Murree: an Overview

Murree is Pakistan's most popular hill station. Murree lies 50 kilometers northeast of Pakistani capital Islamabad at a comfortable altitude of 7500 feet (2286 meters) in the Himalayan foothills at 33.35  north latitude and 73.27  east longitude.  Murree Sanitarium (US sanatorium), as it was initially known, was selected because of its coolMurree Hight View, curtesy Suleman Photopark climate to serve as recuperation area for British troops and was one of the several such hill stations established in the foothills of Himalayas across the Indian subcontinent. It was one of two important hill stations in the Punjab, other being Simla, in present day Hamachal Pardesh state of India. Murree was more accessible from the Punjab plains than Simla and served as summer capital of the province till 1875 when it was replaced by Simla.
Murree is a mountainous area, forming part of outer Himalayas. It consists of four gradually increasing supers. On highest among them is situated Murree city itself at height of 7500 feet. Others include Patriata, Kuldana and Gharial. It is bounded by River Jhelum in the east, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts of Abbottabad and Heripur to the North and West, Islamabad Capital Territory to the Southwest and Kotli Sattian Tehsil (town) of Rawalpindi district to the South. Murree town was built in line with the European cities with Church in the centre and main road, The Mall, running along with commercial places and administrative offices around the same. The Mall was and still is still the centre of attraction. Non Europeans were not allowed access to the Mall till independence in 1947.

Origin of the Name

Historians differ on origin of Murree's name. According to one theory Murree derives its name from local Marrhi which means a ridge. According to another it is derived from Turkish marg which means a meadow. It may not be far from reality as there is considerable Turkish cultural influence in the area. The the local dialect derives a number of words from Turkish language. Besides historically the locals used to spend most part of the year in the valleys and used top of the hills as pastures or fields to grow seasonal crops. Over the centuries Turkish Marq might have become Mari, which incidentally were the spellings British used at the start of their contacts with the area. It was only on 1875 that present spellings, Murree were adopted .According to yet another explanation Murree derives its name from Hazrat Marriam, or Virgin Marry, who is said to be buried at Pindi Point which is one of the highest places around. There are stories abound about holiness of the sight and how divine interventions has been stopping construction workers to remove the grave. Whatever the explanation of the name it seems that before the British advent it did not represent anything beyond the Hilliard. There is no record indicating that the whole territory known as Murree today had the same name before British occupation of the area in 1846. During the Afghan as well as Sikh rule the area was referred with the name tribe inhabiting the same. It was only after transfer of the hill tract, including Murree, from Hazara district to Rawalpindi district in 1850 that Tehsil Murree was created.

At that time it consisted of 92 villages divided in five areas or 'Ilakas of Phulgran, Charhan, Dewal, Kotli and Karor. Parts of the areas which were placed under the rule of Raja pf Muzaffarabad in 1831 along with Murree and Kahuta area including territory from Khanpur near Taxila in Haripur District  to Boi on the confluence of Rivers Jehlum and Kunhar were however not retransferred to Rawalpindi. Instead these areas were merged into Hazara District. Some times later Pulgran was transferred to Rawalpindi Tehsil and now forms part of Islamabad Capital territory. In 1990s Kotli and some villages in then Karor ilaka were separated to form Kotli Sattian Tehsil. Click here for details

Murree, Land and the people

Murree hill station was constructed by the British colonial government soon after it captured this part of then India in 1850. Murre lies between Kashmir Point and Pindi Point. As the names suggest Kashmir point gives a panoramic view of snow laden Himalaya and Pir Panjal ranges in Kashmir while the Pindi point overlooks national capital Islamabad and adjacent Rawalpindi. At Pindi Point one can enjoy ride on a Chairlift three kilometers down to Bansragalli and enjoy a panoramic view of Hazara mountains as well as Rawalpindi Islamabad.

