“We are not terrorists.”
This was repeatedly the first thing I was told when sitting down for tea across Pakistan.
A proud, friendly and welcoming country, everyone I met was frustrated about how their country was being portrayed by western media.
And they were determined to change that one tea at a time.
Pakistan Travel – Lahore
Lahore quickly became one of my favourite cities on the planet.
Equal parts historic, tranquil, insane and eccentric.
From trance inducing Sufi Shrine dancing…
To traditional Kushti Wrestling…
And fire haircuts…
Lahore had it all.
It is illegal to be gay in Pakistan – a holdover from laws the British left behind. However in 2018, Pakistan passed a law which established broad protections for transgender people.
Still forced to live a difficult life of discrimination and violence, they tend to stick together in tight knit communities for support.
Normally performing at one of the various traditional festivals across the country, I was lucky enough to be invited over to experience their day to day lives. It was a truly special night.
Abbottabad and Osama bin Laden
Of course, no trip to Pakistan would be complete without a visit to Abbottabad.
Known locally as “Waziristan Haveli”, it is where U.S. Forces finally tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.
The compound was destroyed in order to ensure it did not turn into a sight of pilgrimage.
Now swampy and inhabited only by a cow, it is still an important part of contemporary history.
Wagah Border Ceremony
The Wagah Border Ceremony is a daily tradition (competition?) where Pakistan and India celebrate the closing of their borders.
Nowhere else on Earth does something like this exist.
The ceremony consists of cheering, chanting, taunting, a one legged man spinning like a dervish and much more taunting, all blasted through screeching competing sound systems.
It finally climaxes in something that looks like a recreation of Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch with one of the worlds quickest handshakes.
It perfectly sums up these two countries relationship with each other.
Multan and Uch Sharif
My journey continued south towards Punjab and the sights in Multan and Uch Sharif.
A mix of ancient Greek, Sufi and Muslim historical sights can be seen across the country.
Travel in these areas was not as straight-forward as I thought. Due to government imposed restrictions, it was difficult to find a hotel that would accept foreigners due to “security concerns.”
One day I finally got so fed up that I turned myself into the police.
They felt sorry for me and let me stay in their police compound.
Derawar Fort and Mohenjo-Daro
Derawar Fort was the real highlight of the area. An impressive fort built between the 9th and 18th centuries towering over the Cholistan Desert.
Travelling further south and leaving Punjab for Sindh, my next stop was the Unesco site of Mohenjo-Daro. Built around 2500 BCE, it is one of the world’s earliest major cities.
My final stop was Karachi.
I ran out of time to properly explore Karachi, so focused on a few highlights.
One stop I was not going to miss was to Mazar-e-Quaid to pay my respects to the final resting place of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
Karcachi was a bit more chaotic (and polluted) than Lahore, but still an interesting place to wander around for a few days.
If you’ve read my Angola travel blog, you will know my love for abandoned ships, but unfortunately this time I was denied by the police.
Boo. This is as close as I got.
And last, but definitely not least…
One bonus pic, that defies description…
Pakistan Travel – Useful Information
Visas: e-visas are now easily obtainable online for many countries.
Airport: both Karachi airport and Lahore were surprisngly straight-forward without a lot of touts. However, SIM cards are hard to find due to government restrictions and can only be purchased at a few main shops in the city centres.
Money: ATMs are everywhere and generally accept foreign cards.
Electrical Outlets: European outlets (usually)
Useful Tips: consider increasing your budget in Punjab/Sindh in order to stay at nicer hotels that allow foreign visitors.