A Journey Off the Beaten Path

A Journey Off the Beaten Path
36 Hours in Lahore, Pakistan
36 Hours in Lahore, Pakistan

36 Hours in Lahore, Pakistan

April 16, 2014 · by Paul · in Uncategorized
A popular travel column in the New York Times called “36 hours in…” has covered over 700 cities ranging from Bijiang, China to New Haven, Connecticut.
But never a city in Pakistan.
I am certainly not the New York Times, but wanted to make an attempt to change this by sharing a glimpse of my visit.
Saturday.

8am. Airplane. Teenagers.

“Where are you from?”
“America.”
“You’re going to get blown up!”


The exchange with the Pakistani teenager next to me does not begin well. Pakistan is best known in the West as the home of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. 

It was quite high on the “I cannot believe you’re going there” list.

Sensing the concern clouding my face, he breaks out into a wide grin.

“Just kidding, man. You’re going to love it here. You Americans have totally the wrong image of Pakistan. Lahore is the party capital of Pakistan! Let me know if you want to go out tonight.”

Turns out teenagers have the same sense of humor everywhere.

Party capital? Not words normally used to describe Pakistan, a “dry” country. Despite being technically illegal, it seemed alcohol might not be as taboo as one would think. Stereotypes begin to crumble.

Mountains on approach to Lahore.

Mountains on approach to Lahore.
 

9am. Lahore airport.

Crowds fill the immigration hall. Random people strike up conversation. Westerners are a novelty. Strangers offer Urdu lessons. My brain moves sluggishly after 40 hours without sleep. The hospitality is appreciated.

After breezing through immigration, a stocky, no-nonsense customs officer waves for a bag search. He barely glances at the large bag of malaria, cipro, and vitamin pills. My Clif bars, however, merit a thorough inspection. He tears one open and seems ready to have breakfast. After a quick sniff, he smiles, puts everything back in the bag, and waves me onward. Crisis averted.

10am. Garden city.

The first thing that strikes you about Lahore is that everything is green. Willowing trees and lush grass line the streets. A comfortable breeze envelopes the city.

The streets are quiet in my Cavalry Ground neighborhood. While taking photos and daydreaming, I experience my most dangerous moment yet in Pakistan: almost being hit by an ice cream vendor. Time to wake-up.

The mean green streets of Lahore.

The mean green streets of Lahore.
 

11am. Caffeine and club sandwiches.

Sensing my jetlag, my host, Lahore blogger Mohammad Momekh, takes me to Gloria Jean’s for coffee. It’s like a Starbucks in America, minus the hipsters.

Lunch is at Mohammad’s. Instead of a traditional Pakistani meal, his wife prepares club sandwiches and french fries. 

She considers it a proper meal for an American. When I decline a Coke, her shock is palpable. “You mean there are Americans who do not drink soda?!” Stereotypes can cut both ways.

1pm. Selfies and stereotypes.

We return to Gloria Jean’s to meet with a few local students, whose knowledge of world affairs is matched only by their eloquence.

How do Pakistanis think Americans perceive them?

“Americans think Pakistanis are uncivilized, very religious, gender segregated, terrorists who live in tents. Americans are friendly, but they have a very wrong image of us. They also eat a lot.”

“The media drives this image. They make everywhere in Pakistan seem unsafe. But most parts of the country are completely safe.”

What worries you?

“Getting blown up is the least of our problems. I stress about school, not bombs.”

“The SAT test. Why did America invent it?!”
“My FIFA skills. I will be practicing after this.”

What about gender segregation?

“In university, boys and girls hang out until 3am. This is normal.”
“Most schools are equal between boys and girls. But in fields like engineering, it is difficult to be female. As a girl, though, I can definitely have a career and be independent.”

Gender equality might not be quite the same as in the West, but some issues are universal.

Before leaving, the group suggests a group selfie for Snapchat. Both are popular. The Lahore McDonald’s worldwide single-day sales record is also mentioned. Some things are perhaps better confined to America.

My first selfie.

 
My first selfie.

7pm. Real food.

