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11 things which drive me mad about Pakistan

Things which drive me mad about Pakistan

Don’t get me wrong – I love Pakistan, Pakistani people, and life in Pakistan. If, while reading the following blog post, you begin to doubt my sincerity in saying this, please refer to my Love Letter to Pakistan, posted in 2014. I even got it translated into Urdu, as a means by which to share the love.

But every now and then, there are things in Pakistan which drive me mad. They drive me so mad they make me wanna…. write a blog post about why they annoy me!

 

The geographically challenged

Pakistan Political Map

A visitor to a country sometimes takes a greater interest, or perhaps a different perspective, on the nation than locals. But in Pakistan, it reaches new heights where people almost redraw the map with their knowledge (or lack thereof) about their nation; “Don’t go to Peshawar – the Northern Areas are very dangerous…”.

Three issues; Peshawar isn’t in the Northern Areas, the Northern Areas aren’t dangerous, and the Northern Areas aren’t even the Northern Areas.

Sigh.

 

The disbelieving

Me, pretending to be a teacher in Melbourne

Me, pretending to be a teacher in Melbourne

A lot of people find simple facts simply baffling. Take conversations about my job, for example;

“I’m an English teacher” seems to be met with “oh… and what job do you do?”.

“That’s my job, I’m an English teacher.

“Oh… ok… so what about in Australia. What job do you do there?”

My response that “I’m an English teacher there too..” is usually met with an awkward silence, and then a pleasantly surprised expression. Is it really that hard to believe? You should see their faces when I tell them that I chose to be in Pakistan of my own volition. Stunned.

 

Hard of hearing?

Image: Jesslee Cuizon, Wikimedia Commons

Image: Jesslee Cuizon, Wikimedia Commons

When I first arrived in Pakistan, a friend told me that “one of the biggest problems you’ll encounter is that Pakistanis don’t listen”. At the time I wrote this off as being overly critical, but it’s true! Ask someone where they do their shopping from, and you might be given the answer “On Saturdays.” Ask them why they want to go to Murree for their holidays, and they’ll tell you “With my friends.” Ask how many brothers and sisters they have, and they’ll say “Actually my sister lives in Dubai with her husband – he went to GCU.” So… one sister then?

 

Trust versus naivety

Walled city of Lahore

This one is kind of sweet. Or stupid. or both. So many Pakistanis tend to trust each other so much, to the point of blind faith, that they are often astounded when things don’t turn out perfectly. I have heard so many stories of siblings who put thousands of dollars into their brothers’ businesses, only to see them fail and the money disappear. Then you ask what sort of business they were doing – he had invested it in a pyramid scheme which was “meant to work” – and he didn’t have any previous business experience, nor his own savings, nor a day job. And everyone is simply astounded (and bitter) that things didn’t work out.

Endearing or naive?

 

Mansplaining

Did you know that Pakistan is a Muslim country?

Did you know that Pakistan is a Muslim country?

And not just to women, but by women – and to everyone. If I had a rupee for each time I’ve had to listen to explanations about how “Pakistan is a Muslim country…” after four years of living there, I’d be a millionaire by now. Other explanations abound too; “in Pakistan we drive on the left side of the road”, “in Islam we believe in one God” and even “men are different than women”.

 

Paying dues

Attend any Pakistani event where speeches will be made, and expect the first five minutes of each speech to be spent delivering verbose thanks to every individual in the room. “Thank you to my highly esteemed dear colleague, Mr Syed Mir Abdul Ghafoor Hussain Shah Saheb, son of the respectable Ustaad Syed Hussain Shah Saheb from Mianwali, for giving me the golden opportunity to present this cherished speech. And thank you also to…”

I actually don’t know how these speeches end – I’m normally asleep by that time.

 

Speculative medicine (times two!)

(Image: from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Steve Evans, Wikimedia Commons)

May I heal you? (Image: from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Steve Evans, Wikimedia Commons)

Fall sick in Pakistan, and open yourself up to a whole world of speculation about how you fell sick. “Maybe someone is doing black magic on you.” “It must have been the vegetables – you need more meat in your diet.” “The heat causes the pain.” “You ate too much yogurt.” Speculating on how someone fell ill is a national sport. And it was probably none of the above – it was probably the chef who didn’t wash his hands after taking a dump.

