A Pakistani-Russian tourist couple visiting the northern areas of Pakistan has said they will always remember a cup of tea offered to them by the police at a check post in Chilas Valley.
“It was an unforgettable experience which will always remind us of the hospitality and kindness of Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) people. Even in the most civilised countries, the police is not so hospitable and friendly,” said Vera Mayantal, a Russian tourist currently visiting G-B with her husband Raza Ali, a Pakistani settled in Russia since 1996.
Ali, 42, has travelled to 65 countries so far. However, he claimed he had not met such friendly and welcoming people in the entire world.
“The people welcome you with open arms and I am surprised that such a beautiful place with such friendly people does not have any foreign visitors,” he said.
Perturbed over the projection of Pakistan’s negative image in the media, the couple has set out on a five-month motorbike tour with a sole mission to explore the ‘soft and positive side’ of the country.
“This place and its people are totally different from what the media (local and foreign) portrays them to,” they said while talking to journalists at the Gilgit Press Club.
“We were advised not to travel to Pakistan when we were planning the trip, but we were ready to face the consequences,” said Ali, adding that he along with his wife will shoot a documentary to project a positive image of Pakistan in foreign media.
The couple also said they were impressed by the attractive landscape and rich culture of the region. However, they were of the view that the road network and communication facilities needed to be improved to increase tourism in the area.
“We needed to send an email and there was no internet café in the entire area. When we finally found one the electricity got suspended, while the generator also broke down, forcing us to leave without finishing our work,” Ali said.
Regarding Pakistan’s image among Russians following the Russian disintegration, the couple said Pakistan was not directly blamed, but it was considered as America’s supporter in the war on terror.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2011.