Archive for January, 2007
After more than two months in Pakistan I added another three weeks together with my girlfriend Sarah to show her the country and ‘revisit’ Pakistan sort of. Sarah had a flight to Karachi on Christmas Day so I took the 15+ hour train ride from Lahore to Karachi on the Christmas Eve to welcome her at the airport. We haven’t seen each other since Uzbekistan after all! That was Christmas for me this year – although there are many churches in Lahore where I could have attended the festivities, I didn’t really had the urge to go. But actually I did attend a celebration a few days before at the Swiss Model School in Lahore where Bathia is working. The birthday of Muhammed Ali Jinnah on the same day is of greater importance here in general, though.
From Karachi we took a flight to Lahore the same day as the Sindh province in general is not so nice to travel (you are always urged to take an armed guard with you) and I know Lahore best of the cities in Pakistan. The PIA operated flight was late (due to a so called technical problem – they had to replace the co-pilot’s seat – but otherwise pleasant. Sarah had a good sleep and I had a good talk with my seat neighbour about Swiss chocolate.
We spent some days in hustling and bustling Lahore visiting the old city and Badshai Majid. I like the liveliness of this city and it’s nice to eat at the Gawal Mandi or Anarkali Food Street (although a bit cold especially as this year winter is unusually harsh here) and have a good mango ice cream at Cheeman near Regale Chowk afterwards .
We then drove with my good friend Zeeshan’s Suzuki (whom I met in Lahore) and his brother all the way to south to Multan in southern Punjab and from there the next day to his home village near the small town of Dera Ghazi Khan to attend Eid ul-Adha (the festival marking the culmination of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham – this year on 1st January in Pakistan) and drive to Fort Munro to have a glance at Balochistan. It was a very interesting experience to visit a family with a very conservative interpretation of the rules and obligations of Islam. Sarah and me had a mostly different ‘programme’: While I visited the small town and its rural surrounding, Sarah usually stayed at home talking with the women of the household (hopefully she will also blog some interesting tidbits about as she is the better storyteller than I am), which is a non trivial task due to the lack of proper education (and English language in particular) for the women. Me, I was not supposed to enter the general part of the house as the women do not wear their veil at home.
We did not celebrate new year but I attended the Eid prayer, which first half was a political speech against the actions of the US in Afghanistan (many men in this area have been fighting in the war in Afghanistan) and the actual prayer itself. Afterwards at home a cow was slaughtered. Equally one third of the meat goes to the poor people, the neighbours and the family themselves.
Back in Lahore we took a bus to the planned city of Islamabad (maybe Corbusier-like?) with its gigantic mosque and from there the next morning a flight to Gilgit in the Northern Areas. We booked a PIA flight the evening before and were surprised the bus bringing the passengers from the terminal to the airplane stopped in front of a C-130 Hercules military aircraft instead . I later learnt that it was decided the Pakistan Air Force should operate the flights to the Northern Areas because there were “too many incidents” with the Fokker airplanes operated by PIA before. Anyway, the flight was spectacular (if only we could have seen better outside, too small the windows ) and we landed savely in Gilgit. The Northern Areas – especially Hunza – are the most spectacular parts of Pakistan to visit although cold in winter. Have a look at the many photos I have taken back in November to get an impression. We stayed again in the guesthouse of my friend Qayum (if you visit the place go to his shop called Xama Stores near Park Hotel on Airport Road in Gilgit and he will be more than happy to help you – speaks Spanish, too!) and took a ride to Karimabad with the same Jeep of him we visited Kashmir together in late November.
We took the long 15 hour bus journey back to Rawalpindi/Islamabad on the 10th of January and I will move to India at last this week to meet Zubi somewhere south of Mumbai.