Which brings me to point two of speculative medicine – the idea that spicy food is the cause of all illness in foreigners. “Hygiene in Pakistan is usually ok, but foreigners can’t handle the spice” is something I’ve been told a thousand times. Believe me, Pakistani food is nowhere near the spiciest I’ve eaten, a lot of foreigners handle spicy food better than many Pakistanis, and again, it was probably the chef who didn’t wash his hands after taking a dump.

 

 

National exclusivity

"OMG an unsealed road *scoff* - only in Pakistan!" *eye roll*

“OMG an unsealed road *scoff* – only in Pakistan!” *eye roll*

Many Pakistanis seem to think that the rest of the world operates in a way completely at odds with that of their own country. Sometimes the “only in Pakistan” label is actually appropriate; you see some 7-year old kid riding his dad’s motorbike to the shops, or a father fires a few rounds into the air from his AK-47 to celebrate his daughter’s birthday party, and you look at each other and say “yup – only in Pakistan!” But then someone turns up 5 minutes late to an appointment, or a car breaks down, or you have to walk across a lawn (instead of a paved path) to reach a gate and your friends roll their eyes and say “only in Pakistan.” Um, actually, no…

But on the flipside, we are so happy to be Pakistani when it suits us. 2 hours late for an appointment? Completely ignorant? Bankrupt? Don’t worry, just say “well, we’re Pakistani after all!” Is that the reason, or just an excuse for how we are?

 

Dumb questions

Obama White House press conference

“Are you a spy?” No… but if I was, is that the kind of thing I’d share?

“Can you give me a visa?” No, that would be the Australian embassy in Islamabad

“Are you a Muslim?” Yes, are you?

“Can you eat Pakistani food?” Are you referring to ability or permission? Either way the answer is yes…

 

Wake up and smell the coffee!

pellegrini's featured coffee

Few things make me as liable to become physically violent as Pakistanis’ attitude to coffee. Like any committed drug addict, I become fiercely protective when my my relationship with the brown liquid is challenged. And in Pakistan that happens frequently. My closest friends know how to stay alive and uninjured;

  1. No substitution of coffee with tea
  2. No mention of coffee being a ‘winter-only’ drink
  3. No amazement if I have it without milk or sugar
  4. No shock and horror that I can have it “so early in the morning” (i.e. – with breakfast)

 

This article!

me and the Pakistani flag

Having almost finished this article, I realise that I’m now obscenely guilty of one of my pet peeves about Pakistan, and that’s all the Pakistanis who complain about their own people. “Pakistanis are all chors (thieves)”, “Pakistanis are all dishonest” and “Pakistanis are uncivilised people” are common refrains from the general populace, both in social gatherings and in the media. Thank God they’re not in charge of the country’s tourism promotions!

 

And things which drive me mad about Australia? Don’t even get me started…

What drives you mad about your country? Vent your spleen in the comment section below – and please play nice!

In Pictures: Eid Milad-un-Nabi in Lahore

Eid Milad-un-Nabi in Lahore

Earlier this week I attended one of Pakistan’s most extravagant celebration, Eid Milad-un-Nabi in Lahore, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. In between taking in the festivities, I was often captivated by the colours and scenes that were turning up in my viewfinder. As I walked around the streets with my chotta bhai, professional photographer Moazam Ali, we snapped away and captured these incredible shots. Enjoy!

Pak Traveller banners final

Light up the Night: Eid Milad-un-Nabi in Lahore

Eid Milad-un-Nabi in Lahore

Yesterday was the 12th of the Islamic calendar month of Rabi-ul-Awal, the day on which the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was born according to many scholars. Known in Urdu as Eid Milad-un-Nabi, the occasion is celebrated with fervour in Pakistan and in many nations around the world.

I’ve missed the festival in the past few years, as I had travelled to Australia for the summer, but this year I was lucky enough to spend Eid Milad-un-Nabi in Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital.

Bhatti Gate Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

Delhi Gate Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

The famous Walled City of Lahore was dressed in its finest, with the narrow streets covered with coloured lights and hanging ornaments. In some places the city seemed lighter than it does during the day; the crowded alleyways and tall buildings often hide the sunlight, but on Monday night they came alive without a shadow in sight.

