Expedition to Pakistan 2006
All travel reports are translated electronically although minor improvements are sometimes made.
Expedition to Pakistan 2006
My trip: Wagah-Lahore-Islamabad-Rawalpindi-Peshawar-Khyber Pass (my sensational experience on the way to Afghanistan) -Taxila-Lahore.
The Wagah Indian-Pakistani border
My journey through Pakistan started in a very funny way because I crossed the border in Weighth where the border is closed and the parade of soldiers takes place, which is the most theatrical and comic performance I have seen so far. Two stands were built – one on the Indian side and the other on the Pakistan side. The soldiers marched, lifting their legs to face height and lifting them up like ballerinas. They made very comical faces and sweated a lot.
There were moments when they accelerated very much, then slowed down, raised their legs again as high as possible and ran again. The audience was in cloud nine, the more so as the master of ceremonies on both sides controlled the reactions of the people. It was a guy dressed up as a Pakistani flag who leaned back, then roared and howled like an Indian and then shouted “Pakistan” and on the other hand someone shouted “Hindustan”. They made faces and raised their legs. The fun was great. Flags were waving everywhere and it was very loud, and at the closing of this border and the parade, foreign guests come – now even from Poland. the Pakistani flag was not below.
Finally, the last cries of “Pakistan” and “Hindustan” and it was the end of this funny ceremony, although for them it had a very serious character. Before the performance itself, one of the soldiers approached me and first ordered Monika to change, because in Pakistan women sit separately, and then said that as a guest in his country I am very welcome, that I am safe and that Pakistanis like foreigners very much. He also said that I had absolutely nothing to worry about as Pakistani citizens would take good care of me. I just hoped it was a good way.
After a few minutes, we started walking towards Pakistan where we were accompanied by goats and a strong smell of onions, because large amounts of it are imported from India here.
I consider this border ridiculous. (In my reports on other countries, I also wrote about difficult, relaxed and blood-chilling borders.)
Road to Lahore
We got on the bus and drove to Lahore, which is the cultural capital of Pakistan, which was only 30 km from the border. Of course, first, on the bus, Monika was asked to go through the iron gate with bars because it was a place for women, and then we started to go. While driving, people were interested in me, but also very nice. They asked standard questions; so what is my name and where am I from but also what do I think about America and is India crazy? Many people also invited me home for tea, for dinner, or for me to stay with them at all. Monika, on her side, discussed family issues with women. The women asked Monika how many children she had and were very surprised that she did not have. They also wanted to see my photo and invited us to their home too. I think we both had a nice time talking because the views outside the window were like a horror movie.
After getting off the bus, even at the same time as we started looking for the rickshaw, a Pakistani named Ahmed approached us, who helped us bargain and sent us safely to the hotel. He was very nice, he gave us his phone number and insisted very much that he wanted to show us the city and that he wanted to invite us over to his house for dinner so that we could meet his family. He said that foreign guests like him very much and he can show us references as he has entries, addresses and photos from people from all over Europe. It was strange, but I didn’t have time to think about it at the time. Everything happened very quickly and when the rickshaw driver was already leaving Ahmed once again asked us to visit him, and that he really had references from foreigners because people from Europe had already visited him.
The neighborhood of ‘dreams’
Considering that the hotels by the train station were very infamous due to police raids, drug bombings and weapons, we went to the city center where it was supposed to be nice and quiet. We arrived late in the evening, although the shops were still very busy and noisy. We drove to the Anarkali district which is a famous shopping district. It is the best place in Lahore to buy jewelry, shoes, fabrics or traditional attire for men, i.e. trousers with a long shirt below the knee.
We stayed in a hotel on New Anarkali Street where the room looked like a small prison cell with a mushroom on the walls but no bars. Fortunately, there was hot water, taken from the bucket of course. We settled down a bit, took a bath and, after a day of hard experiences, went to eat grilled chicken. Monica, of course, did not like the surroundings. The whole street greeted us and one seller gave us a delicious milk soup as a gift. He also warned me not to go to the city of Peshawar right near Afghanistan, as a tourist had recently been killed there. I’m used to the fact that wherever I go, they only scare me.
Lahore – first day of sightseeing and first impressions
(In this chapter: Fort Shahi Qila, Mosk Badshahi, Mosk Vazir Khana, Lahore Tower and conversation with priests about my burning in hell)
The next day we got up early in the morning to eat our first Pakistani breakfast and then start sightseeing. I have found that the food here is much better than in India. In Lahore you can always eat an egg with chapati and tea and chicken for dinner without any problems, while in India in many places only vegetables are prepared in many ways. Coming back to sightseeing, Lahore is the former center of the Mughal Empire and therefore is home to a wealth of relics from that period. Many of them are within the reach of the Old Town, which, as it turned out later, is a very good place to simply get lost in the crowd of buyers. Undoubtedly, the biggest attractions of Lahore are Shahi Qila, the famous fort and the Mosk Badshahi fort standing in front of it, one of the largest in the world.
