The name Quetta is derived from the Pashto word “Kwatta” which means a fort possibly because it is a natural fort surrounded by imposing hills on all sides. Three large craggy mountains — Chiltan, Zarghun and Koh-e-Murdar — seem to brood upon this town, and there are other mountains that form a ring around it. Their copper red and russet rocks and crests are powdered with snow in winters add immense charm to the town.
Strategically, Quetta is an important city due to its proximity to borders with Iran and Afghanistan. There is a huge military base just outside the city. Historically, Quetta owes much of its importance to the Bolan Pass which links it to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Excavations in the Quetta valley have proved that humans have lived there since pre-history. Modern day Quetta is a growing centre of excellence.
The population of Quetta district is approximately two million, and the city has an area of 2653 sq. km.
Quetta is 1,680 meters (5,500 feet) above sea level and enjoys a healthy climate. The temperature drops a few degrees below the freezing point in winter following a typical autumn when the leaves turn golden and then a wild red.
Quetta can rightly be called the fruit basket of Pakistan. Plums, peaches, pomegranates, apricots, apples, guavas (locally called zaitoon), some unique varieties of melon like “Garma” and “Sarda” and cherries, pistachios and almonds are all grown in abundance. Some pistachios also grow in Qila Saif Ullah. Saffron grows very well and is being cultivated on a commercial scale. Tulips are an indigenous flower of Pakistan. The yellow and red varieties of tulip grow wild around Quetta.
People and Culture
The inhabitants of Quetta are mainly Pashtun followed by Brahui and Baloch. You can also find Punjabis, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkomen rubbing shoulders with the other inhabitants. They are known to be hospitable to visitors because hospitality is an important element of their cultures. Nomadic tribesmen, mainly Pashtun tribes of Nasaran, pass through Quetta Valley during spring and autumn with their herds of sheep and camels and their assorted wares for sale. This seasonal movement adds color to the life of the city. The people inhabiting this land are proud, robust and fiercely independent. They harbor no domination and the British who came here in the late nineteenth century learned to respect and honor their ways.