Things Pakistanis Love!

In 2008 the blog Stuff White People Like premiered and quickly garnered a reputation for satirising the tastes of “left-leaning, city-dwelling white folk”. Australians might be more familiar with the popular 2009-launched phenomenon Things Bogans Like, inspired by the aforementioned North American site. There was even a semi-successful attempt at documenting the Stuff Indians Like – a worthy pursuit, I might add.

Pakistanis love things too. Here is an incomplete list of Things Pakistanis love:


1. Assuming the worst of people

Taxali Gate bazaar. Did you come here for shoes, or did you come here for... "shoes"? (Image: Raseen Akhtar)

Taxali Gate bazaar. Did you come here for shoes, or did you come here for… “shoes”? (Image: Raseen Akhtar)

Taxali Gate in Lahore is known for many things; being near Badshahi Mosque, Food Street, late night snacks, local workshops, traditional shoe shops… it’s also a few hundred metres from Heera Mandi, Lahore’s infamous red light district. It’s certainly very possible to visit Taxali Gate without having sex – but let’s just assume the person in question went there for that reason. Think of all the fun assumptions we could make!


2. Scandal

Yep, it's Veena Malik in a hijab! (Image: Abrarraja86)

Yep, it’s Veena Malik in a hijab! (Image: Abrarraja86)

Here’s one that might surprise some of you out there. It’s not that Pakistanis love the subject of the scandal, but it seems that they need a scandal per day – switch on the news, and there it is! Veana Malik with a hijab! Veena Malik without a hijab! And the outraged gasps! The nation that gasps together stays together.


3. Acronyms

You might need an FA or an FSc to get into TMUC, then you can complete your BA, MBA, or maybe even an NFI! (Image: Bites85)

You might need an FA or an FSc to get into TMUC, then you can complete your BA, MBA, or maybe even an NFI! (Image: Bites85)

This is not limited to Pakistan – Indians also have a similar affection for acronyms. Remember the CWG in Delhi? (Commonwealth Games). In Pakistan, you can mention any number of acronyms, particularly with reference to the field of education, and expect the audience to understand. You could complete an FA from GCU, then move on to LUMS to study an MSc, get an NIC, move to ISB, work with IDPs, vote for PTI and say AoA!


4. Conspiracy theories

Does he have an ulterior motive? (Image: Bzulahore)

Does he have an ulterior motive? (Image: Bzulahore)

That person? They’re spying. They’re spying for Israel. Or America. Or both. But they’re getting paid by local charities. Yes, but those local charities are in on it too. They’re all trying to take us over. It’s because we have the atomic bomb. Or because we’re Muslim. Or because we’re Pakistan.

…or maybe they’re just doing social work?


5. The moral decline of society

Look at this Western dress! Look at it! Society is going down day by day... (Image: Abdul Rauf)

Look at this Western dress! Look at it! Society is going down day by day…
(Image: Abdul Rauf)

Again, like scandal, Pakistanis love talking about how “society is going down day by day”. So much crime, such unusual foreign clothes, such immoral behaviour. It’s not that anyone actually likes the idea of moral decline – but who doesn’t love a bit of tut-tutting once in a while?


6. Comparing themselves with India

Ganda Singh Wala Border ceremony

Out of 194 sovereign other sovereign nations, the only country that Pakistanis talk about more than their own is India. It’s not that Pakistanis love India, although deep down, most Pakistanis might in fact secretly love Indian things – like movies, music, fashion, food, celebrities… but I digress. No, it’s more that Pakistanis love to compare themselves with India. I once came back from a holiday in the mountains of northern Pakistan, and my friend knowingly remarked “isn’t it beautiful? I bet India doesn’t have anything like that.” I guess Tuvalu wouldn’t either, but he forgot to mention that.


7. Arguing

(Image: EIC)

(Image: EIC)

This is not just a habit – it’s a pastime! My friend asked someone if they could pop the hood on her car to take a look underneath – what ensued was a full-blown discussion about whether the car needed maintenance, or whether it would be cheaper to buy a new car. When some of his friends turned up, it became an argument about whether he was doing it right. In the end, my friend popped the hood herself, while they were talking about it.


8. America

'murica, yeah! (Image:

‘murica, yeah!

For all it has done to the great nation of Pakistan, Pakistanis still seem to be in love with America, or specifically, the USA. While so many people are (rightly) quick to list the faults of the USA, many also want to live there, or if not, then emulate an “American” lifestyle while in Pakistan.