One of the students invites us to visit his school, the Lahore University of Management Science. The campus would not have felt out of place in suburban America. Footlongs at the campus Subway restaurant are popular although there is no Pakistani version of Jared.

Round table discussion.

 
Round table discussion.

Mohammad and his wife Haleema invite me for a proper Pakistani dinner. Meals are extended, family-oriented affairs. Cousins, brothers, children, and grandparents all drop by and say hello. Around midnight, bed finally calls.

Sunday. Playing tourist.

8am. No rest for the weary.

A knock. “Time for breakfast!” I am still in a jetlagged stupor and  have no idea where I am. For just one moment, I wish Pakistanis were less hospitable.

Noon. More lunches, more families.

Today Ali, a friend of a friend from business school, his wife Mehreen, and three children are my hosts. The first stop is lunch with their extended families. One relative seems startled. “I was just reading about this American coming to Pakistan on Facebook… is that you?!”

Small world.

Two topics come up: Islam and women.

A consensus view on Islam in Pakistan emerged, summed up by a quote from the father who teaches Koran classes:

“Many teachers have distorted Islam. It is often no longer direct from the Koran. Radical clerics have often changed Islam to suit their interests.”

The topic of women in Pakistan stirs passions. A few themes emerged.

Indignation on criticism. “How many female American presidents are there? Because we already elected a female prime minister twice.”
Discomfort with “role models”. Malala, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban, is viewed with respect. However, many express concern that she is the only Pakistani that many Americans know.

Cautious optimism. Many Pakistani women are entrepreneurs who run successful businesses. While some interpretations of Islam restrict women’s rights, a consensus emerged that the Koran teaches great respect for women.

Family lunch.

Family lunch.

3pm. Wall of death.

Visit street carnival. Witness coolest and scariest sight in Pakistan: mot ka kuan, or literally, the wall of death. Two men drive old motorcycles along wall. Admission? 25 cents.

4pm. Border.

Experience flag lowering ceremony between two hostile, nuclear-armed enemies at Wagah Border, only one of two land borders between Pakistan and India. Both sides paradoxically thump their chests in perfect coordination. The soldiers ultimately shake hands and perform a synchronized lowering of flags.

photo (1)

Flag lowering ceremony.

6pm. Old city. Food Street.

Visit Lahore’s old city. Climb a minaret of the Wazir Khan mosque for stunning views. Visit the historic Lahore Fort. Experience the Badshahi Mosque, the 5th largest in the world with a capacity of 150,000 worshipers.

Finally, dinner on Lahore’s infamous pedestrian-only Food Street. Cuckoo’s, a Lahore institution, is a fine choice. As is the company: a lawyer who fights for the rights of Pakistanis detained in Afghanistan, a gym tycoon, and an education guru and fitness coach. Laughter and merriment are guaranteed.

Dinner on Food Street.

Dinner on Food Street.
 

11pm. Post-dinner workout.

Just kidding. But we did swing by Reza’s gym to take a quick peek. He claims it gives Equinox a run for its money.

The bottom line

• Safety: Terrorist attacks have killed fewer than 20 people in Lahore since 2010. The same number of homicides occur in Detroit every two weeks. Detroit’s murder rate is 7X Lahore’s. Despite this, the US State Department advises against all non-essential travel to Pakistan. I personally never felt unsafe.

• Stereotypes: Like most places, these are often derived from a small population and applied to a large one. In Pakistan, people seemed keenly aware of their stereotypes and felt passionate about correcting what they considered grave misperceptions.

• Hospitality: Pakistani hospitality cannot be overstated. The entire country went out of the way to welcome me. Within a week of sharing my plan to visit, hundreds of Pakistanis invited me to their homes and cities across the country. My biggest regret is having only a week-long visa.

Pakistan welcomed me with open arms and hearts. Life seemed, in many ways, not so different than anywhere else in the world. Next time Islamabad, Karachi, and the mountains will all be on the itinerary. I have no doubt that there will be a next time — hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

An unbiased Articles About Pakistan is Hard to Come by in american Press. Most of whom are zionists and cannot hide their bias. But, occasionally,truth peeks out and we get rare gems like this article. The comments by many Americans are positive except those with Hebrew names,who just cannot past their paranoia, including stealth lurking of  Trolling on Pakistan Think Tank. But, our anonymity and fear are a blessing in disguise.. We are not invaded by hordes of American tourists like Europe or UK.

