My Dangerous Days in Pakistan

Apr 1st, 2019, 12:39 AM
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My Dangerous Days in Pakistan

Now that I have your attention… I’ll just run with this spoiler: the extraordinary hospitality and friendliness of the Pakistani people is dangerously addictive; their cuisine, even more so. Leaving Pakistan was like wishing a good friend farewell, my heart heavy wondering when I might return.

It began simply enough: DH mentioned that he had to lead a(nother) workshop in Islamabad and before the, “I'm coming along, too!” had left my lips, his Pakistani colleague was compiling a list of everything I must see and do, and all that I must eat. Dangerously addictive hospitality.

Flights were booked on Turkish Airlines (blech, but I’ll get to that), and a visit was paid to the embassy to obtain the necessary visa. DH and I presented our paperwork together, including the marriage license. I was on the invitation letter, but as we have different surnames we wanted to make certain the paperwork would be processed correctly. The staff spoke only to DH, naturally, and when asked why I was joining him DH replied, “Tourism.” My visa came back: “Accompanying Spouse” as my reason for visiting.

DD, in the final throes of the senior year IB underworld, recruited a similarly-miserable girlfriend to move in to our home for the week both for company and to help care for DDog. To ease their misery, a full supply of Pop-Tarts, Doritos, and Kraft Mac and Cheese was procured, rare earth minerals for expat teens.

In packing for this trip I researched and re-researched, and then over-obsessed on clothing for some reason. We have been to Cairo and to Doha, where linen and cotton work just fine; everything I packed for Pakistan covered my shoulders and legs (no headscarf necessary), yet I felt that I hadn’t appropriately packed at all. I don’t know what that was all about, but thank goodness for the inexpensive Sarwal Kameez I picked up once in Islamabad. A tunic-a-day atop linen ankle pants did not help this Westerner blend in necessarily, but in my mind I believed I stood out a teeny bit less, though this would be proven again and again a mostly incorrect belief.

Soon enough it was Departure Day. As we are wont, our farewell lunch was at the Johann Strauss café at VIE: two Schnitzels; a beer for DH and a Veltliner for me. And then we boarded our flight, connecting in Istanbul.

O.M.Gosh. Apparently Pakistani schools were ending their half-term break, or something like that, and nearly one kabillion children were on our flight. That in and of itself would not be remarkable, except for the fact that most of the little ones took turns crying and screaming for the entirety of the hour we sat on the tarmac for reasons unknown; and for much of the 6 hour long haul from our connection in IST to Islamabad—you know, the overnight stretch where sleeping is kinda, somewhat desirable? DH and I were in Business Class and even that felt like a stint on the Lunatic Express.

“Dinner” was served, a largely inedible dish of dried out macaroni doused with out-of-season tinny-tasting tomato sauce that assaulted my taste buds. The “Something Pink” for dessert was “Something I did not eat,” opting instead to close my eyes and pretend to sleep.

Trapped in that A330 for 7 hours, not even a cup of burnt Chai was offered before we touched down in Islamabad. A big thumbs down for Turkish Airlines, and I still had the return to consider (another spoiler: it was worse).

In the wee hours of the morning we landed at the modern and barely-a-year-old ISB. Its predecessor, Benazir Bhutto International Airport is now used by the Pakistani Air Force. DH assured me this was a vast improvement, though as I would discover on the return, not all of the wrinkles at the new airport have been ironed out.

Our driver was waiting for us. And so was the security detail, an organizational requirement for DH and his team when they travel to Pakistan; there’s no way around it. So just picture the N5 at 0600 in the morning: the sun rising; the plumes of toxic smoke wafting from the brickmaker’s columns; and a nondescript silver sedan cruising quietly along, being followed by the guys with the guns, occasionally (presumably because they were bored) flashing the lights at the one or two other cars on the motorway, requesting them to “make way.” It was all a bit much.

