In September 2005 I visited Pakistan. On Friday 2 September I landed in Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore. Although it was only 6 am it was already very hot. The sun seems to be nearer to the ground in Pakistan than it is here in England. I had been very nervous at the thought of going there even though I had been invited. I had heard all the stories of how dangerous it is there. Actually, as soon as I arrived any worries just disappeared. Not at any time did I feel nervous or afraid. All the people I met were friendly and happy to talk to anyone from another country. Everywhere I went there were people who asked if they could have their photograph taken with me. Children ran up when I was in the Shalimar Gardens and held my hand while we were photographed. In fact it was the boys who were the shy ones. At times it was a little too hot for me but I enjoyed my stay very much. I travelled around Lahore, then to Rawalpindi and Islamabad. I visited the Faisal Mosque there. Then I went to Murree. The climate there is similar to England and it is very clean and pleasant. It is one of my most favourite places in Pakistan. I didn’t get to see much because I got a stomach problem and had to stay in my room for a few days. When I see the news nowadays and see reports of bombings in places where I have been and walked or eaten I feel very sad. I hope that the troubles are soon over as I want to visit again some time. One of the best days of my whole visit was when I went with some friends to the Khewra Salt Mines. The weather was perfect and I enjoyed myself very much. The mines are near Pind Dadan Khan in the district of Jhelum. It is also 260 kilometres from Lahore and 160 kilometres from Islamabad. I had been staying in Faisalabad. This used to be called Lyallpur and was named after Sir Charles James Lyall who was the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab. It has an agricultural college and a lot of industry, the cotton industry being one of them.The journey to the Salt Mine took about three hours through very pleasant countryside. After leaving the motorway we drove through small villages before arriving at Khewra. We saw the ICI soda ash factory which takes a large proportion of the yearly production of salt from the Khewra Salt Mine. If anyone is interested in reading more about ICI in Khewra look at this link: http://www.icipakistan.com/sodaash.html On the way we could see where the road started to turn white from the salt in the air. The air was so clean and fresh. At the salt mine there is a tourist resort where there is accommodation for visitors to stay. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khewra_Salt_Mines On the Wikipedia site there is some more information. After buying our tickets we took the small electric train into the mine. I thought I would be nervous going into what looked like a black hole but I was not at all. It was a pleasant journey because I was with friends and it was the first visit for all of us. The passage was lit and we could see the different colours of salt in the walls. When we arrived at the mine there was a big chamber which opened out from the tunnel. It was lit up everywhere, a lot of lights are behind walls that had been built of salt bricks which showed the different shades of salt. We had a guide who took us round and explained the history of the mine. It was discovered in the days of Alexander the Great by his soldiers. It has been mined since 326 BC changing hands regularly depending on who ruled the area. There is the building of a mosque and a working post office in the mine. In a large open area there is a cafe where hot and cold drinks, snacks and ice cream can be bought. There are different chambers with solid blocks of salt that have been hewn out showing the different shades of salt from pure white to rose coloured. Then there are paved areas made from salt bricks with lights underneath which give a magical effect. One part of the mine which was very interesting was when we went over a bridge and stood on a wooden structure where we could look down into a very deep pond filled with the clearest water. It is possible to look down seemingly for ever seeing the different levels and shades of salt. We were perfectly safe but I felt as if I was standing on the top of a mountain looking down. It was a strange sensation. Unfortunately, because of the feeling of danger I forgot to take photographs of this. Our guide told us that in the mine there is a clinic for asthma patients, they stay there for two weeks and in that time their asthma is cured from the salt air. There are 19 levels of tunnels in the mine and we were in the seventh down from the top. They mine 325 thousand tons of salt per year most of which goes to ICI. In the gift shop there are lamps, vases and ash trays made of salt. There is also an industry in the making of items from salt which are then exported all over the world. I bought a salt lamp as a souvenir. You can see on the photographs how pleasant it looks in Pakistan. I know there are problems at the moment there and people think it is a very dangerous place. I can only say that I enjoyed my stay very much and I never felt unsafe at any time. I have visited twice now and am looking forward to going again at some time. On the way back to Faisalabad in the evening we stopped by the Jhelum river and watched the birds collecting before they migrate for the winter.