The city of Murree lies in seven kilometer area between these two points. The most popular area  in the hill station is the Mall road spanning over about two kilometer in beautiful settings.
Murree Guide Map
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River Jehlum lies to the east of Tehsil Murree and separates it from Azad Kashmir, Abbottabad district lies to the North and north west of Murree, Islamabad, the national capital to the south west and sister tehsil Kotli Sattian of Rawalpindi district lies to the South.
Murree Tehsil has a total area of 434 sq kilometer and according to 1998 census has a population of 176426 people of which 155,051 live in the rural areas while others live in Murree city as well as different cantonments spreading over different hill tops.
Click here for complete demographic details of Murree.
The Rural areas of Murree are mostly inhabited by Dhund (Abbasi) tribe which traces its origin to Hazrat Abbas, uncle of Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be Upon Him). Dhund (Abbasis) have considerable presence in all areas surrounding Murree. The tribe forms overwhelming majority of population in Deerkot in Azad Kashmir, the whole eastern hill tract of Abbottabad district right from confluence of Kunhar and Jehlum Rivers to districts boundary with Haripur district and eastern side of Haripur district itself. Pockets of Dhund majority areas are also found in districts of Mansehra, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and Kahuta and Kotli Sattian Tehsils of Rawalpindi district.

Other important tribes living in the Tehsil include Sattis, Kathwals and Danials inhabiting southern parts of the Tehsil. Sattis form overwhelming majority in Katli Satian Tahsill and some parts of Kahuta Tehsil of Rawalpindi district while some of the majority Danial populated areas have been merged into Islamabad capital Territory as well as Kotli Sattian Tehsil.  Besides there there is a sizeable population of Gujars and some Jats as well as members of artisan classes across the Tehsil. Historically Gujar, Jats and other artisan classes lived as tenants of local tribes. However  as a result of land reforms of 1958 as well as those of 1970s most of them have become owners of the lands they tilled .Click here for details on tribes living in Murree

Permanent population of the urban areas is very small and consists of people from all over the country.  A good number of refugees from Indian held part of Jammu and Kashmir also inhabit mostly urban parts of the area. In fact two members of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, one each representing refugees from Kashmir valley and Jammu respectively are wholly or partially elected from Murree.

The dialect spoken in the areas is locally known as Paharai but is considerably different from the language of same name spoken in the southern slopes of Himalays in Hamachal Pradesh and other parts of Northern India. The language spoken in Murree is an amalgamation of Hindko, Potohari and Hinko languages spoken in Rawalpindi, Hazara and western and south western sides of Kashmir, particularly those parts of the state which currently form Azad Jammu and Kashmir. 

Education and Literacy

With 69 percent literacy rate (1998 census) among those age ten and above,  Murree is among the most literate areas in the country and easily surpasses major cities in this regard. Village Ausia having literacy of 82.7 percent in population of 4450 is among the most literate areas of Pakistan. There is probably no other rural dwelling of same size with such high literacy rate anywhere else in Pakistan. The credit for the same must go to people's love for knowledge as well as dedication of teachers.
Like other parts of Sub-continent modern school system was introduced in Murree after the advent of the British rule in 1850. Initially primary schools for boys were established in Murree, Ausia, Tret, Karor and Kotli Sattian. Presently there is one degree college each for boys and girls each Murree. Another girls college has been constructed at Phagwari. However, the classes have not been started despite the fact that the construction work was completed several years ago.
Besides there are two higher secondary schools, at Ausia and Tanda, sixteen secondary schools, twelve middle and 112 primary schools for boys. There are 6 high schools, 15 middle and 109 primary schools  for girls.  Other than that there are a large number of private schools in every nook and corner of Murree, providing commendable services to the people.

Murree is also known for its elitist educational institutions which have been attracting students from across the country since independence. Lawrence college Gora Gali, established as Lawrence Memorial Asylum in 1860 for children of serving or retired British soldiers away from tropical climate of sub-continent. It was part of chain of four such schools established across British India. Spread over an area of more then 150 acres at an altitude of 6397 feet (1950 meters) Lawrence college provides education from class one to twelve including A level and O level and is popular among Pakistani upper classes.
Other colleges established during the British period for the children of British colonialist but now serving the Pakistani gentry include Saint Dynes and Convent of Jesus and Marry. Saint Dynese has recently closed it boarding to in order to cater the needs of local population.
Other schools established after independence include Cadet College Lower Topa, Cadet College Murree Pindi Point, Army Public School.