At the Serena Hotel I stepped out of the sedan and into a scene from a Pakistani 1.001 Nights: elegant doorman in crisp white sarwal kameez and luxe pugrees greeted me with, ”Good Morning, Madame” in melodically accented English. Lush carpets rested against shimmering marble floors; a quiet oasis all around. The lobby staff took even my tote and ushered me to a velvety sofa beneath the soft morning light from the chandeliers while DH checked in to our room. Perhaps I was jet-lagged, but this independent modern gal found the princess treatment dangerously addictive. A few moments later we were in our room, the bed having been turned down and the drapery closed against the sunrise over the foothills of the Himalayas.

An hour or so power nap was all DH had time for before leaving for meetings; I lounged a little longer before pulling myself together and seeking out the royal feast breakfast room. More elaborate chandeliers casting a gentle glow on the handsomely carved dark wood dining pieces. Sarwal kameez of every color floating past; and two Pakistani musicians on a carpet easing guests into their day with a Silk Road Top 40 set.

But what to eat? Clear golden chicken broth seemed like a good start. How about some Beef Masala? Why not? Aloo Dum? Just what my tired taste buds were seeking. Pistachio Cake with tea? Don’t mind if I do (have two slices).

Now to connect with my driver and guide. Though we had been WhatsApping back and forth the week prior, there had been radio silence on the two days before I departed…
fourfortravel is offline  
Apr 1st, 2019, 12:50 AM
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How wonderful.. really looking forward to reading more of this.
millie2112 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2019, 03:43 AM
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Wow, Pakistan! Thank you for such a fun read so far. I really enjoy how you write.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2019, 04:38 AM
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Along for the ride...
Melnq8 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2019, 07:06 AM
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Definitely signing on. Sorry the Turkish Airlines flight was so bad. Not their fault about the kids, but I have had reasonable food on their flights. Sounds awful!
BTW (would have PMed this but I think you have PMs blocked): it's salwar or shalwar kameez, not sarwal kameez. Also, interested that you did not need a headscarf. When I was in Pakistan, admittedly all the way back in 2001, one was required - or at least advisable - in some areas although maybe not Islamabad..
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 1st, 2019, 01:29 PM
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Already enjoying your account and looking forward to more.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 1st, 2019, 03:25 PM
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When we were in Jaisalmer, our driver offered to sneak us into Pakistan so we could “have a look.” Guess our “no way” was the wrong response. Great report. Thanks!
Marija is online now  
Apr 1st, 2019, 06:17 PM
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This is good already. Looking forward to more.
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Apr 1st, 2019, 09:39 PM
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Oh yes, bring it on !
sartoric is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2019, 12:44 AM
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With a little help from the Concierge I was able to track down Zulfiqar, my driver/guide. He had simply gone away for the weekend, but was fully committed to being at my service for the next four days. Phew.

Feeling confident that everything had fallen into place, I walked over to the Bankomat in the hotel to withdraw Zulfiqar’s daily fee plus spending money. Except: “General Processing Error” flashed on the screen whilst my card, but no Rupees, was spit out. Oh, no. DH had gone, taking with him the Euros we had brought with to exchange. And I had left my Visa at home with DD for emergency use. Oddly enough, for a non-rookie traveler this would not be the first time I was without cash on this holiday. (See, “Cashless and Starving at the Airport” in a later installment.)

What to do? Zulfiqar was on his way, and I had no cash. I tried ringing DH but of course he was in meetings and could not answer, not that he could help, anyway. So I panicked and messaged Zulfiqar: “I must cancel today because the Bankomat is not working and I have no money.” His dangerously hospitable response: “I know you are an honourable person. You can pay me tomorrow. See you in five.”

I stepped outside to await Zulfiqar, but Valet with Great Pugree shushed me back indoors. “Give to me his name, and I will call you when he is here.” Such pampering. While waiting I picked up a copy of the Pakistan Tribune and thumbed through the front section. “Man Tortures Wife for Refusing to Dance.”“K-P Mothers Lives Forfeit in Want for Sons.” (K-P referring to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) I set the paper down.

