We all claim to ‘know’ Pakistan, and pride ourselves on all things ‘Pakistani’. But how many of these people, places, and things can you claim familiarity with? This August 14, immerse yourself in our culture and geography: Decide what you want to eat, where you want to visit, who you need to know. Our list is by no means definitive, but it can provide an intriguing insight into some of the gems of Pakistan.
Home to the nature-loving tribe of the Kalash people, this valley becomes a tourist spot for Pakistanis and foreigners who wish to experience Joshio Chilmjusht, which celebrates the arrival of spring.
Located in the Chitral mountains this is a series of man-made caves devoted to the preservation of pages from the Quran. With majestic electric lighting, verses and various translations on display, this tranquil cave has for the past 10 years functioned as an anachronistic throwback to Cave Hira — and is a must-see marvel for tourists in Quetta City.
Qissa Khawani Bazaar
A bazaar famed for being a ‘market of storytellers’ is intriguing at the outset. Perhaps the name comes from the proliferation of publishing houses here or perhaps conversation with the locals is needed in order to hear narratives of explanations. Selling sweets, silver, and the local faluda, it is one of the most popular markets in Peshawar.
Jinnah Super Market
This busy, sprawling market in Islamabad is a commercial and shopping hub. Visitors are attracted by the variety of local and international products, as well as the mouth-watering thoughts of curly fries and swirly ice cream cones!
Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Poet, political figure, academic: Urdu’s ultimate poet is inspiring and his work, which has been translated into English, Russian, and Balochi confirms global appeal. Start to experience/re-experience his shairs, with Nuskha Haa-e-Wafa which conveniently compiles the major works.
“Shaadi agreed? Ladoo khao. Exams passed? Gulab jamun mangwao. Chand raat? Chamcham lao. Anything to celebrate? Sony Sweets ya Nirala ko bolao.” The delight in sweetmeats is an inherent part of our culture, with the wide variety of sugary, milky desserts creating a natural excuse to celebrate each occasion with a different type.
Bagh E Jinnah
This historical park houses botanical gardens, walking trails, a mosque, and a library. It widens its fan-base by allowing access to sports (tennis courts and Gymkhana Cricket Ground), and entertainment (an open-air theatre and restaurant).
Khewra Salt Mines
Deep pools of salty water, echoing red and white tunnels, a mosque made of salt bricks — the Salt Mines transport you into another world of glimmering lights, salty walls, textured surfaces, and haunting natural beauty.
Introduced in 1950, both name and the bright green colour signify the allegiance of this fizzy beverage. Pakistani’s abroad crave Pakola and delight to find it hidden away in little shops.
Shandur polo ground
The meeting point of Hindukush, Pamir and Karakoram ranges, Shandur is often called “the top of the world”. Located at a height of 3,734 metres the flat plateau at the top is the highest polo ground in the world and is home to the famous annual Shandur Polo Festival. Mountains, lakes, waterfalls and glaciers add to the majestic beauty of the surroundings.
Malika-e-Tarannum is popularly accepted as an iconic singer of our country — and her career also boasts impressive acting roles. The singer holds an extraordinary collection of around 10,000 songs.
Murree Cable Cars and Ski Lifts
The chair-lift, which runs from New Murree to Patriata, proves a spectacular experience as you gaze over the lush hills of Muree on one side, and the tempting, controversial, snow-covered peaks of Kashmir on the other. A thrilling way to view Pakistan and an essential experience for all!
These delicate, handmade shoes owe their unique shape and style to the Mughal era. From the Shikarpuri khussa’s white metallic thread embroidery, to the Multan Phoolwala khussa (essentially a slipper with no back), the khussa is a staple footwear favourite for both men and women.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
Dating back to 1881, and former site of the first church in Sindh, this Gothic style Cathedral is an historical and architectural monument, striking from the outside and lavishly decorated from within.
The boat-ride from mainland Karachi to this little island is embedded in the memories of all visitors to Karachi. The abandoned ships, long stretches of beach and Pakistan’s tallest lighthouse create an isolated, natural feel — nostalgia at its greatest.
Bala Hisar Fort
Derived from a Persian word meaning “elevated or high fort”, it was constructed in 1526. Historical and majestic, it is also functional, monitoring movement along the Grand Truck Road since 1949.