That day I took a risk and called our friend Ahmed to tell him that we were going to see the fort and Mosk and that he would not bother because we would do it by ourselves. For him, however, it was no problem and he said that he would meet us there. After reaching the old town and the area between the fort and Moscow, we first talked to the guides who wanted to show us for a fee, but I refused because we were waiting for Ahmed. Moreover, in Pakistan, as in other countries of the Indian Subcontinent, there is a “white man price” which means that we must often pay up to 25 times more than the Pakistanis.
First, Ahmed started showing us around the great Shahi Qila Fort, which was built in the 16th century. This fort was built and demolished several times and is the main attraction of the Old Town. It is massive and tall, with the characteristic huge Alamgiri Gate in its western part. Inside there were many palaces, mosques and guest rooms and other buildings from several hundred years ago. Some of them were in good condition, but unfortunately most of them showed the burden of time. Our friend took pictures and told us about this place while we walked around the ruins and looked at the city panorama. In the fort, I saw that the girls were playing badminton and I wanted to see what would happen if I wanted to play with them. First of all, as I could guess, they were very flustered and sought approval from the men. When I started playing with one of them, after a very short time the racket was picked up by a man and the women were moved further away. It was a very good experience for me.
Moreover, while in the fort, we were approached by a group of young people to take a photo session for us (which happens very often here) and afterwards one of them stood in a very open position to me and asked: “look at us, do we look like terrorists? After all, we are normal people and your governments treat us as terrorists. ” Everyone was also very interested in how we like Pakistan and if we feel good in their country. Ahmed said what they say about them abroad is not true and I will still see how good it is here. I saw that these people really wanted us to perceive Pakistan and its people as a friendly country. At that time, I haven’t seen a single white man for a few days, so our presence was an experience for them. I said that so far everything is fine, but he insisted that I absolutely must come to him and find out about Pakistani hospitality. Ahmed also made sure that nobody came too close to us and that we felt at ease. He talked about the places we visited all the time and thanks to him we learned and saw a lot. Fort Shahi Qila was indeed worth spending a few hours here. It is a beautiful building and there are beautiful views of the most attractive part of the city.
Then we went to Mosku Badshahi standing in front of the main gate of the fort, which is one of the largest in Asia and one of the most beautiful. I looked very much like Jama Masjid from Delhi but this one was even bigger. This Moskva was completed in 1674, had four minarets and was built of red sandstone. It is said that it houses as many as 100,000 worshipers and, as in the case of Shahi Qila Fort, it was demolished and rebuilt by the British. This Moskva had a very large square and huge domes and, unlike the mosque from Delhi, here I could photograph as much as I wanted. As soon as we got in, people repeatedly wanted to take pictures with us and we were a big attraction for the crowd. Ahmed was also very proud to show us around, because just like in India there are social classes and having a white friend; (in my opinion and other travelers) is an upgrade of this class.
Wherever we have been so far, we have been a sensation, but here it is more noticeable because there are very few tourists in Pakistan. This is because the specter of terrorism still hangs over Pakistan and people are simply afraid to come here. While crossing the border, Monika met a Chinese woman who said that she only traveled around Pakistan with an armed guide and her own car. However, I think this is an exaggeration and I am not going to do it. Coming back to the mosque, it was really nice and the people I met often wanted to shake my hand, introduce myself and greet me. Many also welcomed me to Pakistan and wished me a pleasant journey. Both the building itself and the atmosphere of this place were unique. Here you could experience the great cultural difference of this country. Moving on, I went inside where the Muslims prayed in great silence. Of course, I had to take my shoes off and I asked Ahmed about the rest of the cultural differences. While in Moscow, Bashahi also saw the tomb of the famous poet from the 1930s – Alham Mohammed Iqbal, who was the first to promote free Pakistan.
Then we went under the Minare tower, which was visible from under the many pillars of the Bashahi mosque. Minare Tower stood in the middle of the city in Iqbal Park and served as a meeting and picnic spot and as a place for cricket. The tower itself was not only pretty but because of the fact that in 1947, before the division of the subcontinent, it was here that people assembled and manifested themselves for the creation of Pakistan. This tower is a memorial of this event. Minar-i-Pakistan is 60m high and the construction was completed in 1960.
Walking slowly, we walked towards the exit where quite often people looked at us and bowed. When we walked into the street we saw that Lahore was a very polluted and very busy town. It was not possible to go through the street normally, so we had to enforce the priority, although it always has a rickshaw. We only bought bananas and started moving towards the vehicles. There, one of the passers-by introduced us and blessed us, touching our heads in the name of Allah, so that we could arrive happily. This was another unusual event that I would always associate with this culturally different country. Ricks are also a bit different here than in India. Here the passenger seats are higher and sometimes there are back seats (instead of the trunk) so that we can observe the unpleasant and poisoned street smoke.
