It might seem as if we’re taking on a much more “Travel-Themed” direction to this blog, but it’s not been intentional. I can’t imagine either of us will have much time to be doing a lot of travelling in the coming years so I think we’d best get it over and done with now shall we?! This most recent journey had me away in Pakistan and Sri Lanka for 2 weeks for a wedding and a good bit of general “travelling”…
Let’s go chronological with this one and start from the beginning with Pakistan. Given what I now know I can’t even begin to understand how this country has developed its current reputation. Months before travelling there were the constant warnings from family and some concerns from friends, but we went ahead and booked our visas way ahead of time. Without going into the nitty gritty the process took 10 days and was straight-forward using the Pakistan Embassy’s out-sourced visa service, Gerry’s Visas.
We arrived in Lahore Airport early in the morning in late March and it was a bit chilly – bring a jacket. Weather-wise, this time of year is like a solid British Summer so jeans/light trousers along with a heavy jumper/light jacket will do perfectly for the evenings…t-shirts for the day time. I do have to note that women will generally need to travel with minimally revealing clothing (for an Islamic state, it’s good to know that as a female traveller, you don’t have to go whole-hog on being covered up).
Probably best to give full disclosure now – I was visiting Pakistan for the wedding of a friend from uni. She had been kind enough to set us up at a local member’s club called the Punjab Club, although hotels were an option. We were there for just under a week, which we’ve been told is a much-condensed version of a traditional wedding which could have lasted up to three weeks! The city itself reminded of back home in Lagos in so many ways – the culture, the interaction between people of different backgrounds, the challenging (read: “perilous”) driving conditions and the way that every adult female seemed to have that strong motherly “pushiness” that makes you braver and more obliging than ever to perform whatever task is asked of you! The roles of women in the household (especially noticeable in and around the wedding) seem to be to effortlessly encourage and invite guests in to whichever home it was that we visited during our stay. Needless to say, our male counterparts were equally as inviting and offered so many warm welcomes, while clearly focusing on ensuring logistics had all gone to plan!
As it was a wedding, there was shopping that needed to be done and for this we headed to the more modern outfit known as Khaadi, guided around by Zohra Rahman, a pioneering modern Jewellery Designer based in Lahore. From there our shopping exploits took us through to the less glamorous but far more illuminating streets of the Liberty Market – home of, well…everything! Shoe shops where your choice of shoe size was delivered through hidden gaps in the ceiling (only visible when underneath them), jewellery stands (bangles were sold by the “bunch”) and far more importantly, FOOD! After several hours of shopping I wolfed down a beef shwarma from Paradise Restaurant (!?) and chat masala fries from, err….Krispy Kreme?!
Food is always encouraged…by everyone! From those “pushy” Mums to the “logistical” Dads it was always ensured that we’d be fed. The food culture, at least in Lahore, was clear – delicious is more important than anything. Curries these weren’t…..rich, confidently spices stews were served at every gathering during the wedding week. Fat – not an issue. Main choice of protein – lamb, beef, chicken. Not a poppadum in sight, but naans and puri were always in place to mop up any stray sauce or vegetables that remained on plates. Everyone wanted to know that we were being fed and enjoying what we were eating, and this was just at home. So if you hadn’t guessed already, the food was banging!
Taking a more tourist-centric approach to our journey, we took a day to visit the Walled Old City in Lahore. Via a tuk tuk tour, we were afforded the chance to see how a civilisation that is dated back to 2000 BC has evolved under various empires (the British Empire being the latest). The city itself houses the Wazir Khan Mosque, the vast Badshahi Masjid Mosque, the Lahore Fort as well as old bath houses and a still active population of sellers, tradesmen and family accommodation. On one of our final days we journeyed to the Pakistani border to India to observe the daily ceremony of the closing of the border. We could literally see right over the border into India as they looked back at us, chanting and celebrating the spectale performed by both sides of the border patrol.
It’s hard to describe, in full, the impact of this trip to Pakistan especially because we did so much in so little time. Sometimes it is easy to forget how far away you have to travel to see what existed far before any of the more modern European Cities that we know far more history about. To everyone who was kind enough to have hosted us and to the friends who were met during our stay, thank you. To the bride and the groom, CONGRATULATIONS. I think on my next visit we should add Karachi to the list. R.