Comments

  1. Nathan  at  · Reply →

    Wow, great first post! I’m not necessarily ignorant of how distorted our media-led perspectives of other countries can be, but I still learned a lot from the beginning of your journey. I’m looking forward to reading more as you continue along!

    Wishing you all the best.

  2. Christina

    Christina  at  · Reply →

    Loved this! Am insanely jealous of this trip and may need to replicate it myself someday soon. In the mean time, keep the stories flowing.

    1. Muhammad Waqar Arif

      Muhammad Waqar Arif  at  · Reply →

      Pakistani people are not terrorists rather we people are like you!! Peace loving .
      The media portrays us in a very wrong way.

      1. Ali Mahad

        Ali Mahad  at  · Reply →

        Aside from the fact that I personally know some of the people seen in the photos above, I am so insanely happy to see such a candid and (most importantly) honest depiction of Lahore, Pakistan.
        Pakistanis surely don’t go around bombing tourists, but they also don’t dance around and wear shalwar kameez and only consume local cuisine 24/7, either. Hyping Pakistan’s culture to ludicrous extents and portraying it as ‘the real Pakistan’ is just as dishonest as reducing it to nothing.

  3. Shujaat

    Shujaat  at  · Reply →

    Great post Paul. Make sure you get to see the view of the Badshaahi mosque from the rooftop of Cuckoo’s cafe.

  4. Ana

    Ana  at  · Reply →

    Absolutely amazing, Paul! Can’t wait to read about your next adventure!

    1. Muntazir Mahdi

      Muntazir Mahdi  at  · Reply →

      Respected Christina,

      See 100s of more foreigners videos, blogs & photos about their trip to Pakistan on our project “Voice Pakistan; From Foreigner’s Eye” page:
      https://www.facebook.com/VoicePakistan

      Foreigners just love PAKISTAN!!!!!

      Thank you,
      Muntazir.

  5. Lyssa

    Lyssa  at  · Reply →

    Sounds like an awesome 36 hours! Keep it up!

  6. Casey

    Casey  at  · Reply →

    I appreciate the discussion about women and Islam. Nice work, Paul.

  7. Sabeen

    Sabeen  at  · Reply →

    I was very happy to read your account of Lahore & even happier to read how differently things actually on ground are as compared to what the media portrays. I wish more Americans would come visit and see for themselves :) Also, next time you MUST visit Islamabad and the northern areas of Pakistan as the beauty of our northern areas is unparalleled :) wishing you a great journey ahead and looking forward to reading about it!

  8. James Hodson

    James Hodson  at  · Reply →

    Great article Paul. I can’t wait to land in Islamabad tomorrow morning, and start to experience the amazing things that you have during your trip.

    1. Marium

      Marium  at  · Reply →

      James!
      From a Pakistani living in Boston, I wish you have the best trip ever! Welcome to Pakistan =D

    2. Usman

      Usman  at  · Reply →

      You’ll have a blast James! Drop me a line if you need any help. Even though I don’t live there anymore it’s still my hometown. I hope the spring is still in the air, the hills are still green and the food is still awesome!

      1. Fahad

        Fahad  at  · Reply →

        Usman,

        may I know what do you mean by that?For your kind info ,I am living in Pakistan for many years and unfortunately it is Karachi and some areas of Balochistan which are suffering from problems and terrorism.

        Rest of the country is fine.

        Just check the video of Madam Alison from UK, she visited Pakistan 23 times, can you imagine? And she loves Pakistan.

        Jub Pakistan key barey mein ziada knowledge na ho tou apna stupid moo bandh rakho.

    3. Momina

      Momina  at  · Reply →

      James, have fun! You are going to have time of your life. I have been living in California for the past 22 years and miss Pakistan. Welcome :)

    4. Raza Abbas

      Raza Abbas  at  · Reply →

      Hello James,

      Welcome to Islamabad, one of the most beautiful capitals around the world (I hope that by this time you would agree with my claim following the amazing drizzles and the beautiful sunshine that has enveloped Islamabad in the past couple of days). While I am not really sure what brings you to Islamabad but in case you need any sort of information or help, please feel free to contact my via an email at [removed].