Conversation about burning in hell
This time our goal was another beautiful mosque, because Ahmed wanted to introduce priests who were to tell us some interesting things about Islam. Wazir Khan’s Moskva was a bit different than the previous one, but also had its own specific mood. There were many praying Muslims there, verses of the Koran were read from the loudspeakers and Ahmed led us to meet his priests. When we went inside after taking off our shoes, Ahmed asked them to talk to us on my behalf. The priests were very nice and open. First they greeted us and it was obvious that it was important to them that someone wanted to visit Pakistan and learn about their country. The priests told me about the customs in Pakistan as an Islamic country, but the most interesting were the questions themselves. I asked what happened (in their opinion) to people after death who were kind to others but were not Muslims or did not believe in god. They said that all those who have foreign gods before Allah will burn in hell whether they were good or not.
So I asked if John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta or the Dalai Lama would also burn in hell despite how they spent their lives. The priests said it still didn’t matter because they weren’t Muslims and they had false gods (other than Allah) – therefore no matter what kind of people they were, they would burn in hell anyway. They also explained to me that women in Islam must be covered and premarital relationships are unacceptable. They were very strong, decisive words, but the priests were very nice all the time. Finally, one of them put on a prayer shawl and we took a picture together. We shook hands, but Monika is not because she is a woman, and we started to leave the mosque, because the time of prayers was approaching again.
When we picked up our shoes, Monika felt bad, so we headed towards the Old Town again. It is not a place we imagine from Warsaw or Krakow. The old town here is old bazaars in old streets surrounded by mosques. Here we went in a great crowd looking for food and Monika felt worse and worse. When we finally found something and she did not like it, I hugged Monika for a moment and Ahmed seriously pointed out to me that we are in an Islamic country and such things cannot be done here. I also can’t talk to other women and look them in the eyes and Monika should have a scarf on her head for peace of mind, which will also cover the shape of her body. (But I think Lahore is the most liberal city anyway). So we went into a fabric store and I bought her a big scarf so that she looked like a self-respecting Muslim woman. From then on, Monika only walked this way and I had good advice from Ahmed in mind.
‘Insult of the Prophet by the Danes’
Walking around the Old Town, I remembered something that recently happened in Pakistan and that stopped tourism in this country. I told Ahmed that six months ago the Danish Embassy released a joking comic that allegedly offensively portrayed their greatest prophet, Prophet Mohamed. As a result, Pakistanis began to burn objects in the street, people died and were beaten, and cars and buses exploded into the air. Ahmed said it was true because even he got hit on the head and was afraid to leave the house. The blame for this lies with the simple, uneducated people, of whom there are a lot here and for whom Islam is everything. He said, however, that it was not nice to make fun of someone else’s religion. Then I tried to explain to him that it was not an insult but a cultural misunderstanding. The Danes just wanted to joke, but the people in Pakistan have not yet passed this stage of development and hence the conflict arose. At this point, I realized that although everything is fine and everyone is nice, all we have to do is say something wrong and we can all go flying. Although there was no sign of it, I began to feel unsure about this country. Coming back to the Danish comic, I think that not everything is okay in this country.
Evening came and we went to eat with Ahmed, then he put us in a rickshaw and we drove off to the hotel in Anarkali. We also made an appointment with him for the next day, which was very important to him because he wanted to host us at his home. After arriving at the hotel, we were very tired and went to sleep right away. It was a very hard day for us and full of new experiences. All the time I thought about talking to the priests, praying five times a day and outbursts six months ago. I felt that I wanted to come back to all these topics.
Sensation in the Shalimar Gardens
(In this chapter my public speech on prohibited topics.)
The next day we got up very hard. I wasn’t feeling well, but finally after 12 we got up, went to Pakistani breakfast and went to meet our friend in Shalimar gardens. When we arrived he was waiting for us. After paying the “white man’s price” we went inside and it was a place where we could rest. I saw a large green area with terraces, small palaces and fountains. It was a different world to the clutter, poverty and pollution on the streets of Lahore. After entering, many people took pictures of us and asked about our country and whether we like Pakistan. I noticed that Pakistanis are extremely friendly and are always looking for contact with me. Once even people who prayed stopped to talk to me and welcome me to Pakistan. All you need to do is be very open and nice in their relationship because they are very. I also met a group of young men and women in the gardens. They wanted to play football with me and Monika. The game itself did not work out, but the conversation I proposed towards the end interested everyone very much.