Lake Saiful Muluk
The radiant forested valley and glittering lake provide a picturesque prelude to Pakistan’s northernmost mountain range. Local tradition holds that a Persian Prince Saiful Muluk fell in love with a fairy at this lake — adding an aura of enchantment and magic to the scene.
Kheer, lassi, kebabs, halwa puri — all the favourites can be found in this cramped corner of old Karachi, with the Victorian style buildings providing an antiquated atmosphere.
Surrounding Islamabad from two sides, the gorgeous topography of these hills includes valleys, steep slopes and the azure River Kurag. Travel to the north of Islamabad to go from the peaceful capital city to an even more green and serene locale.
Imagine the shrine of Zinda Pir, a Hindu temple, numerous potters and craftsmen. Add to these a large variety of restaurants, cafes and picnic spots and you arrive at the great tourist attraction resting at the feet of Margalla Hills: An ancient village perfectly blended with modern impulse.
Jehangir Kothari Parade
Attracting visitors for around 85 years, the promenade, pavilion and pier, are fine examples of stately Victorian architecture amidst the traffic-filled streets of Karachi. Already a popular recreation spot, the construction of what’s colloquially called ‘Bin Qasim Park’ has added to its appeal as a recreational spot.
This mosque in Thatta, with its red bricks, blue glazed tiles, 100 domes, symmetrical arches, and obvious links to the lavish Mughal Empire, is an ornate creation. Worth seeing and worth listening to! A person speaking from one end of the dome can be heard at the other end, creating a delight of sounds and echoes.
Sadequain Art Gallery
Established in memory of Pakistan’s greatest calligrapher and most globally prolific painter, this gallery at Frere Hall, with its continuous exhibitions, library, and tranquil garden is still an essential spot for art-lovers, art-critics and general cultural enthusiasts.
The second tallest fountain in the world has been marked by controversy since its inauguration (think scandalously expensive) — but given that it is finally here, it’s definitely a site worth seeing, whether from the Seaview coastline, or Manora itself.
Its location next to the iconic Fortress makes Joyland the perfect break from extensive sight-seeing! Rides, cold-drinks, a cinema — relive your childhood here.
Ismail Gulgee’s paintings are essential viewing: combine delight in natural beauty with delight in artistic achievement by visiting the artist’s former summer home in Nathiagali — now turned into an art gallery where his paintings are on display.
A turquoise shimmer against the sandy hills and teeming with glimmering golden fish, this lake near Quetta was built in 1894. Tourists can have a picnic at the lakeside restaurants or visit the Hayat Durrani Water Sports Academy, located at the eastern part of the lake, which has rowing, sailing, canoeing and kayaking facilities.
The modern feel of the Karachi and Lahore Planetariums, with sky-domes and Boeing jets, transforms into a space-era atmosphere as you gaze at the stars and planets of distant galaxies. Perfect for the scientist in all of us.
A chunk of crushed ice, brightly coloured sweeteners and condensed milk, the sugary goodness of a gola-ganda is a typical childhood pleasure, often forgotten as one grows older and turns to more sophisticated desserts.
Forget about RedBull, this locally concocted energy drink is a must-have for wrestlers in both India and Pakistan. Containing char magaz, dry fruits, pepper and almonds, it simultaneously cools and energises, allowing pehlwan’s to keep hearty.
Located near Zero Point, the Shaker Pariyan Park is situated 609 metres above sea level, offering gorgeous views of Margalla Murree Hills. And at the foot of Shakar Paryian hills, is the famous Lotus Lake.
Saadat Hasan Manto
How many of today’s teens have even heard of our greatest short story writer? From the haunting psychological study of partition seen through the eyes of madmen (Toba Tek Singh), to the notorious gloom of Thanda Gosht, Manto’s satires are written simply but ‘the painter of life’ vividly creates country, characters, and controversy.
Originally opened in 1957 on MA Jinnah Road, this restaurant, with its mouth-watering kebabs, parathas, and tikkas now has multiple branches all over Karachi and counterparts in Lahore and Multan. The taste and masala of the local barbeque guarantees daily customers.
With the surging resurrection of classical music and cultural trends, “The king of ghazal” deserves some attention.
A remnant from the British Raj in both construction and name, this bustling bazaar is home to fruit and vegetable vendors, textile shops, and even pet shops! The Gothic-Mughal style clock-tower creates a skyline recreated by painters all over the city and the maze-like interior provides for an interesting and culturally informative outing.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2011.