Islamabad, Pakistan: A Hidden Treasure

I went to Pakistan in March, 2005. I was advised that Pakistan would be,“an eye opening experience” and that advice proved to be correct. I was met in Islamabad airport by my lovely Pakistani friend. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have him around. I think Pakistan is a hidden treasure which most people didn’t think about when making their holiday plans abroad.

Local people there are very hospitable and curious. At first the city environment gave me an unsettling feeling and I stayed very close to my friend, but later I climatised myself with the new surroundings. My friend had to hold my hand whenever we crossed the road as the local driving style there is culturally challenging for me. 
I really loved the food and miss "kulcha", a kind of local "naan" bread, the wonderful sweets and milk tea! I want to taste some again now!- Rawalpindi, which is Pakistan’s fourth largest city, is a fun colourful city and I got good vibes from it. Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, a bit like the Washington D.C of Pakistan; from my impressions ,has more a sterile psudo Western feeling where people drive in a linear fashion, smiled less and were more formal. I stayed at my friend’s family house in a nearby village called Taxila (some interesting ruins there) which is near Rawalpindi. My friend’s mother and him were gracious hosts. I love the Punjabi countryside and the small villages around that area.

A bus ride to Lahore, another very big Pakistani city after Karachi in the south, opened my eyes more - I suppose if one looked up the word Lahore in the dictionary, other than (according to Wikipedia, “a rich history dating back over a millennium, Lahore is a main cultural center of Punjab and Pakistan. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Lahore remains an economic, political, transportation, entertainment, and educational hub.” Lahore’s population is over 10 million and full of life! That city is alive and every corner has some kind of vibrant activity happening - There are many small areas which I would really like to wander through.

We went to a huge, lively open air Sufi mosque which is a major landmark in Lahore and sampled all kinds of interesting food people were handing out for free- we even contemplated sleeping there as many others were camped out, sleeping on the floor.

My friend and I together took a rickshaw in the evening and it seemed like a ride in a bumper car game in an amusement fair! We had so many near misses with other cars, animals, people and the dizzy swerving and maneuvering of the rickshaw made me laugh and an almost hairline collision with another rickshaw in front of mine had me literally screaming out loud! We met a nice and very handsome Pakistani lad looking and smiling at us from another rickshaw making a near miss from our rickshaw. .He waved and winked at us and we smiled back and ended up at the same destination as his.  After my friend and him talked for a while he told us that he had a friend who ran a preschool and that we were all welcome to stay the night there with him.We took him up on his generous offer- and ended up talking until the wee hours of the morning.

A bus ride to Peshawar the next day was planned where I would go alone!  Peshawar is a border city near Afghanistan, and has a real frontier feel to the place. The feeling there has a different energy than the other areas of Pakistan, more subdued and a bit on the mysterious side. The Pathan people, a Pashtu speaking people were in the area which is in the infamous Khyber Pass region. The Pathan always fascinated me as a strong, handsome people as I lived with them and made many friendships whilst living in the Arab Gulf.

On the infamous highway to Peshawar, I passed the madrasa where the Taliban were educated and started their movement. I wandered the small winding back alleys and saw a shop where young boys were weaving and we smiled at each other, and other shops full of intrigue. I had an encounter with an Afghani businessman who invited me to a chat, with some other randy young flirtatious guys who all shared a Pepsi with me, sitting at a place in a back alley! I will definitely visit Pakistan again and it’s beautiful guys. Hopefully soon!


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