About 40 people gathered around me and everyone was listening. I asked only the women whether they would prefer to live in hiding according to the laws of Islam, or whether they would like to come to Europe and be free. Do they want to wear skirts and T-shirts and look for a husband themselves? Before they could breathe, however, the boys said no. So I told the men that I was not interested in their opinion and only wanted women to answer. More people came all the time and after a while it became a real crowd. Ahmed then advised me that it was time to go because I would not get an answer anyway and it is not appropriate for him to explain such things. The women were in the presence of men and mothers and had nothing to say. Besides, they were brought up in such a way that contact with them in that place was impossible and no one would let me be alone with them. On the advice of Ahmed, we left the crowd and those who had cameras took pictures of us from all sides. After that it was hard to get out so I decided it would be easier if we started posing for them for a while. It’s good that Ahmed was big and fat which made it easier for him to give us more space. After walking in the park, making a little sensation and talking to people, we finally went to visit Ahmed at home.
I recommend the Shalimar gardens themselves as a place to rest from the fumes and loud Lahore. In my case, however, the most interesting experience was with people.
Shalimar gardens I would recommend as a resting place from the smoke-covered and loud Lahore. In my case the most interesting was the experience with people.
A visit to the Pakistani family in Lahore
(About cultural differences and the whole truth about Islam, from the point of view of young Pakistani people.)
Before Ahmed invited us home, bought us fruit and invited us for a fruit salad, and didn’t let us pay for it. He was very upset when we wanted to do this and said it was offensive in his culture. We are his guests and if anyone heard about it, it would be foolish. I said that it is normal in European culture but he said that as long as I am in Pakistan I must respect the law of Islam and accept its hospitality. Before going to him, I had concerns because I heard stories about foreigners who were poisoned and robbed, but like other stories of this type, they are often exaggerated. Anyway, visiting a Pakistani home was an experience and if I was to take my trip seriously, I had to take the risk. This time I did not risk it myself because now my Monika dressed as a Muslim was with me – fully covered, only her face was on top. I saw that for her Pakistan was also a great experience, sometimes maybe even too big, but she traveled with me and she was brave, obediently respecting foreign laws. I remember that so far she had only raised her voice once. Back then, when they put her behind bars for women on a public bus.
Upon entering Ahmed’s house, everyone greeted us in turn. His brothers and sister, but then a lot of friends and neighbors came because Ahmed wanted to show us all. First, we went to the roof with a view of the neighborhood. We saw a lot of little mosques there and even more loudspeakers because five times a day prayers were very loud. Of course, everyone was very nice, although there were cultural differences that had to be overcome somehow. We were invited downstairs to the guest room where we sat down and began talking. Monika, however, was asked by the women to the kitchen and the men were talking separately.
The important thing here is that when I came to this country, I not only got to know their culture, but they also burned with curiosity to get to know mine. Monika talked with the women mainly about the house and the children, and they were so nice that they gave Monika a ring, painted her toenails and toenails, and gave her a few bracelets. Apparently, this is the custom in Islamic countries that the guest should be given something and looked after in this way. In the men’s room, we mainly talked about politics and the selection of marriages in Europe. We talked about our freedom and that women are free to dress as they please. At a special invitation, a priest from Mosku also came, who once again confirmed that we would burn in hell because we are not Muslims, but on the other hand, although he was nice, he had a closed body position.
In the presence of the priest, everyone was very serious and repeated how much Islam is good and important to them. However, as the priest left, everyone started to relax and talk to me in a much more open manner. When I told them that life in Europe is so customarily free and that we can talk freely with women, they only sighed and said that it is a pity that they do not have it because religion forbids them everything. It was evident that they enjoyed my presence and we all enjoyed each other’s company. They asked me to tell a joke we normally tell in Europe. I said that in my country we joke about everything, even religion and god. Still remembering what happened here six months ago after the comic book published by the Danish embassy, I told them an ugly erotic joke about god. But it was up to them to choose which god. I wasn’t sure about their reaction, but when I finished, everyone was laughing so hard they were rolling on the floor. It was evident that they were normal people but imprisoned by their beloved Islam.
Ahmed then asked me if I could send him an invitation to come to Poland or England. He said he was fed up with these rules and restrictions. He knows a lot of people who want to leave for this very reason, but no one admits to it. He repeatedly said that he really cares about it and that if he comes to Europe, he will work honestly, live in a European style and stay there forever. Several people sitting next to him said he wants the same and they are fed up too, but there is nothing they can do about it. He said that he would arrange the money here, go to study or work there, but even with an invitation, going there would be very difficult for him. He asked me to write one letter to him and the other to the Polish or British embassy, and just to confirm it and he would do it and arrange his life. I’ve been to many poor countries and wherever I go, they want confirmation letters from me because so many people want to get out. Ahmed has been to America before, where he has an uncle, but now, after the outbreaks in New York, even his uncle cannot help him and Europe is his only chance.