Valet came to collect me. Zulfiqar hopped out of his Benz and opened the passenger door for me, gently requesting that I pull in my shawl lest it get caught in the door. A gal could get used to this. At first Zulfiqar was cautious with me, trying to decide what kind of traveler I was; that is, was I going to need (figurative) hand-holding all week? But by the time we had reached the nearby Lake View Park and its Aviary we had struck up friendly conversation, and I sensed Zulfiqar’s relief that I was not going to be high maintenance for him.

The Aviary was even more enjoyable than I anticipated: essentially it was an open space with netting high atop the trees, so most birds roamed freely. Obviously no birds of prey were on exhibit; that would have been a little too much Circle of Life. Several families were in the aviary; the little ones squee-ing over the game birds that would scramble across their path, or the peacocks fluffing their stuff to impress the peahens. This poor guy was getting absolutely no attention from the ladies, much to everyone’s amusement.

A little further on, a double take when I heard a dad say, “American Turkeys” to his son. Indeed, before me appeared a posse of American turkeys! Whether they were Butterball wannabes for the expat enclave that never came to pass, or something else, they were certainly living the cushy pardoned life now.

My plan for this first afternoon was only to enjoy the park and the Aviary, then to spend the balance of the day in the hotel gardens, soaking up the sun (27C each day!) and reading and firming up plans for the remainder of my stay. But upon leaving the Aviary I spotted Zulfiqar waiting patiently in the shade with a purchased water for me. He suggested that if I were not tired, would I be interested in seeing the Bari Imam Shrine? Absolutely! Our drive to the shrine took us past the “Red Zone,” where Parliament and PM have their offices and residences. Lots of walls and barbed wire, and guys with guns (a recurring theme) as one might expect. The Parliament was understated and quite elegant, built under Benazir Bhutto’s administration.

The road in front of the shrine hosts a market of sorts. Zulfiqar said the shopping here was, “not very good,” though I was practically salivating over the photos I would snap after visiting the shrine. He parked the car and pointed me toward the Women’s entrance, adding, “You can leave your shoes with the guards.” Yeah, no. DD and I didn’t trust the “guards” in Cairo (we carried our shoes with) when visiting mosques, and I wasn’t about to lose my favorite urban ballerinas in Islamabad, so I tucked them into my tote.

And this is when I officially became an item of curiosity.

Literally (and I do know the definition of the word ) every other woman or group of women either bid me salaam alaikum (and I in return, as I have a solid grasp of about four Arabic phrases that overlap with Farsi and Urdu) or asked if they might take my photo, and sometimes both. The young girls, especially, wanted to touch me (my clothes) and my hair (again, no headscarf required. I asked the kindly security officer at the entrance, who assured me that I could enter the shrine without a headscarf), which I had drawn into a loose side-pony to combat the heat. Sometimes a group of women would ask if I would take their photo with my camera, I guess for my own memories. Several asked me from where I had come. I was not at all uncomfortable; in fact, these kinds of exchanges are what makes traveling so special to me, and I even felt brave enough to ask one beautiful young girl holding her baby brother if I might take her photo. She asked her mom, who proudly smiled her approval.

The shrine to this patron Sufi of Islamabad is located rather near to the Muslim Colony, the Islamabad equivalent of illegal slums, so there were many small school-aged children who swarmed me as I was leaving the shrine. Zulfiqar looked horrified, and jumped in to shoo the young beggars away. But my heartstrings had been tugged, and I asked him if it would be okay to give a few Rupees to the little girls who had been following me. Zulfiqar then told me briefly about the Mashal School, a project begun a decade ago to help get children off the streets and into the classrooms (classroom attendance is now near 1.000), though the students are free to work in the afternoon as they need to help support their families. He said that giving the girls a few Rupees would be fine.