Decorations Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

Bhatti Gate Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

Niyaz Heera Mandi Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

Vendors and residents came out on to the streets offering niyaz or langar, the charitable food given in honour of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; everything from naan and dhal eaten in the hand, to sweets thrown to groups of children passing by. Processions and parades jammed parts of the city with their participants chanting, cheering or even singing, and music blaring from loudspeakers. A popular song is Tajdar-e-Haram, originally by the late Amjad Sabri and his brothers, but last year given a popular makeover by rock singer Atif Aslam.

Qawwali Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

Parade Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

Bhatti Gate Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

Some havelis (traditional, multi-storey houses) hosted musical performances of qawwali, while others hosted more “modern” parties with dancing and drinking. This is in stark contrast to the other Muslim Eids (festivals) which are usually much calmer; Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan with visits to relatives, and Eid-ul-Adha sees the pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca). For this reason, a close friend of mine confided that “for me, Eid Milad-un-Nabi is the real eid – it’s really festive, and the happiness comes from the heart”. Last year the date fell on the 25th December, coinciding with the birthday celebration of Hazrat Issa (the Islamic name for Jesus) – two auspicious birthdays on one day!

Bhatti Gate Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

Bhatti Gate Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi dancing

Eid Milad-un-Nabi is a contentious festival for many reasons; many scholars point to evidence that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself did not celebrate his birthday, and nor did his companions or family members. They claim that the celebration of birthdays, and especially the prophet’s birthday, is an example of “imported culture” which “dilutes the faith”. For this reason, some Muslim countries (notably Saudi Arabia) simply don’t celebrate it at all.

Others point out that dancing, drinking and spending (or wasting) exorbitant amounts of money on decorations are totally against the teachings of Islam. Additionally, Shia generally agree that Muhammad ﷺ was not born on the 12th Rabi-ul-Awal (yesterday), but on the 17th Rabi-ul-Awal (which is this Saturday, 17th December).

Allama Iqbal Town Lahore Eid Milad-un-Nabi

Regardless of what is right and wrong, many people are out and wandering the streets to just take it all in. The decorations are simply spectacular, the atmosphere is electric, and I would highly recommend a visit to Lahore at this time of year to witness this or the urs at Data Darbar.

What is your favourite festival? What do you do on that day? Comment below!

Pak Traveller banners final

The Pakistani wedding experience!

The Pakistani wedding experience!

Getting invited along to a wedding in any country is a great way to experience the local culture, but weddings in the subcontinent are a spectacle unto themselves. A Pakistani wedding is an interestingly dynamic mix of Islamic rituals and local, subcontinental customs.

Pakistani weddings tend to happen in the winter months, given the average Pakistani’s aversion to any temperature over 25 degrees centigrade. That means between October and March. Additionally, many people will not get married during the mourning of Muharram and Safar, which is currently falling in October and November, leaving only three to four months of cold weather in which to get hitched.

The Islamic procedure for a wedding is very simple; a nikkah, which is a signed marriage contract between the two parties and their families, witnessed by two people. Pakistan’s weddings typically run for three days, so there’s quite a lot more than just a nikkah to host. The wedding rituals are therefore a selection of subcontinental traditions which might be somewhat familiar to a Hindu audience. Overtly Hindu rituals such as the “seven steps” are not present, but other traditions rooted in local custom such as the “Mehndi” are. Male and female attendees of the wedding may sit separately, divided by a partition (as dictated by Islamic belief), or together, similar to a Western wedding – the choice is the organisers’.

Note; what follows is a description of the standard Punjabi Pakistani Muslim wedding, and there are thousands of variations based on local culture, tradition, faith or caste.

Mehndi (first day)

mehndi pakistani wedding

Mehndi is the local word for henna, the dark paste that is used to create temporary tattoo-like patterns on the hands. It’s also the name of the celebration before the marriage, normally the night before the main function. The mehndi is therefore a bit like a Pakistani equivalent of a Western ‘wedding shower’. While it was traditionally hosted by the bride’s family for the bride, this is extended in many cases to include both the groom’s and the bride’s families. The ceremony may be held in a special “wedding hall”, at a hotel function hall, at someone’s home, or occasionally in a hired restaurant.

