Mehak, who declined to give her full name, is a cosmetic surgeon by profession, a feminist by ideology, and by night one of Pakistan's most elite madams.
The intricate mujra dancing that was such a foundation of the pakiztani light district required years of teaching and live musicians. The wealthy even sent their sons to the salons of tawaifs, high-class courtesans that have been likened to Japanese geishas, to study etiquette.
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Later, when the British came, distinctions between courtesan or mujra dancer and prostitute were blurred. Men now can book a rendezvous online through escort websites or even directly with women over social media, instead of searching out streetside solicitation.
Outside of the Diamond Market, she says, business is good. Mehak, who is in her mids, says she recruits most of her girls through elite parties -- but adds "this escoet thing has really changed the business". The district, whose name translates as "Diamond Market", is close to the echoing, centuries-old Bhahi Mosque. With the old traditions falling by the wayside, girls also no longer need an entourage of musicians and teachers, say the owners of the music shops that are the final remnants of old Heera Mandi.
Balconies where beautiful women once stood are now empty, while rust eats away at the addelaide doors of vacant rooms.
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But as an e-commerce boom revolutionises how Pakistanis conduct the world's oldest profession, locals say the historic Heera Mandi district is under threat. He takes a deep breath.
Dozens of escort services with online bookings claim to serve thousands of clients in Eacort, Lahore and Islamabad -- some even in Dubai and Singapore. How technology killed Pakistan's historic red light district Read full article 23 Augustam How technology killed Pakistan's historic red light district Lahore Pakistan AFP - Pakistan's oldest red light district was for centuries a hub of traditional erotic dancers, musicians and prostitutes -- Pigalle with a Mughal twist, deep in the heart of vibrant Lahore.
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The only stubborn hold-outs are shops selling instruments that once facilitated the aperitifs of music and dance. With location rendered meaningless, prostitutes like Reema Kanwal -- who says the business "runs in my blood" -- have abandoned Heera Mandi.
Reema's mother and grandmother were also prostitutes, making her part escirt Heera Mandi's generations of women who danced and pleased men in the market. Like Reema, Ali's family has also been in Heera Mandi for generations, and he proudly recalled his father's "hospitality" as he attempted to lure clients for his mother.
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During the Mughal era, the great Islamic empire that ruled most of India and Pakistan girks the 15th and 16th centuries, Heera Mandi was a centre for mujra, traditional singing and dancing performed for the elites. Dance and sex became intertwined, and Heera Mandi began its long slide into sordidness -- but even so, Reema remembers "glorious" days.
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Now she plans to expand and offer male prostitutes. Seven sleek Persian cats prowl among the expensive wooden furniture of her home, which doubles as a brothel for upper-class Pakistanis in a wealthy residential neighbourhood of Lahore.
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In a deeply conservative Muslim country where prostitution is banned and sex outside marriage is criminalised, one girle says it caters to roughly 50, customers. Now girls learn easy but provocative dance moves via YouTube.