But what happened next was not fine. I placed my tote and camera safely in the car, and began to offer small Rupee notes to the girls, some as young (looking) as perhaps 5 or 6. Suddenly older boys rushed in, pushing the girls aside and ripping the notes from my hands. Zulfiqar sprung into action, shouting aggressively at the boys, who turned on their tails and slunk away. I managed to give a half-dozen girls some notes, but the incident weighed heavily in my thoughts for the remainder of my stay, and when I returned home I sent a donation to the Mashal School.

The late afternoon now upon us, Zulfiqar brought me back to the Serena, stopping along the way whenever I would exclaim, “Cow!” or “Painted Truck!” and needing to hop out and snap. “He is just like you!” I would exclaim to DH that evening. “He knows when to stop the car so that his crazy Western charge can take snaps of cows walking in the road.” I can only wonder what Zulfiqar told his wife about me each evening.

Zulfiqar also apologized over and over, though I was not upset with him at all over the incident in the Muslim Colony. Once at the hotel, and still a little travel-weary, I ordered a room service Tandoori Chicken Salad, twice checking the cost because it seemed absurdly low. A quick shower, and then I settled in to absorb the events of the past 4 hours and write some notes. On an aside, whatever I have been labeling as “tandoori” at home is but a sad, sad, impostor.

DH rang, entirely worried about my well-being (let me just write that cell service has its moments in Pakistan) as he had been unable to reach me. The Pakistani team he was working with was all prepared to outfit me with their guides (and the guys with guns, natch) but I assured everyone that all was well. I would have to do this each and every day. It appeared that I had confounded the Pakistani team; they did not know quite what to make of a spouse who was roaming their country with just a regular guide.

We sat for an early dinner at one of the five restaurants on the Serena grounds. To leave the hotel would have meant ringing up the guys with the guns, and neither of us were in the mood for that. In fact, all but one of our dinners was at the Serena for that reason. The restaurant Dawat was our choice. We began with the wine water selection: a 2018 vintage San Pellegrino. Remember, dry country. Entirely sparkly, entirely quaffable.

Prawn Pakora, silky and spicy, began our meal. DH ordered Murgh Tikka; I selected a White Murgh Karahi from the Khyber region. A second bottle of San Pellegrino was ordered. After all, we only had to walk upstairs. A basket of Naan like we have never tasted before wafted onto our table; the housemade special chutney being something I wanted to lick every tart and savory drop of, decorum preventing me from doing so, however. We shared our dishes; the flavors were like none we had ever experienced. I made a note to scratch each and every Pakistani recipe in my collection after our meal as they, too, were but rogue impostors.

Shortly after dinner had we returned to our room when Ashfaq, our head housekeeper, gently knocked to pepper us with questions (“Do you like your room?” “How many bottles of water would you like?” Where are you from?” “How do you find Islamabad?” “Is this your first visit?” “Do you have the proper pillows?”)

That last question we took to heart, for on the night table was the Pillow Menu. DH promptly ordered his two slabs of concrete while I burrowed into my feather-pillowed nest. Sleep came quickly...

Last edited by fourfortravel; Apr 2nd, 2019 at 01:04 AM.
fourfortravel is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2019, 12:56 AM
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Thank you, everyone, for your comments and for following along on this incredible adventure!

