Margalla Hills

The Margalla Hills — also called the Margalla Mountain Range, 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. 

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'. 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. It has also been suggested that the name derived from Mārĩkalā, the Persian equivalent of Takshaśilã (Taxila). 

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. 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. 

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.  

The cheer pheasant, indigenous to the North West Frontier Province, is being reared in Margalla Hills as a part of conservation campaign. 

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). 

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