9. Taking steps

A man taking steps at Lahore Fort (Image: Faiza Hasan)

A man taking steps at Lahore Fort (Image: Faiza Hasan)

“Taking steps” seems to be the response to any issue that may arise. If there are social problems, the government is taking steps. If there are issues with the local market, the bazaaris will take steps. Too much sugar in the chai? The cafeteria guy will take steps too. If the a disabled student can’t enter a school due to a flight of stairs, be sure that someone will be taking steps, even if they can’t.


10. Misplaced hope

Apna Sapna Money Money

Now don’t get me wrong – we all have hope. I’m not talking about being hopeful that things will get better. I’m talking about the type of hope that says that if you comb your hair the right way this morning, you’ll be a rich Bollywood star by dinner tonight. Anyone can be rich and famous… if we try.


11. Starting their own business

nokia shoes lahore

Perhaps it’s an awareness of social status, perhaps it’s having creative control; there are many reasons why millions of Pakistanis want to start their own business rather than working for someone else. My bet is that work-life balance and job security aren’t among them; anyone who has started their own business knows how it can run your life, and how many startups fail expensively in their early stages, but that doesn’t stop droves of hopefuls (see point 10) trying to make a buck on their own.


12. Being thik-thak, fit-fart

(Image: Mmoonniiaa)

(Image: Mmoonniiaa)

Ask any Pakistani how they are, and if their day is going well enough, they’ll tell you they’re thik-thak, fit-fart. I’m assuming this is rhyming slang, and not some code to describe any wind they might be experiencing. Are you fit-fart?

miss fit fart

Is there anything you would add to this list? Comment below!

An ode to Lahore…


This is a short interview which I once did for a blog that has since disappeared into the ether. It never got published, but I thought it was a great ode to the city I love <3

Dreaming in Lahore. Of Lahore.

Dreaming in Lahore. Of Lahore.

What’s the best way to enjoy Lahore?

The cheapest way to enjoy Lahore at night is to grab a motorbike and go roaming! The night can be however you want it to be; if it’s tourism you’re after, then take a jaunt around the Walled City where there’s always something happening; markets, religious functions, parties, people watching. If you want romance, then nothing beats a long ride with that special someone along Canal Bank Road to a cute cafe in an out-of-the-way district, just you and them. And if you’re here to hang out, then drive through biryani, late night ice cream stops, even later cinema sessions will keep you entertained. Lahore doesn’t sleep, so there’s no need for you to!

Dinner at Cuckoo's Den

Dinner at Cuckoo’s Den

What’s your favourite place to eat out in Lahore?

My favourite restaurant in Lahore is Butt Karahi, a large building that specialises in lamb and chicken varieties of the braised meat and vegetable ‘karahi’ dish. It’s salty, savoury, spicy and oh-so-delectable – my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, thinking that the serving size is way too small at the beginning, but then I always leave unable to finish the lot! Butt Karahi is a beloved Lahore institution, and any Lahori would know it, and has probably been there at least a few times!

Photography in Lahore's Jinnah Bagh

Photography in Lahore’s Jinnah Gardens

What’s the best thing to do in Lahore on a Sunday morning?

Mornings are often warm in Lahore, and one of my favourite things to do on a Sunday is join one of the Walled City of Lahore Authority’s photo walk experiences. They guide Lahore’s large cohort of budding photographers through the labyrinthine streets of the Walled City to seek out the type of spellbinding shots that simply capture the essence of this passionate city.

Just enough space for this autorickshaw to squeeze through

Just enough space for this autorickshaw to squeeze through

What’s your favourite thing about Lahore?

Lahore is full of hidden gems – just getting lost in the Walled City once or twice is sure to turn up something interesting! But one of the greatest treasures of Lahore is its people. Lahoris are such an interesting bunch, and particularly in the older parts of the city, many of them have such rich family backgrounds and such a deep appreciation for the role which the city has played in their lives. Make conversation with the locals – it’s always a great way to get under a city’s skin, but in Lahore, it’s like opening a storybook.

Religious festivals can be a great time to visit Pakistan, but they can also raise the security alert level.

Decorations in the Walled City ahead of an urs (saint’s festival)

Any last thoughts?

Lahore suffers from being in a country with a bad reputation, but it’s really not that inaccessible or dangerous. Those who dare are rewarded in bucketloads, and often return, cast under the city’s spell…

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What’s your favourite city in the world? Tell us in the comments below!



Espresso, Lahore’s coolest place for coffee?


Espresso might be Lahore’s coolest joint for a coffee. In a cavernous, sunken lounge beneath the Nishat Tower in Gulberg III, Espresso combines good food and drinks with cool chic style to make it Lahore’s best coffee in a nightclub-like setting.