After a while, we were all invited to dinner. Ahmed’s sister served chicken with rice and it was the best food we had eaten in a long time. Monika sat next to me as my wife and we all ate, talked and had a great time. Despite the cultural differences, we were able to communicate without any problem. This proves that there is nothing wrong with Pakistanis, they are very nice and sociable but very limited by the law of Islam. Of course, some people always want something, but it’s the same in our country. After dinner, they showed me a Pakistani dance where, of course, men and women dance separately and then we wanted us to show them how to dance with us. They were taken to the sky when they saw me dancing with Monika because they don’t have it. They do not have any contact with women before marriage and that is why there are so many homosexual relationships in Pakistan, although no one admits to it. Their holy Islam is doing them great harm, and although they publicly tout it, when they begin to open up, many want to live as we do. Then together, men and women, we sat down together and talked.
Each time they repeated that they are having a great time with us and that they want to see us again when we complete our trip around Pakistan and return to Lahore. After dinner they took us for peanuts and felt very offended when we wanted to pay. Ahmed’s sister also took us for a while to their neighbors where I had the opportunity to talk to a teacher. He introduced us to his family and then we talked about various topics and it was nice too. He was educated and he also educated his daughter in several faculties. However, he had very conservative Islamic views and said that his daughter would be able to ask her mother if she could marry a specific bachelor but that the parents would decide. I also asked how it would be with love if she would be forced to marry someone who would be indicated to her. He said that this was their culture and that they stick to it, and that love begins where marriage begins. He had an Islamic answer to every question, but he was still very nice.
Before leaving, he said he wished we could stay anymore and therefore gave us a plate of chicken for the road. They said goodbye to us very kindly, he shook my hand and embraced me and then we returned to Ahmed’s house. There, one boy asked me if I was not angry that he had talked to Monika and the others said that we had nice, bright eyes. Ahmed also showed me his credentials and emails from recently met Dutch and other foreigners. You see, it was supposed to be a proof that it will not poison us. He also showed me pictures of couples at engagement parties, and each time the women looked like they were going to a funeral, not an engagement party.
When it was already late, they still insisted that we stay and that is why Ahmed urged us to spend the night with him in a special room for guests. I remember that Ahmed’s sister asked Monika not to forget about her and that she also wanted to leave, although she had denied it earlier. However, when we wanted to return to the hotel, Ahmed drove us a long way to our hotel on his moped and wished us good luck with the trip. He warned us not to go to anyone anymore and take food from anyone and, of course, to speak to him. It was a magical evening during which I found out how the average Pakistani family lives, what their customs and how hospitable people can be.
Undoubtedly, visiting them at home and getting to know their neighbors was a huge experience for us. My only answer was to one question. I asked if they had the choice, they would fight for “sex and rock and roll” or for Islam. Everyone said they were Islamic. I think it will be better if we stay at home because Islamists are already in Europe too.
Monika as an example of the Islamic fashion
This evening (after a warm welcome with the manager of the hotel) we could not fall asleep immediately as our first days in Pakistan turned out to be very pleasant surprise. On the street where we stayed, both the outsider and the foodie and then the hotel manager – I told them that Monika was beautiful because she was wearing a bald head on her head and looked like a real Muslim woman. Her previous appearance no one commented.
The next day we were planning to go to the capital of this charming country, ie, Islamabad and continue to visit Lahore I had planned before leaving Pakistan.
Road to Islamabad
(In this chapter on re-burning in hell because of religion other than Islam, Kashmir and Indian films)
Driving to our new destination, I saw that the Pakistani roads and the new main highway are incomparably better than those in India because we were driving normally. It did not throw us up as it was in India or Nepal.
All the time we watched very naive Indian movies that Pakistanis were staring at. Let me remind you that it is an Islamic country, i.e. a country of prohibitions. In Indian films, although the plot does not make any sense, there are shown pretty, scantily (according to Islam) girls dressed. All the time you can see dancing women and couples who are together and holding hands. Of course, it is forbidden in Pakistan, so Monika was wearing a headscarf the whole time. I also noticed that the Indian films that have taken over the Pakistani film market are very untrue. All the time, scantily dressed women, beautiful and rich interiors and luxurious cars are shown, which in no way resembles poor India.
However, the average Pakistani believes that it is really so, because that is how everything is presented. The strangest thing, however, is that in Indian films, Hindus are very bleached. All the actors are almost as white as me which again is not true. On the other hand, Pakistanis with white skin and green eyes are very rare. My guess is that these people are from the far north and have ancestors from Russia or are descendants of Alexander the Great.
While driving, I met two Pakistanis and of course got into a conversation. They were very nice all the time, but to my question about religion, they replied that according to Islam, I would burn in hell and they started laughing. During the stop we went for a meal together and they wouldn’t let me pay. This time Monika managed to sit with us, not in a separate compartment for women. We also raised the issue of Kashmir, to which they replied that Pakistan proposed a referendum so that the people of Kashmir would decide for themselves which country they want to belong to. He said that India would never agree to it because there is a large majority of Muslims in Kashmir and therefore he would be quickly attached to Pakistan.