The predominant colours are yellow and orange, the colour that mehndi turns the skin, and the ceremony basically involves the ceremonial arrival of the groom, followed by the ceremonial arrival of the bride; they both sit on a decorated seat at the front of the room, followed by some dancing and live music, and then the relatives and friends take turns to smear some mehndi paste on a leaf-shaped platters held by the couple. The dress code is (usually) traditional, and mehndi patterns may be applied to the hands of groom and the bride before or during the ceremony. And of course, there’s food – mains plus lots of sweet dishes and tea.

 

Barat (second day)

barat pakistani wedding

The Baraat (also spelt Barat) is the formal part of the wedding process, in which the groom arrives at the function in a formal procession. Traditionally the groom arrived on the back of a mare, but nowadays this is often done in a decorated car, or sometimes something more spectacular like a hired elephant! The baraat is usually held at a wedding hall, function centre, or sometimes in a hotel banquet hall. The bride wears a traditional red suit with an elaborately jewelled veil, and the groom usually wears a ‘sherwani’ (traditional formal suit) with a turban.

On arrival at the function hall the groom’s family and friends greet the bride’s family and friends, and adorn the couple with floral garlands and a shower of rose petals. Music is provided by musicians playing the dhol (traditional drum) and sometimes even dancers greet the wedding party. The baraat is the Pakistani equivalent of the Western wedding ceremony, so there are a couple of rituals to be observed; doodh pilai is a decorated glass of milk served to the groom by the sisters of the bride, while he reciprocates with a gift of jewellery or money. The nikkah (Islamic certificate of marriage) is usually signed and a short prayer is read by the couple and their families and witnesses, before food is served – in my experience it’s usually chicken or mutton korma. With the formalities complete, the bride’s family farewell her, a moment known as rukhsati (“sending off”) – she is now “officially” a member of the groom’s family.

 

Walima (third day)

walima pakistani wedding

On the third day of the wedding, both the bride’s and groom’s families and friends gather at a wedding or function hall ahead of the couple’s arrival. The bride and groom then arrive, and are announced to the gathering as husband and wife. The walima is therefore equivalent to the Western wedding reception – and there’s food to match. Biryani (a traditional, royal dish) is usually served, along with “Kashmiri green tea” – a mild tea garnished with dried nuts and fruit, again, with undertones of royalty .

There is no exact dress code or colour combination for the walima, but a couple (or their families) usually choose a colour theme.  Most guests wear formal Western wear, the groom wears a Western-style suit, and the bride wears a dress of her choice (sometimes reflecting the colour theme of the night). The night closes with music, dancing and dessert – and sometimes (but not essentially) a wedding cake.

 

Other events (Dholki, Nikkah, Rukhsati)

Signing of the nikkah (Islamic marriage contract)

Signing of the nikkah (Islamic marriage contract)

There are several other events that may accompany a Pakistani wedding, or may form the basis of the wedding itself – there are too many to form a complete list here, but three main events may be separated from the above mehndi/baraat/walima program.

Dholki is a party with the groom or bride up to a week or two before the wedding – as the name suggests, it traditionally features the thumping beats of the dhol (traditional drum) and may be hosted by friends or family in honour of the groom or bride. It’s usually an informal affair, held in the family home, with catering by mum. Nowadays a dholki might well feature a YouTube playlist instead of a traditional dhol.

Nikkah, the signing of the marriage contract, is usually done at the baraat, however sometimes it is done without a baraat. If the couple and their families want to keep the wedding low-profile and simple (for any number of reasons), the nikkah may be done at a semi-formal dinner with close family and friends. In this case, there may be no mehndi, baraat or walima, or perhaps just one of them. Orthodox Muslims may also choose to perform only a nikkah, as this is the only requirement set out in the religion – they may consider anything else as “diluting the faith”. Even in the case of a baraat, the nikkah may have been signed in a mosque on an earlier day, to expedite any formalities on the night of the main function.

Rukhsati, the “sending off” of the newly married couple, may be done separately to the nikkah in some cases of arranged marriage. If the simple nikkah is undertaken with the intention to ‘engage’ the other family, a period of courtship would follow, after which the rukhsati would take place. Here, it is a separate, private ceremony where the wife finally joins her husband in his home.

 

Closing time!

Lights off! It's closing time at the Empire Marquee!

Lights off! It’s closing time at the Empire Marquee!