Iced mocha at Espresso

Iced mocha at Espresso

The chicken caesar salad filled me up for lunch, while the iced coffee options were as good as you would expect from a place wearing the sacred name. There are heaps of options or breakfast, lunch, snacks, platters and indulgent desserts.

Caesar salad at Espresso

Caesar salad at Espresso

But what really takes the cake here is the laid-back setting, full of Lahore’s young and beautiful, chilling out to an eclectic mix of Craig David, Simply Red and Bruno Mars, and just generally forgetting the world whizzing by outside. How perfect!

Nightclub or coffee lounge? Espresso blurs the lines...

Nightclub or coffee lounge? Espresso blurs the lines…


Food: 8/10

Ambience: 10/10

Service: 8/10

Cost: Meals Rs. 500 – 1000, Coffee and drinks Rs. 195 – 415

Night Suites, Gulberg III, Lahore, another location at Y-Block in DHA.

(042) 3578 0356

Sunday – Thursday: 8am – 1am

Friday and Saturday: 8am – 2am

Journeys in the land of Biryani

Journeys in the land of Biryani

Biryani is not just a dish, it’s an experience. To eat it is to take in the subcontinent whole; spices, rice, regal splendour, religion, controversy and history in one fell swoop.

Restaurant-style biryani

When my fellow blogger, travelling foodie and all-round awesome friend Anna Johnston asked me to contribute my favourite food experience for her website shenANNAgans, I knew exactly what to write about.

Chowpatty beach, Mumbai

Biryani is one of my favourite dishes of all time, both to eat and to make. I’m also madly in love the story behind it, the variations of it, its history in the streets of Lucknow, Delhi, Hyderabad and Karachi, and its current status (and controversy) as the de facto national dish of Pakistan. It has followed me, and I’ve followed its aromatic masalas, as I’ve travelled from the small fishing village of Sur in Oman, to Mumbai and through to Lahore.

Jama Masjid Delhi

Come with Anna and I on a journey in the land of biryani, with my guest post on shenANNAgans – just click here.

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Have you ever felt that a dish simply encapsulated a country or region? Tell us more!

Howdy partner! Burgers in Lahore’s Johar Town

Howdy!, Lahore

Howdy Lahore

Ok, I know it’s corny, but I am partial to the odd theme restaurant. Misty’s American Diner in Melbourne, Bubba Gump in Bali – you name it, I’ve probably been there and lapped it up. A lot of these restaurants are not winning any awards for their food, although that’s exactly why we go – delicious, no-holds-barred, shameless Americana. It’s popular for a reason, and some places do it better than others.

Howdy Lahore

Howdy! in Lahore’s upmarket Johar Town is one such place. From the outset, you know that this cowboy-filled, wild-west themed restaurant serves burgers, and probably does it well. However Howdy! is not a case of style over substance – here, the burgers are as they should be – thick, juicy and very satisfying.

American diner, cricket on TV - only in Pakistan

American diner, cricket on TV – only in Pakistan

This is no typical Lahori street burger joint, this is the real deal. Real jalapenos, thick beef patties and a range of chicken options too with subs. AND there are crunchy twisty fries too!!

Howdy burger

But for me what really told me that I was in the right place was the chocolate coconut milkshake on the menu. Anyone who puts chocolate, coconut and ice cream in the same beverage is a winner in my books. And they don’t disappoint – I was almost tempted to go for a second, but I needed to get home by motorcycle (which required some form of balance and agility :p )

Howdy's cOMG-inducing Chocolate Coconut Shake

Howdy’s cOMG-inducing Chocolate Coconut Shake

The theming is fun, the service flawless, the burgers and fries really hit the spot, and that milkshake… OMG! If you’re in Lahore and looking for a piece of Americana, look no further than Howdy!

American diner, cricket on TV - only in Pakistan

American diner, cricket on TV – only in Pakistan

Howdy lahore


Food: 8/10

Ambience: 8/10

Service: 8/10

Cost: Mains Rs. 400 – 700

7 R3 Johar Town, Lahore, near Shaukat Khanum Hospital

(042) 35955467

Monday – Sunday: 12pm – 1am


Do you like theme restaurants? What was the best one you’ve been to?

With Coffee Stories: My Travel Story

Cafes are the places where a lot of the world’s best stories are told, so therefore it makes sense that they are the location for this project, seeking to unlock the tales of ordinary people.