thursdaysd, thanks. For the entirety of the holiday I was mispronouncing salwar kameez, and that bad habit crept into this report. It is corrected in my personal notes, however. Ugh.
fourfortravel is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2019, 03:46 AM
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What a memorable day, even with the school children. Thank you for helping to bring to life a place I know so little about. I must admit, you are tempting me to place Pakistan on my list, even if it starts at the bottom.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2019, 05:36 AM
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tripplanner001, do consider Pakistan. It's less gritty than Cairo and not as Disney-esque as Doha is my perspective. The tourism infrastructure is not quite in place, which necessitated my needing a guide, but that all contributed to the charm.
fourfortravel is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2019, 09:07 AM
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Thanks fourfortravel. I have not been to Cairo, but it sounds like Amman. I agree with you on Doha; Dubai is similar in this way too. Did you get the sense of whether it felt safe to walk around on your own? We like to take day trips in which we hire a driver and a guide, and sometimes for longer, but we really enjoy independent travel and being able to tour at our own pace, especially in major cities.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2019, 11:26 AM
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Loving this!
Kathie is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2019, 10:20 PM
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tripplanner001, there is something like a HOHO in Islamabad, so I suppose it is possible to explore at your own pace if you can piece together a bus/Metro/taxi scheme. I never felt unsafe, but to me the city was not one I would want to explore on my own just because I might waste precious sightseeing time messing around with logistics.

I liked the convenience of using a car and driver to get from A to B; and especially liked being whisked (insofar as much as one can be in a city with incredible traffic) directly to the hotel when my sightseeing day was over. I never felt hurried along, either. As Zulfiqar stated, "I am at your disposal." A gal could get used to that.
fourfortravel is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2019, 12:14 AM
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Following too. Love hearing about TR's to parts of the world we don't hear much about.

I am surprised about Turkish airlines. They ratings are pretty good. Sorry about your subpar experience.
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Apr 3rd, 2019, 12:43 AM
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Almost no words. Except, I found 5700 or so.

I left a pair of linen pants to be laundered before heading to breakfast with DH. After the long flight they were misshapen and coated with flight funk and I wanted them fresh for my return. Laundry cost, €2.86 equivalent. A gal could get used to this.

The terrace doors of the breakfast room were open and a warmish breeze floated across; we left our phones and my shawl at a table equidistant from the breeze and the pistachio cake, and as if by magic a server appeared to ask if we might prefer coffee or tea. DH flitted to the omelet station like the breakfast moth that he is while I surveyed the field. Mmm, the Channa Chaat looked wonderful and smelled heavenly—a small serving of that was added to the plate, next to the equally luscious Lamb Biryani, with plenty of room for a piece of the fresh Roti being brought out. Over to the salad table I twirled, where a healthy portion of Fattoush was captured in the salad servers, along with a side of “Housemade Fattoush Dressing.”

I pause here to pay homage to the Housemade Fattoush Dressing. You would as well if you had tasted it.

DH praised his boring omelet as delicious; and I did likewise my Pakistani Mezze. And then it was Pistachio Cake time, but you probably guessed that. Shortly thereafter DH departed to do his part to make the world safe for democracy, while I waited (indoors) for Zulfiqar.

Valet with Fabulous Pugree had seen us in the hotel lobby and informed DH that my driver’s name had been listed for the remainder of my stay so that I would not be delayed with Zulfiqar passing through security. A gal could get used to this.

Zulfiqar and I began this morning with a visit to Saidpur, a restored historic village tucked into the Margalla foothills of the Himalayas that surround Islamabad. Now it is a source of tourism, though some perspective is required: its major sights can be seen in one sweeping glance.

The old Hindu temple and Sikh Gurdwara recall a time long ago; the intricate arcade of the old Hindu guesthouse a treat for my eyes and my camera, thanks to Zulfiqar chatting with the guesthouse minder, who allowed me in. On the ground level was a series of before/after photographs detailing the restoration of the village. There are a few local artisans in the village; but again, perspective.

A group of school girls had been wandering the village on a break from the nearby school when I was spotted. I was swarmed and politely barraged with questions; with some girls taking notes while the others had their iPhone cameras clicking away at me. Group photos naturally followed.

As it was approaching the morning tea break, Zulfiqar suggested he ring his very best friend who lives in the village to ask if we might drop in for tea, so that I could experience real village life. I do not think this was planned; the timing just happened to be right.