Tag Archives: Travel
Raheel Raza writing for the The Ottawa Citizen
Friday, October 17, 2008
My annual visit to Pakistan is full of surprises. What change will I find this time, I asked myself as I landed at Karachi airport a few weeks ago?
The situation in Pakistan is more complex than I’ve ever seen. The economy is in crisis with basic food costs so high that one wonders how the ordinary person feeds a family. The elite don’t care because most of them have taken dual nationality and siphoned their money out of Pakistan. The poor keep getting poorer and complain that no one in power has ever cared about them, so why should they care this time?
What bothered me most of all was the attitude of educated middle class Pakistanis. In the past few years I had noticed the rise of religious fervour among previously moderate Pakistanis. This time I was engulfed and bombarded by conspiracy theories everywhere I turned. At times I felt I was an alien in my own land! Continue reading
Yoginder Sikand writing at DNA
South-central Sindh isn’t quite a favourite holiday destination, but I spent a fortnight there while on a vacation in Pakistan. My host was the amiable, 70 year-old Khurshid Khan Kaimkhani, a noted leftist activist, author of the only book on Pakistan’s almost 3 million Dalits. Along with a friend, he edits the only Dalit magazine in the entire country.
Khurshid met me at the railway station in Hyderabad, Sindh’s largest city after Karachi. We drove to his small farm, on the outskirts of his hometown of Tando Allah Yar, a two hour bus-ride ahead. Several Bhil families live on the farm. “They are like my own family,” Khurshid says as Baluji, a tall, handsome Bhil man, manager of the farm, welcomes us in with a tight embrace. Continue reading
Fariha writing on her trip to Pakistan with such heartfelt emotion and sincerity. I must thank my friend AJ for pointing out this excellent piece.
“ Apko kia pata, ke humara dil apke liye kitna rota hai. Jab aap logo ko koi taklif hota hai to humain lagta hain k taklif humain ho raha hai. Bohot pyar karte hai hum aap se. alag ho gaye to kya hua. Bhai to bhai hota hai. Bangladeshi to humare bhai hai.”
Rafe, 60-something, Bus-driver, Lahore
I’ve met people from different parts of the world and traveled to a few places myself. But never, not once, in any of my interactions or travels, have I ever come across a race of people who have made me feel so proud of my nationality: Bangladeshi. But then, I visited Pakistan. I was born in an independent Bangladesh. I’ve never had to struggle to get my voice heard, I was allowed to vote (till quite recently) and I’m allowed to speak my mind. Until my trip to Pakistan, I had never realized how precious all these things are. I had always regarded Pakistan, a distant country, as a bitter chapter in our history. But only after meeting the people did I realize how close we could be and how much my heritage means to them. Never before have I received so much respect for just being Bangladeshi.
Till quite recently, I had never visited Pakistan. Neither had my parents. Since the only Pakistanis I’d met belonged to the educated bourgeoisie class, I had assumed that it was only this select lot who were aware of the atrocities committed in 1971. I had always believed that most Pakistanis believed that Bangladeshis were Kafirs who had let India take them over and regarded us with disdain. Don’t ask me why I thought all of this or what explanation I have for my notions. My notions had stemmed from the prevalent attitude of our pro-liberation buddhijibis, who have, through their own glorifications of our War of Liberation, somehow equated patriotism as anti-Pakistani feeling and instilled that in some of us. In fact, I still know people who think that to be a true patriot you would have to hate Pakistan, with all its institutions and people. Our elders in Bangladesh, somehow always let us think that Pakistanis don’t care about Bangladesh. I’m not blaming them for my ill-conceived ideas. I was partly to blame for judging a whole race simply on the basis of the half-truths I had heard. I am not proud of what I thought. But my recent trip to Pakistan has made me feel proud of who I am and I am proud of my newly acquired views. Though I think that I now face the threat of being termed a ‘paki-lover’ or ‘Rajakar’, I am writing this because I think that our generation needs to know the other side of the story. Continue reading
This is the second post on the travelogue by the Jeddah based writer Tariq Al-Maeena on his travels to Pakistan.