On the other hand, he did not mention why there are more Muslims in Kashmir. Well, because most Indians have been driven out or killed. The same man also helped us find transport to get by local bus to Rawalpindi and apologized if I misunderstood the Quranic translation about my “burning in hell”. I am amazed at all times by the good humor, hospitality and openness of Pakistanis. This makes my trip around this country even more interesting.
Islamabad and Rawalpindi
(Briefly about the twin capital of Pakistan, Shah Faisal mosque, Pakistani homosexuality and a few other things.)
The country’s capital, Islamabad, consists of two parts: Islamabad and Rawalpindi. They are twin cities separated by only 10km. Rawalpindi was the capital of Pakistan for a short time.
When we got to the hotel, we took the cheapest room without hot water, but at Monika’s request we were provided with a whole bucket of boiling water. As always in Pakistan, everyone was nice, the food was good and we always had Indian movies on our breakfast. We met a Pole there who said he was in the north of Pakistan and everyone is so nice there that you can go without money. Everyone wanted to feed and water him and invited him home for the night. Unfortunately, there were also men who offered him sex and were surprised when he refused. After reflection, I am not surprised by Pakistanis because religion forbids them any contact with women until marriage and when they see a nice white man, they offer sex. I noticed that from time to time they send me kisses from a distance but they do not offer anything because they can see that I am with a woman. They only ask hopefully if she is my sister. I am reminded of that moment when I was in Indonesia-Sumatra and had this kind of proposal over the phone.
There are several interesting places in Rawalpindi, such as the war museum or the national park, but I think that the showcase of this city is the great Fowara Chowk bazaar and the highway leading to Islamabad. We spent some time there watching local traders and the streets crammed with all kinds of goods. My attention was drawn to the place where landscapes were painted on trucks, which is a tradition in this country. We spent most of our time in Saddar and Murree Road, where most budget hotels are located, and that’s why we stayed there. Fortunately, I got to know the Pakistani sense of humor even more here. When I went to dinner on the first night, the chef invited his friend and told me his name was Osama and he was from Afghanistan. Indeed, both the boss and Osama himself looked like Bin Laden. Osama smiled and Monika took a picture which was quite funny. Monica only did not like the class of the place but I can not pay much attention to it anymore.
The next day we went to the capital itself, which is Islamabad. At first glance, the city was not delightful, especially since there were so many monuments in Lahore. One of the few things worth seeing here is the great and very modern Shah Faisal Mosque, which was built in the 1980s and was a gift to Pakistan from the ruler of Saudi Arabia. The building, which cost as much as $ 50 million, was impressive and huge, but so new that you could not feel the atmosphere that you always feel in mosques from the 16th century, such as the one in Lahore or in Delhi. This Mosk is located at the foot of the Margalla hills, which makes it pleasant to spend time lying on the grass and looking at the mountains. The Shah Faisal Mosque was a nice experience for me and made a great impression on us, the more that it is all built of white marble and is the most colossal building in all of Islamabad.
We spent the rest of the day in the park where the children played cricket and we could rest. We also had delicious kebabs and overall it was very nice eating and people watching and the surroundings so different for us. In Islamabad I could do a little more because there is also a zoo, other parks and mountain paths with beautiful views and also a salt mine outside the city. However, after a few months of traveling with Monika, I realized that taking women to certain places is not good because they start to whine and become only a burden. Fortunately, I am planning a trip along the Karakoram route from Kashgar, through Pakistan to Iran. So I hope that someday I will have the opportunity to make up for it and I will send Monika home soon anyway.
I rate Islamabad and Rawalpindi very well. They are interesting cities and at the same time beautifully situated. However, from the point of view of old architecture, Lahore is definitely better.
Peshawar and the trip through Khyber Pass
This is the exact part of my Pakistan trip, in which I describe the city of Peshawar and the trip through Khyber Pass. It’s worth reading this special article.
(Unique city of Peshawar 3 km from Afghanistan, Afghan refugee camp, smugglers’ bazaar, truck painting factory, modern slavery.)
The next morning (on Christmas Eve) we went to the historic city of Taxila. What would be worth recommending there are the ruins left by Buddhists and ancient Greeks, even from the 3rd century BC. Here it was in 326 B.C.E. Alexander the Great stopped on his way to the subcontinent. There are archaeological excavations here from that period and beyond, and I think anyone interested in early Buddhist and Greek art should stop by here. Taxila is also the beginning / end of the Karakoram route, which leads all the way to Kashgar in the north-west part of China.