We parked the car just as Friend met us (I have forgotten his name) and began our short walk to the house, Zulfiqar assuring me that all of the tigers are gone from the area (because they were eating the children who play in the streets), but that he and Friend would walk ahead to look for snakes. Not only was this dangerously thoughtful, it did help to explain why the small children were playing on the roofs of their homes and not on the road.

Quite literally every person working/playing outside their homes stopped to peek at me.

The entrance to Friend's house was not through the gate (now the back of the chicken yard; but rather, through a narrow path on the side that hugged a cliff high enough to sprain an ankle if one slipped. I did not slip. Friend's Wife greeted me warmly; the children, though, were cautious at first. A table was set for me in the shade, and Friend's Wife went about preparing tea and biscuits. The men disappeared for their own tea. Grandma emerged and nodded to me, then reclined on the outdoor bench to enjoy the warm sun. I broke the ice with the children when I offered them each a biscuit.

As I prepared to leave I asked if could take a family photo. Grandma arose to readjust her headscarf and somehow I missed snapping her beautiful golden face, but she clasped my hands in hers, smiled and wished me well in Urdu. Zulifqar and Friend walked us back to where we had parked, the men on the lookout for snakes. The memories of this morning tea will remain with me forever.

From Saidpur we drove to Lok Virsa, Pakistan’s Heritage Museum. Zulfiqar said to me, “Please take your time. Your visit to Pakistan will be enhanced by the learning inside.” That was an understatement. Growing up in the US Midwest I had healthy doses of Native American and Immigrant History instruction; and over the two decades we lived in Washington, DC availed myself of the outstanding exhibits at the Smithsonian to piece together my home country’s cultural heritage. I try to do the same here in Vienna, but there are just so. many. Hapsburgs that I still need a family tree card now and again to make sense of it. But, even a girlfriend of mine who is loosely descended from a Hungarian part of the former empire imperial lineage can’t keep it all straight, either, so I do not feel so woefully uninformed.

The history in Lok Virsa was staggering. One wove through tale after tale of Pakistan’s cultural Silk Road connections to Afghanistan, India, China, Iran, Turkey, and on and on. So many beautiful textiles I longed to caress; that is, when I was not being (politely) interrupted by visiting school groups requesting photos with me. Lots of questions, naturally. “Where are you from?” “How do you like Islamabad?” “Is this your first time to Pakistan?” “Will you come back?” I wished that I had had time to hang out with a particularly fun-looking group of young women wearing brightly colored headscarves who asked, “Why are you here?”

On the grounds of the museum there were a handful of artisans selling their wares, and I was particularly drawn to a stall with Multan pottery. The artisans in this stall have had their work UNESCO-certified as intangible cultural heritage, and rightly so. The resemblance of the blue patterns to my own Polish pottery is striking, and I knew that even though I would not get to Multan on this visit I “needed” a piece or two. That piece or two ended up being a gorgeous vase and a 40cm tall urn that commands attention in our living room. As it should. As I would conclude toward the end of this trip, it was refreshing to travel to a destination with “no souvenir stands,” so to speak.

As the assistant clerk was carrying the large box with my vase and urn to the car (a gal could get used to this) Zulfiqar popped out and opened my door, excited to know what I thought about the museum. “Do you think the museum tells the Pakistan history story well?” Oh my, yes.

But this long day was not over. Both the Pakistani Monument and Faisal Mosque remained on the agenda. Though the Pakistani Monument is on the grounds of the Heritage Museum and just a kilometer walk away through the park, Zulfiqar insisted that we drive. A gal could get used to this. The Pakistani Monument is a magnificent set of structures resembling a blooming flower that symbolizes the unity of the Pakistani people in very much the same way that the National Mall in DC, with its Capitol and Lincoln Memorial bookends embody that same sentiment. This striking ochre granite flower has “petals” for the provinces and territories, along with tribal areas; with carved motifs depicting important moments in history. On the grounds there is a small pond and a terrace overlooking Islamabad, and a Pakistani Monument Museum that details the struggles leading to The Partition. I admit that I did not give this museum as much attention as perhaps I should, but my brain was at capacity with Pakistani history by this time.