Punjabi weddings in both India and Pakistan are known for being lavish and exuberant, but weddings have proven too outlandish in Pakistani Punjab where the government imposes strict rules regarding the handling of functions. All wedding halls must close at 10pm sharp – all formalities must be finished by then, and the hall owner quite literally switches off the lights, forcing everyone to vacate, to avoid a hefty fine. Apparently the government, and some sections of society, were getting tired of weddings that would run late, with brides and grooms sometimes arriving at 1 or 2am, and music pumping until dawn, or even later. The rule was imposed about ten years ago, and only applies to wedding halls and function centres, not hotels.

Another curious rule regarding weddings is that hosts in Pakistani Punjab are only allowed to serve one main dish and one dessert at the function. Drinks and salads are exempt. This rule was apparently borne of concern about food wastage, after families felt socially pressured to provide elaborate buffets on each night of the wedding. The high cost of hosting such a dinner, plus the inevitable haul of unfinished food, prompted the government to try to rein in such wasteful weddings.

Many special thanks to my good friends Awais and his wife Sadia and their families for allowing me to photograph their gorgeous nuptials and use the pictures for this piece. Congratulations, and may you have a long, happy and healthy married life 🙂

Have you ever attended a wedding in a foreign country? What was it like? Comment below!

Black Friday in Pakistan. Yeah, really!

Black Friday in Pakistan

Call me ignorant, call me unworldly, but I had never heard of “Black Friday” before a couple of years ago. Then I forgot about it – because I really had so little interest in it – until this week. A good friend of mine asked me what Black Friday was, and I wracked my brain for what I could remember about it – just about nothing. I searched online, and was quickly reminded that it’s the USA’s version of Australia’s Boxing Day sales.

Lahore's glitzy new Emporium Mall in Johar Town

Lahore’s glitzy new Emporium Mall in Johar Town

Alas, that was not the end of it, because apparently Black Friday in Pakistan is a thing! I arrived at work on Thursday and Friday of this week to several colleagues discussing the Black Friday sales, and what they were planning (or not planning to buy). So that left me with the questions; since when did a discounted shopping day from North America become a worldwide phenomenon? And since when did Black Friday become a thing in Pakistan?

A Pakistani shopping website advertising for Black Friday

A Pakistani shopping website advertising for Black Friday

The answer to the second question is “since last year”, according to the photocopy guy at my work. I searched online, and indeed, Black Friday in Pakistan was a big thing last year… very big, it seems; check out this news clip from 2015. It’s in Urdu, but you’ll get the idea;

Vouyers, eat your heart out. Pakistan has a small collection of upmarket shopping malls where people (middle-aged women, evidently) can hone their skills in martial arts once a year. For oblivious little me, it came as quite a surprise that Black Friday is such a major retail event in Pakistan of all places; but then perhaps I should have expected it, given the average Pakistani’s fixation with with things American.

Lahore's Emporium Mall

Lahore’s Emporium Mall

Is Black Friday “a thing” in your country? Had you heard of it before? Or was I the only one? Comment below!

Junoon in Lahore; Data Ganj Bakhsh and Chehlum

Junoon in Lahore; Data Ganj Bakhsh and Chehlum

Abul Hassan Ali Ibn Usman al-Jullabi al-Hajveri al-Ghaznawi, better known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, or simply Data Sahib, was a Sufi saint from Afghanistan whose teachings greatly influenced Muslims in South Asia. He was born in 990 AD near Ghazni, Afghanistan, a city that features prominently in the medieval history of the subcontinent. His teachings about Islam, particularly his perceived balance between Sufi mysticism (an personal, interpretive understanding of Allah) and the Sharia (the broad legal strictures of the Qur’an) won him many devotees across the region. When he died in Lahore in 1072 he was buried in what was to become Data Darbar, a major pilgrimage site for Muslims from Pakistan and beyond.

Sunday 20th November 2016, the 19th day of the Islamic month of Safar, was the anniversary of his passing (known as urs), and his shrine became even more a hub of devotion, mourning and celebration. I visited on one night, and entered the shrine amid tight security. 

data darbar urs featured (credit: Assad, Facebook)

The shrine was alive with heaving crowds, some paying their respects silently, some spending time with their friends and families in the presence of the saint, and many prostrated in prayer. Outside, more than a few were in a state of “dhamaal” – dancing and spinning around to the beat of the dhol (drums) in joyful spiritual bliss. Those who could get close to the actual tomb were lucky to touch it amid the jostling throngs; an even luckier few got close enough to kiss it.