The bus left us at night in the middle of a busy street and from there we took a rickshaw to the hotel. The hotel looked abandoned and we found someone only when we were there the second time because the lights went out in the whole area and you could see absolutely nothing. That same evening I invited Monika to a nice restaurant and it was our Christmas Eve. It was very nice, but it is difficult to talk about the festive mood here. We were just glad to be in this nice place together and we talked mainly about the family and our trip. There was no Christmas carp so we ate chicken. The food was very good and the waiter poured green tea for us and chapati bread from time to time. I think we were happy together in these difficult conditions. After dinner, we returned to our hotel and went to sleep quickly as the light was still gone. It was our Christmas Eve this year.
The next day we hired a rickshaw driver and we started exploring the ruins, but I was not delighted. Especially after I saw Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I think that no ruins can impress me anymore. After Taxila, I expected something more because, unfortunately, the most interesting objects did not survive the test of time. The facilities were in close proximity to each other and were the remains of Greek temples, entire towns, shops and houses. I think that the whole thing is better shown in the museum, which is also a starting point for exploring the ruins. Despite everything, we had a nice time, we saw something new and our private rickshaw driver took us everywhere.
We also stopped at the Orange Field and one of the primitive but lovely open air bars to drink green tea and eat warm naan bread. One of the few objects that I remembered were the ruins of the temple on the hill and we had to climb quite high, winding stairs to get there. At the top was the best-preserved house from that period, with several rooms and chapels. The view was nice from here and the object was very interesting, but unfortunately here we met a poor man who was begging for money. Only that he “collected” euro coins and pounds, which he then probably exchanged for rupees.
The people I met were very interesting to me and they represented the tragedy of this country very well. They sold souvenirs and flowers for a few rupees and gave the impression that their lives depended on it. I will remember Taxila as an interesting place because of experiences with people where ruins are a beautiful setting for the city. I also spent my Christmas Eve here, which was very unusual for me.
Sightseeing took us a few hours and then, driving through the dirty, chaotic town of Taxila, we jumped on a bus going to Lahore. The ride was so good that we were driving on a good highway but it took much longer than we thought.
Back to Lahore
(Pakistani hospitality, museum, zoo, night at Ahmed, halal)
In Lahore we stayed in the same hotel as before, where we came across a crap that we already know. On the same day we went to dinner where we once again experienced Pakistani hospitality. Many people wanted to welcome us to Pakistan again, especially one grandfather who was looking for contact with us and invited us for tea. He was very poor, he had no teeth and was suffering from rheumatism, but he invited us anyway. I said I could pay but he wouldn’t. I saw him pull out money and ask the tea maker not to pay the full rate. He wanted our photos and he wanted to see us again, but we didn’t have time. It was another tragic experience that stuck in my memory. We went back to our smelly room and went to sleep. On the second day of Christmas, I wanted to do something that would please me.
First, I called our friend Ahmed but he was not there so we went to the Lahore Museum ourselves and then to the zoo. The Lahore Museum is located in a red colonial building and is very rich in monuments. Not only Pakistani, but also from all over the subcontinent and from Tibet. There were lots of carvings and handmade carpets from many cultures and religious doctrines. As always, we also had to pay 10 times more than the Pakistanis. In the museum, people wanted to talk to me very much, but I devoted most of my time to a group of students who talked to me about political issues and what I think about Pakistan. At the end, one of them said that if everyone in Europe and America were like me, my country would be beautiful and people would live in peace. Wherever I have gone so far, I have always encountered someone who talked to me this way, and everyone always listens to me and craves information from the outside.
After the museum, we went to the zoo, but our entry there was more difficult than I thought. The problem was that tourists had to pay as much as 300 rupees per person, while Pakistanis only had 10 rupees. I got very angry and made a big scandal before entering until a lot of people gathered. I said there are around 50,000 immigrants from the subcontinent in my country and we treat them as much as we treat ourselves. We have no prices for foreigners and for Poles. The guards were adamant, but so was I. After some time, people in front of the zoo wanted to pay for me, but I refused. I insisted on buying a ticket at the normal price and in the end the guards couldn’t stand me anymore and took me to the zoo director. There I told them what the problem was and as a result they both let us in for free. I wanted to pay but nobody wanted to talk to me anymore. Everyone was happy that I had finished making the scandal because more and more people were gathering. Monika had the best, as usual, because during my row, the guards gave her a chair so that she could sit down and wait.
When we got in, they just said: “Madame, you can come in without a ticket.” This way I saved us a lot of money again. The zoo in Lahore itself is the oldest in the subcontinent and has many species of animals (including beautiful white tigers), although that day, unfortunately, I could not see my beloved reptiles because it was under renovation. In the zoo, it turned out that the animals were not as interesting to humans as we were. Everyone accosted us and asked questions. They lined us up for photos and handed us their children and then took photos. There were also those who took pictures of us from hiding and then asked for more. We were, without a doubt, the most important animal species in the zoo that day. It was very nice (as always at the zoo) and we spent many hours there to relax and make good use of our free and hard-earned entrance. Especially here, posing for photos and getting to know was endless, so we felt very tired of people.
