At this point in time, there’s plenty of news coming out about the fractured relationship between India and Pakistan. No surprises there. As someone born in the 80s, I have rarely seen a day pass without some tidbit about the rivalry featuring in the news. But what’s not getting enough representation in media is the people, the lives, the sights and smells of a culture that exists on the other side of the border, one which is as lively and peace-loving as the ones we see in many parts of India.
With brilliant landmarks and awe-inspiring natural beauty, not to mention the warm-hearted hospitality of its people, Pakistan is a country which beckons the traveller. And for an Indian, the journey is not just another in the itinerary of travel but one which s/he takes to go beyond an imagery created by the media. Here are reasons that make the trip well worth it.
1. The grandeur of Shah Faisal Mosque- Asia’s largest mosque with sloping roofs
Situated in Islamabad, the Shah Faisal Mosque has the picturesque Margalla Hills for a backdrop. The mosque which is perched on an elevated piece of land can be seen from miles away-owing to its significance as a major landmark in Pakistan, that’s fitting. Unlike most mosques you come across, the Faisal Mosque designed by Turkish architect VedatDalokay is modern in appearance with sloping roofs- a cut away from the domes that are common with other mosques. That the design was chosen from among entries made by architects in an international competition is an indicator of the elegance in store. The amply spacious mosque can accommodate up to 1 Lakh worshippers.
2. The lip-smacking Pakistani cuisine
Pakistan’s cuisine is a melange of multiple regional cooking traditions. With a definite resemblance to North Indian cuisine, Pakistani cuisine is also inspired by the culinary traditions of Central Asia and the Middle-East. Meat-oriented dishes are among the best to be savoured , with the fusion Mughlai cuisine deserving a special mention.
3. The fun of shopping at Anarkali and Liberty Markets
Lahore is the capital city of Pakistan-the kind of information that might excite the politically conscious but there’s another thing about Lahore which would spend a shiver of thrill down the spine of any self-respecting shopping aficionado- the Anarkali and Liberty Markets. From exclusive branded retail shops to small street-side outlets that sell everything from clothing and jewellery to handicrafts and arts as well as electronic gadgets and food, these are the kind of places easy to get into but hard to pry yourself away from.
4. The mountains, the mountains and the mountains.
Granted that the parts of India falling under the shade of the Himalayas have mountains aplenty which will leave your breathless-and not just with the exertion of climbing. But that’s not to take away the grandeur of Pakistan’s mountains and the valleys-stretching all the way from the Great TrangoTwoer to the Karakoram Range, towering presences standing like mammoth sentries on your way to a trip like none other.
5. Experience polo at the “roof of the world”
Watching a traditional polo match is an experience in itself- a show of dexterity by both humans and mighty horses. But the thrill is heightened-literally when a match takes place on Shandur Top- a flat plateau which is called the “roof of the world.” One of those experiences which only Pakistan can give you.
<h3>6. Be enthralled by the best of qawwalis</h3>
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan didn’t limit himself to qawwalis, but what the maestro did with the genre is only the beginning of the good news for music lovers. For the list of Pakistani qawwali singers who keep the rhythmic tradition alive is as long as the songs they play are mesmerizing. In Pakistan, the dark of the night may be speckled not just with the burning lights but also with luminous ragas that issue from some of the most blessed vocal chords in the planet. The doyen of Pakistani music-Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, must surely be smiling from up above.
<h3>7. To see your country from the other side of the border</h3>
The protracted display of military prowess that takes place on the Wagah border like a ritual is something we are all familiar with-thanks to the television. But, what’s it like to be there, witnessing the proceedings in the flesh, that too from the other side of the fence? That’s a question to find the answer for which you have to cross the border- and the unique experience is something that’s hard to forget.
8. To see with your eyes what you have only read about-Mohenjedaro
The excavated ruins of Mohenjedaro in Sindh, Pakistan is the closest you can get to a time-travel experience that lets you witness the roots of our civilization. The cradle of the Indus Valley civilization, Mohenjedaro was the site for one of the earliest urban settlement in the world. Built around 2500 BCE, Mohenjedaro is deemed contemporaneous with such mighty civilizations as the ones of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norte_Chico_civilization” target=”_blank”>Norte Chico</a> and Crete. Surely, a glimpse into an erstwhile splendour if ever there’s one.
<h3>9. To realise that peace is a shared ideal</h3>
We have seen images of wars. Of innocent lives lost and terrorists wreaking havoc. And there are the cricket matches underlined by the dynamics of rivalry. But when you go out and meet the people on the other side, and experience the hospitality they extend and the simple wishes and desires they harbour in their breasts , you realise that over and above all else -we aren’t Pakistanis or Indians but humans- sentient beings who enjoy peace of mind.
As far as travelling goes, a trip to Pakistan is something that rarely appears in the plan for Indians. But with so many unique experiences in the waiting, it’s high time for a rethink. We look forward to hearing about your experiences there.