Pakistan Re-Visited – (4)
The road to Lahore
On a day following several meetings with officials from the Pakistani government that ran later than scheduled, we missed our flight reservations to Lahore. Faced with the option to drive from Islamabad to Peshawar and take a flight to Lahore, or else take a four hour drive to the Punjabi city, the Saudi media delegation unanimously opted for the latter. The drive would provide us a closer insight into the countryside of a country that was quickly garnering admiration from each one of us by the moment.
A few miles out of the city of Islamabad we soon passed a toll-booth on the outskirts of the city and were soon on our way in a Toyota Crown graciously supplied by our host on the M2 expressway that would lead us to Lahore. A six-lane highway that was meticulously clean and well asphalted with none of the pot-holes and road carnage we have been so accustomed to in Jeddah had us all marvel at the will of the Pakistani road authorities who have indeed managed to maintain a world class motorway.
An hour into our journey, we passed through a hilly region noted on either side by well planned trees and shrubbery. The road was clean and traffic laws strictly enforced. Road signs every few miles reminded motorists not to litter, and there was ample evidence that motorists paid heed. Our group was definitely taken aback with the ease and comfort of driving as we moved on. Contrary to our expectations, we did not witness one road incident that would have raised alarm.
Towns and villages flashed by; names like Kallar Kahhar, Chakwal, Gujran and Sarghoda sped by, each with its unique flavor. Some were farming villages, others terraced communities that lay on either side of the expressway. Halfway en route, a rest area beckoned us, and we decided to stop for a short break and some refreshments. Similar but so unlike the SAPTCO rest stop between Jeddah and Madinah, this rest stop afforded its guests a full fledged restaurant and other amenities. The difference lay in its standards of cleanliness. Even the restrooms had us Saudis shaking our heads at the pitiful conditions some of us have encountered at the SAPTCO stop. And this was supposed to be a third world country? Continue reading
Pak Tea House is grateful for this contribution from Tariq Al-Maeena a journalist based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – his account of travels in Pakistan is engaging. We are publishing the first three parts on his impressions of Islamabad, political intrigues of the Capital and his sojourn to Murree. The interesting bits are his comparisons with Saudi Arabia where Pakistan is viewed as a poor country. The remaining parts will be published later. (Raza Rumi)
Pakistan Re-Visited – (1)
When the invitation came in from the Pakistani Consulate in Jeddah to visit Pakistan as part of a media delegation for the purpose of acquainting ourselves with that country, I had no moment of hesitation in accepting their gracious offer. This in spite of my family’s vocal concerns about my personal safety, with pre-election violence that had plagued that country still fresh in their minds.
I had been to Pakistan before, albeit the city of Karachi only and that was thirty years ago. This trip would afford me the opportunity to visit several cities in Pakistan for the first time and my excitement at exploring new adventures knew no bounds and there was no stopping me.
It was PIA, the national airline that we boarded one night for our flight to Islamabad. Along with me was the rest of the media delegation: Tariq Mishkhas, managing editor from Urdu News, Nasser Habtar, Al-Watan newspaper bureau chief in Abha, and Mohammed Yousuf, Arab News correspondent. Continue reading
By Yoginder Sikand
Islamabad is surely the most well-organised, picturesque and endearing city in all of South Asia. Few Indians would, however, know this, or, if they did, would admit it. After all, the Indian media never
highlights anything positive about Pakistan, because for it only ‘bad’
news about the country appears to be considered ‘newsworthy’. That realization hit me as a rude shock the moment I stepped out of the plane and entered Islamabad’s plush International Airport, easily far more efficient, modern and better maintained than any of its counterparts in India. And right through my week-long stay in the city, I could not help comparing Islamabad favourably with every other South Asian city that I have visited.
That week in Islamabad consisted essentially of a long string of
pleasant surprises, for I had expected Islamabad to be everything that Continue reading