Cinnabon Coffee Stories, Lahore

“Give a coffee, unlock a story” is the idea behind Coffee Stories, a meeting point for the world where we learn a little bit about other people’s lives and brighten their day by gifting a coffee.

Coffee Stories LahoreCoffee is my favourite beverage, and I love to tell stories, so I was more than a little bit excited to tell my story over a cup of coffee! Click here to read my coffee story, and to find out more about this interesting project and how you can become a part of it.

Pakistan celebrates Independence Day

Independent Pakistan celebrates its birthday today, marking the 68th year of its existence as a separate state for Muslims in the subcontinent.

Pakistan Ind Day flag

Security procedures are in place across the nation to ensure the safe observance of the day. A 21-gun salute will take place in each of the provincial capitals of Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta.

Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947 after the United Kingdom’s hasty retreat from their subcontinental colony. A bloodbath ensued when large numbers of Muslims and Hindus migrated to their future homelands, either side of the partition. Pakistan was envisioned as a homeland for Muslims in the subcontinent, however since its creation questions remain over the exact role of Islam in the country’s political system.

India celebrates its Independence Day tomorrow.

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Pakistan Traveller paperback edition!

Firstly I must begin this article by apologising for the profusion of “I’ve just launched X” posts lately. But to be honest I just can’t help myself, because I’m a little bit excited.

On the 23rd March 2015 I announced what I wished would be the beginning of a new era of hope for Pakistan;s tourism industry, with the official launch of Pakistan Traveller by UrbanDuniya, a travel guidebook for travellers to Pakistan’s more stable and tourist-friendly regions. I chose the date of the 23rd March with a purpose; Pakistan’s Republic Day is second only to Independence Day in terms of national celebratory fervour.

OMG it's tangible!! The first printed copy of Pakistan Traveller by UrbanDuniya

OMG it’s tangible!! The first printed copy of Pakistan Traveller by UrbanDuniya

And so it is on 14th August, Pakistani Independence Day, that I have chosen to officially launch the paperback edition of Pakistan Traveller by UrbanDuniya. Available in markets around the world from US$39.99, the book’s launch as a paperback product is a moment that I had waited for. Always intended as a paperback rather than an e-book, Pakistan Traveller by UrbanDuniya is now available in the medium through which it can be truly utilised “on the road”.

Go your own way! Walking through the Karakoram Range in northern Pakistan

Walking through the Karakoram Range in northern Pakistan

Early sales figures have been promising, which I believe is a reflection of the book’s content which I have faith in; every word, image or map was laid by myself. My good friend and designer Nawaz Khan deserves a mention, as he worked magic with the vision for the cover and overall formatting. CreateSpace, a division of, has done a remarkable job in rendering the book as beautifully and professionally as it is; even I was blown away by the result. And finally, thank you to all those who have supported me and this project along the way; many of you are listed in the credits section of the book itself, many have purchased the book, and more still simply know who they are.

On the beach in Karachi many moons ago, during my first trip to Pakistan in 2006.

On the beach in Karachi many moons ago, during my first trip to Pakistan in 2006.

So where to from here? The Pakistan Traveller by UrbanDuniya website will continue to be maintained and provide up-to-date information for travellers to Paksitan. I have already begun considerations and some preliminary work for a second edition of the book, but you’ll just have to wait to see when and what shape it will take.

Last year my gift to celebrate Pakistan’s 67th year of independence was a Love Letter to Pakistan, translated into Urdu for all to enjoy. This year my gift is not so much for the people of Pakistan, but for the wider world to discover and enjoy.

Welcome to Pakistan. I hope you love it as much as I do.

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Interview: Pakistani designer and blogger Hiba Arshad

Hiba Arshad

Hiba Arshad

Hiba Arshad

Hiba Arshad is a Lahore-based fashion designer and blogger with a sharp eye for unusual and different style. As part of Pakistan Week on UrbanDuniya I interviewed her about her fashion line Arsh, her inspiration for writing, and her thoughts on life in Pakistan.

What was the motivation for you to start Arsh?

I have always had an aesthetic temperament and I get inspired by things around me… plus I love decorating things and adding that spark. My brain keeps brimming with ideas and recently I had been giving it all a serious thought as I perused my way through different shops looking for the design I would love to wear; that fusion of trendy yet creative ideas. So one thing led to another and I just took the plunge.

Arsh designs

Great! And what sort of things inspire you? How can it be seen in your designs?

The odd ones… I find beauty in weird and out-of-the-way things. If I had my way my designs would completely be dark and mysterious like symbols and stuff. But I am aiming to attract girls so I have made sure that colors and girly designs are added but with a personal touch.