To my surprise, it was at the monument where several men asked if they might take a photo with me. Women asked, too, but the men doing so was a surprise. Equality comes to Islamabad!

Our final stop on this day was Faisal Mosque. Though it was closed for touring, one could freely wander its immense campus. One can view photos of the mosque on the Internet, but it is not until one wanders the cool marble floors (my ballerinas safely in my tote) that the scale of this house of worship (with space for 100.000) sinks in. But, it is more than that. Couples walked along, taking photos against the blue skies and green Margalla Hills. School groups furiously writing notes from the lectures of their instructors. Small children playing ball and running races. It was a very peaceful and happy space.

Outside the mosque grounds was a different story, and once again Zulfiqar was at the ready to fend off insistent, though not aggressive, teen beggars. Zulfiqar informed me that “These stupid boys” did not deserve any Rupees. “They should be working.” When in Rome…

The Itwar Bazaar had also been on the itinerary, but with late afternoon approaching and the temperature soaring to 30C, I was just not feeling it. I would come to regret that, as the bazaar is not open daily. Next time. Instead Zulfiqar took me to a cloth district, where I purchased a couple of easy-breezy salwar kameez to wear for the remainder of this adventure.

From there it was back to the hotel, my favorite Valet with Fabulous Pugree handing off my box of pottery to be delivered to our room. I requested a light salad from room service while I wrote notes and downloaded photos. DH rang; the staff at the organization wanting confirmation that I was both doing fine and did not need their guide services. Indeed, I was quite fine. Ashfaq made his afternoon bottled water rounds, asking many questions about my day and seeming quite pleased that I had enjoyed my day in Islamabad.

Though there are five restaurants in the Serena, we were drawn back to Dawat again on this evening. The manager greeted us with a, “Welcome Back,” and by the time we were settled into our plush chairs the staff was uncorking another vintage San Pellegrino for us. The Grilled Tandoori Paneer called to us. I repeat: Grilled. Tandoori. Paneer. A basket of hot-to-the-touch Pappadum and that magical housemade chutney soon graced the table, too. Along the way, a small dish of the yoghurt garlic chutney slipped off the platter and crashed to the floor. “I am so sorry,” said our server. “The chutney fell down.” It was hard not to chuckle. Both the Manager and the Host dropped by our table with many of the same questions I had been asked over the past day or so, along with an expression of concern that the food may be too spicy for us. Oh. No. There is no such Pakistani dish that is too spicy in our eyes, we assured them. And then out came the Murgh Tikka (for me, the one DH had ordered the previous evening); and a Sheesh Kashori Kebab for DH. Once again we shared, and once again we swooned over flavors and tastes we just can not find in Vienna.

Ashfaq had turned down the bed and added two more bottled waters to our table. A quick peek at the lights over Islamabad before drawing the drapery and succumbing to the delicious slumber following my extraordinary first full day in the city of Islam.

Last edited by fourfortravel; Apr 3rd, 2019 at 12:54 AM.
fourfortravel is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2019, 12:53 AM
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jacketwatch, we were surprised with Turkish, too. I last flew the carrier about 6 years ago, but that was the short VIE-IST hop and I guess it didn't make much of an impression one way or the other on me. This time, we did note that the VIE-IST planes were old. On the long haul to/from ISB, the service was surprisingly of a lower calibre than we were expecting; the food was atrocious, as I mentioned, and even the seats themselves were not comfortable. And after trapping passengers for 7 hours on the plane, what airline does not even offer water within an hour or so of landing?

(The return from ISB to IST was one that warranted a note of complaint to the airline, but I shall get to that.)
fourfortravel is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2019, 04:12 AM
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Wow! Your day in Islamabad sounds amazing. Trip seems to get better and better.
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