Dhol players for Data Ganj Bakhsh in the streets of Lahore

Dhol players for Data Ganj Bakhsh in the streets of Lahore

Around the shrine small groups were set up to serve sabeel, the free milk ritually served to those who come to pay their respects. Such is the importance of sabeel that Lahore and its surrounding districts are known to face a dairy shortage in the days around Data Sahib’s urs. The streets leading towards the shrine were filled with not only drummers and devotees dancing dhamaal, but horse carts filled with farmers, their families and drums of milk, all ready to be donated to the public in return for the saint’s blessings.

Dhamaal for Data Ganj Bakhsh's urs in Lahore

Dhamaal for Data Ganj Bakhsh’s urs in Lahore

Meanwhile, in the streets surrounding Data Darbar, another remembrance was taking place; this one for the martyred grandson of the prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Hazrat Hussain, or Imam Hussain as he is known to the Shia, was brutally murdered in the Iraqi city of Karbala along with at least 72 of his followers in the year 680 AD. (For more on this tragedy, click here). 20th Safar in the Islamic calendar (21st November 2016) marks Chehlum, fortieth day after his martyrdom, a key date in the Shia tradition; the day when a mourning period officially ends.

Chehlum procession in Lahore

Chehlum procession in Lahore

Through the (other) streets of Lahore, the night before and the day and evening of Chehlum, mourners packed the streets to chant “noha” (mourning songs), cry and beat their chests in grief. Occasionally one of the happy roaming dhamaal groups would happen upon one of the mourning processions, and would stay clear so as not to upset sensitivities. The few people who were completely high with joy (and unaware of what they were walking past) were steered clear by a few guards at each corner.

Chehlum procession in Lahore

Chehlum procession in Lahore

The dichotomy between the two processions could not have been greater. The extreme joy of the dhamaal, dancing wildly, completely in love with God, faith and the world, juxtaposed with the extreme grief of the Chehlum mourners, driven to tears and beyond by their love for their Imam. And despite the dichotomy, they are two sides of the one coin that is Lahore. Because while some may identify, and others may reject what they see in these pictures, they both exist because of junoon (passion).

Lahore is dancing, Lahore is love,

Lahore is tears, Lahore is blood… 

Lahore is junoon

Pak Traveller banners final

Nocturn: The Prisma Collection

Nocturn: The Prisma Collection

Nocturn Prisma ad

Over the past year I have been posting my favourite shots of my cities at night; Chennai, Melbourne, Sydney and finally Lahore. I’m quite proud of how the pictures turned out – I captured light trails, curious customs and spectacular scenes after sunset to show a side of these places that people often miss.

But what’s better than these photographs is turning them into works of art by running them through the Prisma app. Prisma is a phone application that allows you to turn regular photographs into artworks in the style of Van Gogh, Picasso and many more.

See the best of Chennai, Melbourne, Sydney and Lahore after dark, and as works of art, with the Nocturn: The Prisma Collection.

Pak Traveller banners final

Have you used the Prisma app before? What do you think of it? Comment below!

We Don’t Sleep…

In what is becoming an annual tradition, this is my latest attempt at poetry/prose/vignette inspired by the events of Karbala. For last year’s poem, click here. For an explanation of the events of Karbala, click here.

Lahore walled city jaloos

We Don’t Sleep…

The wind that blows through the Walled City’s dusty ramshackle lanes

The tears that wash the pavement of the dust

The fallen petals whose beauty belies the heartbreak

The passion that flows in the veins of faithful

And pulsates with each heartfelt beat

Will the earth accept our humanity, the viscous drops in the sand

The rejection of finality – that which cannot be the end

But we carry on, we maintain, we remember

Nothing is forever, so we stay alive, either in being or in memory

We don’t sleep…

Nocturn: Lahore

Nocturn: Lahore

Nocturn Lahore article

Some of the most amazing and intriguing sights in our cities are only seen at night, when a lot of us are tucked away in bed, fast asleep. Nocturn is a night photography series on UrbanDuniya, shining the light on the cities we call home, long after most people have fallen asleep.

Last year we started with Chennai, and in January we featured Melbourne, and in March we visited Sydney. Now it’s time to explore Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital.

See Lahore: aaj ki raat… hona hai kya? (“Tonight… what will happen?”)