How has the response been so far for Arsh?

Well it’s slowly picking up pace. With all the substandard stuff available online people take their time in trusting a new name, and I dont blame them considering my personal experience with online shopping.
So if I get to exhibit my work once or twice and people get to see it themselves I believe they will love them as much as I do.

Arsh designs

Do you feel that Pakistan, and Lahore in particular, are ideal places for such a business

Pakistan is internationally recognized as a fashion hub, and like Karachi, the Lahore fashion scene is really sizzling these days. The competition is really high and the demand for innovation is increasing rapidly. People welcome originality and creativity and thats the only way to survive. It is not what you present, rather how you present it.

Interesting! You have a blog… Do you find inspiration from Lahore and Pakistan for your writing too? 

Pakistan itself is an inspiration. You may look at the chaos before you, I focus on the flowers within. There is so much to be inspired by and I just hope that one day I can write such words in praise of my country that people can’t resist visiting and being inspired themselves.

Arsh designs

I hope so too! What sort of things are you writing about these days? 

I usually post random thoughts however it is difficult for people to comprehend my ideas and thus I have started writing about more ordinary things. I have recently started blogging about places I visit, the food and the environment.

Arsh designs

Finally, what do you love about Lahore?

The Punjabi touch – its in the air. Even though it is a metropolis, still amidst its modernity the rustic soul lives on.

Arsh designs

If you would like to see more of Hiba’s designs, go to the Arsh page on Facebook where you can contact her and even place an order! For her musings, head on over to Hiba’s Blog and get reading! Don’t forget to to hit ‘like’ when you’re there!

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Interview: Musician Umar bin Naeem

Interview: Musician Umar bin Naeem

Umar bin Naeem

Umar bin Naeem

Umar bin Naeem is an up-and-coming musical artist from Lahore. Three weeks ago he released ‘Mast Huwa’, a cover of the original track by Asrar. As part of Pakistan week on UrbanDuniya, I sat down with Umar to talk music, Lahore and Pakistan.

What was your inspiration to become involved in music?

Everyone has their own way to express their feelings, to show the world what they have in their hearts. Some people write, some paint, while others act. In my case I found that way in music. In the early days of my school life I started exploring my connection with music. I began as a bathroom singer and after few years I started learning professionally and rose as a stage performer: that’s how my music career began.  And I feel lucky that I can express myself through music, as a lot of people can not do that.

Umar in the studio

Umar in the studio

Why did you choose this song in particular?

A lot of people have asked me why I have done a cover of this song, and why I didn’t do my own song instead. Or why I chose this specific song? Well the answer is that this song is very, very close to my heart. For the very first time when I heard it I felt that I was listening to my own story. Every word in this song reminds me of the events which happened in my life. So I couldn’t resist doing it. And now I have ended up doing a proper cover of this song. And I think that the biggest success of an artist is when people can relate to his song.

Umar bin Naeem 1

Do you feel that Pakistan, and Lahore in particular, are good places to be a musical artist?

Yes I believe Pakistan and particularly Lahore are very good places for upcoming musicians. Lahore has always had a rich music history. A considerable improvement has been seen in the past few years in every music genre, especially pop music. A couple of music institutions are also playing a vital role, where youngsters can go to learn different music skills.

Playing a few years ago

Playing a few years ago

Speaking more generally, why do you love Lahore?

I love Lahore because of its culture, its food, its history and especially the Lahori people; they are very welcoming people with big hearts. It is said that a person who has not seen Lahore has not been born yet. As compared to other cities of Pakistan, Lahore is the most peaceful city. I think this is what makes Lahore so loveable. A person who visits Lahore can’t resist from saying “Lahore lahore ae” (“Lahore is Lahore”)

Umar in Lahore, aka home

Umar in Lahore, aka home

Ok, and finally, what are your plans for the future, in regards to your music?

Music is the food of my soul; I cannot imagine myself without music. For me music is something through which I can express my feelings, sadness, pain, happniess, sorrow. I don’t know what I would do if i gave up doing music. In the coming future I see myself standing on a big stage performing with my band in front of a huge audience who know me, who love me, who follow me. When I tell them to clap they do. When I ask them to dance, they do the same. They would do what ever I said. It will be a dream come true for me. I want to write such songs that people can relate to. I always say that when someone will cry while listening to my song it will be the best day of my life. I know that sounds crazy but it’s what I want to see. I want to leave the mark of my name on the music industry of Pakistan as well as the music industry of world.

To listen to Umar’s single Mast Huwa click here, and don’t forget to follow Umar on his official Facebook page.

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