It would be unfair not to mention Murree Christian School which was unfortunately subjected to terrorist attack in 2002.  Situated at Garial near Jika Gali Murree Christian School serve educational needs of children of missionaries who serve in Pakistan and neighbouring countries. It also accepts admissions from grade four to 12 and is open for children from families with evangelical Christian background even if they serve in other professions. 
It is headquarter of Murree Town (previously known as tehsil or sub-division) of Rawalpindi district of Pakistani Punjab.

Buildings and Tourist Attractions

Murree houses headquarters of 12th infantry division of Pakistan Army and large number of educational and training institutions of Pakistan Army which situated at Upper Topa, Kuldana and Barain.  Combined Military Hospital established to cater the needs of civilian population of Murree and adjoining areas. Pakistan Air Force also maintains base at Lower Topa. For administrative purposes the military areas of Murree are divided in two separate cantonment cantonments, Murree Cantonment and Murree Hills Cantonment. Murree Houses residence for Punjab Governor at the Kashmir point. The imposing building was built in nineteenth century by the British. There are Punjab and Sindh Houses to cater needs of the provincial government. A large number of government, semi government and private departments and institutions maintain guest houses in Murree. A number of diplomatic missions based in Islamabad established their camp offices in Murree in the 1960s. The same however are seldom used now.
Adjacent to Murree is the Galliat region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which includes Nathiagalli, Ayubia, Khanspur, Dunga Galli, Khairagalli and Changla Galli. Before the British rule whether part of Rawalpindi District of Muzaffarabad, Murree and Galiat have been part of same administrative unit, however in 1850 the British decided to divide them between Rawalpindi and Hazara. Howevere despite divided by provincial boundaries, Murree and Galliat are inseparable both geographically, culturally, linguistically as well as from the point of view of the tourists. Murree serves as a gateway to Galliat.

For hotels, hiking trails and important phone numbers and other information on Nathiagali and Galliat click here.

In recent years Bhurban and New Murree (Patriata), have also developed as a tourist centre. The whole Murree Galliat region is known throughout South Asia for its scenic beauty and fascinating greenery. Mountains overhung with pines and oaks, bubbling with gurgling springs, crisscrossed by rivulets, dotted with sprawling lawns and orchards overloaded with fruits present spectacle of Paradise on earth. Bhurban, boosting with five star Pearl Continental Hotel owned by Pakistan's best hotel chain and a nine hole Golf course has cropped recently as another tourist attraction in Murree area. Lying at an altitude of 6000 ft, Bhurban is situated at a distance of 13 kilometers from Murree on one of main roads leading to Azad Kashmir. Punjab government is planning to develop New Murree city at Patriata fifteen kilometers southeast of Murree. Punjab Tourism department constructed resorts at the virgin forests on the Patriata ridge in 1987 besides a 3 kilometer sky ride from Gulara Gali to the top of Patriata ridge.  Patriata is connected with Islamabad and Murree through a number of all weather roads. 


    Weather plays and important part in life and economy of Murree. It has four distinguishable seasons. Spring in Murree starts in March and ends in middle of May. Maximum temperature during this period hovers between twelve to twenty and minimum between four and ten. The area receive heavy rain and hail storms during this season. The fruit trees laden with flowers give a spectacular view. Summer spans from middle of Mat to June end of August.  The lowest temperature during this season is between 13 and 16 while highest temperature is between twenty to twenty five. This is the best season in the area and it receives most number of visitors during this season. With the advent of September autumn creeps in and last till the starts of winter in early December. This is the seasons of clear sky in the region when one can enjoy full view of mountains around without cloud hindrance. Temperatures are mild.
        Winter starts in December and normally brings heavy snowfall. Murree and it surrounding areas are covered with thick sheet of snow during most part of the season. Temperature mostly hovers around the freezing point.                  
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Last Updated on December 28, 2015
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Wajih Abbasi