Did you love this gallery? See the wonders of Lahore for yourself, with Pakistan Traveller by UrbanDuniya!

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Lahore’s best iftars this Ramadan!

Lahore’s best iftars this Ramadan!

We all know that this is at home, lovingly prepared by ammi, and served complete with pakoras, fruit chaat, dahi bhalley and rooh afza! But if you find yourself outside at iftar time, if you’re ready for a change, or if you are hosting a whole bunch of people out of your home, here are the best places to break your fast this Ramadan!

All prices below are for iftar plus buffet dinner, unless otherwise stated.

1. BarBQ Tonight

(Image: BarBQ Tonight)

(Image: BarBQ Tonight)

Falsa juice – after rooh afza, could there be any more refreshing juice with which to break your fast? A variety of salads, barbecued meats, sandwiches and desserts in pleasantly appointed surroundings.

Cuisine: Pakistani barbecue

Cost: Rs. 1500 plus tax

Website: www.bbqtonight.com/lahore

 

2. Al-Nakhal

(Image: Al-Nakhal)

(Image: Al-Nakhal)

Such flavour, so much food, and so little money! While the prices aren’t bargain basement, Al-Nakhal is the place to feed lots of mouths without emptying your pockets – and without compromising on quality or spectacle.

Cuisine: Arabic, Pakistani

Cost: Rs. 849 inclusive of tax

Website: www.alnakhal.com.pk

 

3. Smoothie Factory

(Image: Smoothie Factory, Facebook)

(Image: Smoothie Factory, Facebook)

Smoothie Factory offers a great compromise between western fast-food and traditional iftar. Lots of pizza, fries, and of course quality fruit-smoothies and frozen yogurt, but also lots of rooh afza and dates to start off with.

Cuisine: Pizza, burgers, smoothies and desserts

Cost: Rs. 350 per head – choose from two set menus.

Website: smoothiefactory.com.pk

 

4. Yum

(Image: Yum)

(Image: Yum)

Chinese and Thai for iftar? Why not? Yum offers the regular pakora-style snacks and cold drinks to break your fast, but then follows it up with a full-scale buffet dinner with a limitless supply of all your favourite Pakistani Chinese and Thai dishes.

Cuisine: Chinese, Thai

Cost: Rs. 2150 inclusive of tax

Website: yumpakistan.pk

 

5. Salt n’ Pepper Village

(Image: Salt n' Pepper Village)

(Image: Salt n’ Pepper Village)

For the uninitiated, Salt n’ Pepper village is actually a warehouse-style eatery where each dish is prepared by individual stall-holders in a ‘village’-style set-up. It’s not cheap, but imagine all your favourite home-cooked dishes being served at once. It’s worth it!

Cuisine: Traditional Pakistani

Cost: Rs. 1680 inclusive of tax

Website: www.saltnpepper.com.pk/lahore

 

6. Bombay Chowpatty

(Image: Bombay Chowpatty, Facebook)

(Image: Bombay Chowpatty, Facebook)

Cutlets, biryani, dosa and gulab jamun – all the favourite street foods from Delhi, Mumbai and beyond come together at this Indian-style street food restaurant! The sehri is pretty good here too!

Cuisine: Indian street food, south Indian

Cost: Rs. 1099 plus tax

Website: www.facebook.com/Bombay-Chowpatty-Pakistan

 

7. Namak

(Image: Namak, Facebook)

(Image: Namak, Facebook)

Namak specialises in Afghani and Baluchi cuisine;  you can even sit in a Baluchi-style nomadic tent setting! The Kabuli pulao is really special, and make sure you wash it down with kahwah and gulab jamun.

Cuisine: Afghani, Pathan, Baluchi

Cost: Regular menu prices: expect Rs. 500 – 1000 per head, depending on order.

Website: www.facebook.com/namakrestaurant

 

Honourable mention: Dera; bring a big appetite – if you order ahead, they will prepare a whole Baluchi sajji for you (entire sheep or goat stuffed with rice and spices then spit-roasted).If you’re dining with less people, you of course can sample any of these delights from the buffet – put on your eating shirt!

 

For Ramadan recipes, click the image below to find out about my latest book ‘Recipes for Ramadan’; a month of feasting, a life of journeys and a world of flavours!

Recipes for Ramadan cover

Do you have any Ramadan restaurant recommendations? Comment below!