Upon reaching the hotel, we got a message from Ahmed to contact him. As a result, he came to pick us up and we spent the night there. It was very nice again, but the first time was better. This time I bought a cake for them and on the way back I bought him some gas because he drove us back on his moped. We wanted to go back to the hotel the same night but Ahmed said it was dangerous after dark because there are a lot of armed robberies, which are easy to find in Pakistan. I noticed that all these people were very naive. They all wanted to go to Europe and none of them had a clue about life. Ahmed’s sister had no idea about the world because she only cooked and cleaned all her life, although at home it was a big mess. Nevertheless, she was also going to England because she had heard that it was a “beautiful country” and nothing else. When she was alone with Monika, she cried and said to her: “You, don’t forget about me, send the letter”. But when he entered Ahmed’s room, she stopped crying immediately.
I think it would be better for them to stay in Pakistan. There were also two goats in Ahmed’s house because the Islamic holiday was approaching. On the first day of the new year, many animals are sacrificed to Allah. It seems that many goats, cows, sheep and camels have their throats slit. Then the skins are sold to the tailor and the meat is distributed to the family, neighbors and the poor. It is “halal” or sacred slaughter meat. On this day, of course, women have additional responsibilities. Sometimes people buy animals that they cannot afford by borrowing. The same is also with weddings where people sometimes sell their kidneys to pay for everything.
Lahore was the start and end of my Pakistani journey. There is a lot to see here and I heartily recommend it to every traveler, especially since each trip is full of different adventures. Even if someone is not going to Pakistan and happens to be in Amritsar (Indian Punjab state), I advise you to go to Lahore for a few days. It will definitely be a groundbreaking experience.
On the way back to India
On the way to the Indian border, I saw many herds of animals for “sacrifice”. The men fed them, brushed them, trimmed their hair, and one even washed the cow’s teeth. All this so that they are sold as best as possible. It was only 30 km from Lahore to the border, but we covered this distance in about two hours due to traffic jams. It was an interesting ride but far too long and too heavy. We rode a terrible junk on the beaten ground, watching Pakistani poverty and the sheep, rams and camels whose days were numbered. While still on the Pakistani side, we ate lunch in a roadside barrack and then went towards India.
This time, the Pakistani customs services searched our luggage very carefully because it is known that the most weapons and drugs are smuggled out of Pakistan. They didn’t find anything because we had nothing. I put my big backpack on my back and with my beloved woman we went to India. On the way, we saw the previously described transport of onions. It was another sad sight because even old people carried huge bags on their heads. After a few formalities and many questions from the immigration services, we returned to great India.
My trip to Pakistan ended. After a country where there are plenty of nice and hospitable people and where I almost always feel safe. I strongly disagree with Islam and with eternal bans, though their culture is, and by the ordinary Danish comic, the Pakistani people have shown what they can do. The Western governments are a bit overstated in this country’s judgment, although on the other hand I can not call it stable. By the work of children in weapons factories and outlawed areas. However, I think that all internal problems do not have a great influence on us, and for tourists it is a very attractive, hospitable and worthwhile country, as evidenced during my journey.
However, before leaving, I would advise you to familiarize yourself with the current situation in Pakistan as security may change from day to day. I was lucky because I came across a quiet period and that is why in my case everything went well. At times, I had the impression that Pakistan was a clock bomb, and that around me I had millions of fighters for Islam. Whether I am right time will show.
Smoking harms your health
Finally, a story from Pakistan that basically connects all countries. Regardless of whether I was in Mongolia or China or in another country, I always reminded people not to smoke with me and each time they politely went out and apologized. But once, when I was in Pakistan and I was on a bus with Afghan refugees, I asked several bearded Afghans not to smoke and finally one of them got a little nervous and said to me: “Hey watch out, me and my buddies were terrorists in Afghanistan and this guy who is sitting next to the driver is my brother and he blew up the most buses. Then he shouted: Hey Osama, we haven’t blew anything up for a long time ?!
However, I decided to keep a cool head. I approached the “terrorists” and asked them once again to put out their cigarettes, although their appearance affected the imagination. After a while, they started to laugh and when we got there, they bargained me a good price for the rickshaw, which took me and the terrified Monika to our hotel overgrown with dirt. Afghan sense of humor – great!
- Afghans in Pakistan
- Brick factory Afghan refugee camp
- green tea in Pakistan
- Khyber Pass smugglers' bazaar
- Khyber Pass to Afghanistan
- Lahore Pakistan's cultural capital
- Lahore zoo
- Pakistan good food
- Pakistan's comical Wagah border
- Pakistani adventure
- radical Islam in Pakistan
- terrorism in Pakistan
- truck painting in Pakistan
- weapons factory in Pakistan