Well, as it is said, ‘Don’t knock it until you try it’ that is exactly what Alex did with Pakistan. Despite the fact that a lot of hype has been created about terrorism and what not in Pakistan by the media all over the world. Alex took the matters in her own hand and left for a journey that no foreigner can even imagine. Alex is an American girl who was born in Netherlands, she quit her job and decided to travel the world with her partner Sebastian. She started traveling eastward and up til now she has traveled 4 countries: Georgia, Armenia, Iran and then she decided that she’ll give Pakistan a try and she termed Pakistan as a ‘bloody brilliant’ country.
They have documented their stay through photographs and fun filled stories on their blog. As Alex described her journey from Iran to Pakistan:
Our journey here from Iran was, in short, a massive pain in the ass. The road from the border runs along the border of Afghanistan and through tribal areas, so for security purposes we had to be escorted all the way. It took 5 days, we drove 733 kilometers, used 26 different vehicles, inhaled an entire desert’s worth of dust, and saw a metric fuckton of massive guns along the way.
When they did their research on Pakistan all they could find was that Pakistan is the most dangerous destination in the world but ignoring all the information they read about Pakistan they thought they’ll see and experience for themselves. After reaching Pakistan their first concern was Ramadan, they thought they’ll either get arrested for drinking water or die from the Karachi heat. Fortunately, they did not experience any death threats but were well supplied with food and drinks and not only this but they were treated with great hospitality and people treated them like their own personal guests. They experienced their first Iftar with some people at a shrine in a small town of Makli and she describes it as:
We came across the shrine as the sun was setting. Families and individuals were sprawled on the cool stones of the courtyard, waiting patiently for the sun to dip below the horizon. As it drew closer, helping hands pumped water into empty bottles, and trays of sliced fruit were distributed to everyone. Precisely at sunset, a siren went off, and hands rose skywards as the call to prayer rang out through the megaphones. Despite us not being Muslims, we were welcomed in, shown around, and, of course, stuffed with fruit. We insisted that others should eat before us (we certainly weren’t fasting), but they refused to have anything before us. When it was time to depart, they walked us to the entrance of the shrine and got us a ride home, waving to us as we drove away.
They were completely blown away by the hospitality of the people which they thought would be impossible after their trip to Iran. One day when they were trying to get a train on one of the hottest days of summer, they were starved and their water was almost gone. They had an encounter with an uncivil ticket sales man who refused to sell them any tickets. Luckily, they met a man who helped them buy their tickets by giving the sales man a hard time and not only this but when they were seated in the train that man brought them fresh water and some food so that they wouldn’t go hungry. They tried to refuse because they knew that people fast during the day but he insisted on it and gave them some homemade food.
But of course, even with people being hospitable they had to face many challenges. The biggest challenge they faced was where they could and could not go. They were told that they had to stay in expensive hotels because of security reasons and they cannot visit sights as they did not have any permission and no one could help them from where they could get permission. The best tip Alex gave for first-time travelers coming to Pakistan is to go with the flow and expect the unexpected. They had no planned route and had no idea where they should go. In Karachi they bought a paper map and made their way to places by following the map and recommendations of people they met.
Guess what? In Lahore all they could do was eat. In their experience, Lahore is all about eating and of course it is because Lahories love to eat. They easily summarized Lahore by saying ‘Food Everywhere’. Their best experience was when they had dinner in Food Street with the view a of the Badshahi Mosque and as stated by Alex, ‘This is an incredible dinnertime view’.
In Pakistan they visited Karachi, Thatta, Sehwan Sharif, Lahore, Islamabad, Naran, Kaghan, Hunza, Gilgit and a few places in between and as they traveled through Pakistan and met people their understanding for Islam deepened. They were amazed by the people who fasted all through the day in this heat and how could they survive the day without a drop of water but they found out that people usually stay inside throughout the day. For people like Alex and Sebastian this is a bit extreme but when they talked to people they said, “Muslims look forward to this month. It is a month for Allah.”
By the end of their journey they thought that the places they visited deserved much more attraction. Just because the media has portrayed Pakistan as a dangerous place to visit does not mean that you should believe everything the media tells you. They hoped that they can coax more tourists to travel these countries and by showing them what it’s actually like to travel these places.
By Farzeen Imtiaz for yumtoyikes.com