Dusty and rugged in the northwest; flat, farmed floodplains in the southwest; western Punjab is an often-overlooked frontier region. Pockets of this region see very few, if any foreign travellers, and some are very undeveloped and conservative – Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa, and the Tribal Regions (FATA) are not far away and their proximity is palpable. Tourist attractions are also few and far between, and what does exist is often somewhere between dusty disrepair and historic ruin – the lines are blurred.
Ask a Pakistani what Faisalabad means to them and they’ll probably talk about the city’s mighty textile industry (“The Manchester of the East” as it’s called). Dig a bit deeper and they might know that it it was named after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia in 1977. Some might also know that it was called Lyallpur when it was first built by the British back in 1892. Trivia buffs might tell you that the streets of the city’s main bazaar are laid-out in the design of the Union Jack. It’s also the place where famed qawwali master, the late Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was from, and where he was laid to rest.
The region is also something of a cultural watershed, because apart from in Faisalabad, many of the locals speak a dialect of Seraiki. In this regard, western Punjab is a sort of cultural buffer zone between the Punjabi-speaking districts to the east, and the Pashto-speaking province to further west. The few travellers who do come here are usually visiting for a specific purpose such as work or visiting relatives. On the other hand, western Punjab is well worth exploring for those who want to get even further off the beaten track, and it offers an opportunity to experience traditional life in Punjabi villages which have changed little since 1947 or earlier.