      While as a Pakistani, food is the most cherished mean of entertainment for us so you should definitely visit the amazing restaurants in town including Andaaz at Saidpur Village, Monal at Pir Sohawa, Karam Lebanon in F 7/2, Al-Maghreb at Serena, and Jason’s Steak House, Royal Elephant and Dynasty at Marriot. Also, there are some really nice cafes including Chaaye Khana in Super Market F 6, Mocca Coffee at Kohsar Market F 6 and Coffee Republic in Super Market F 6.

      Best wishes,
      Raza

    5. Wallis

      Wallis  at  · Reply →

      James,

      We wish that you will have a good time in Islamabad, and pls note that Islamabad has been ranked amongst the top 10 beautiful cities in the world. Islamabad is not just green but well planned and maintained. It is a new city which was developed in 1960s and has coffee shops ,shopping malls and many beautiful parks.

  9. Ali Ahsan

    Ali Ahsan  at  · Reply →

    Brilliant idea, wonderful post. Keep wandering, keep updating…

  10. Danish Alam

    Danish Alam  at  · Reply →

    You have visited our laid back fun loving cultural capital. Next time, visit our financial capital in the south, Karachi. A city where shit gets real, very real.

  11. Usman Shakeel

    Usman Shakeel  at  · Reply →

    Glad to see someone actually showing the true face of our beautiful land and people.. Pakistan welcomes every country with open arms and we shall show our hospitality no matter what..

  12. Ahmad Shoaib Moinuddin

    Ahmad Shoaib Moinuddin  at  · Reply →

    Well someone forgot you to show the sufi sides of Lahore. Those mystical experiences can seldom be replicated elsewhere in the world. So for those wanting to follow up on his journey to Pakistan, dont forget that.

  13. Imran

    Imran  at  · Reply →

    This is a dangerously misleading post. One American guy spends a short time with ‘elite’ and ‘wealthy’ Pakistani friends and makes very dangerous conclusions such the whole country being safe and hospitable towards foreigners.

    I was born in Pakistan, have lived most of my life there and have seen Pakistan beyond the elite couple of suburbs and 2-3 Gloria Jeans coffee houses.

    Pakistan is a safe country as long as you have extremely good connections, you stay in elite suburbs in one or two cities only, minimize any public appearances beyond a handful of restaurants and don’t socialize with anyone other than a handful of trusted friends (to minimize kidnapping risk). Beyond the elite circles, Pakistan is a terrible place for foreigners to visit. It’s not a coincidence that you see almost no foreigners on roads in Pakistan. Kidnapping, terrorism and opportunist crimes against travellers sadly are an everyday reality in Pakistan so have on illusions about safety situation in Pakistan.

    To anyone who has never been to Pakistan, and would like a more accurate picture of every day situation in the country, please use the travel advice websites (USA, UK and Australia have detailed advice pages for travellers to Pakistan which are frequently updated) rather than making any conclusions from this post.

    And yes, I am a Pakistani too (if you are thinking an Indian or American conspiracy here).

    1. Ali

      Ali  at  · Reply →

      To Imran,

      Please don’t pretend to be a Pakistani if you are not. As a American Pakistan who has just recently visited Pakistan, i had a great time. I was not worried about kidnappings or terrorism or any other crimes. I didn’t just stayed in posh areas, but instead travelled around to different cities in different neighbor hoods. Over all i had a great time in the country.

      We know the security situation isn’t the best, but it’s not as bad as been potrayed on media. Firstly i don’t beleive you are a Pakistani 99% sure, even if you are those 1% few odd cases then my advice, “Go to Pakistan and see yourself”

      Best Ali

    2. W. Raza

      W. Raza  at  · Reply →

      @imran: I appologize if any of this gets personal, but my intentions are otherwise. I am also a Pakistani American who was born and raised in Lahore. While you are right about the current security situation to an extent, but the tone of your comment is exaggerated. You make an average Pakistani sound like a sociopath (on a kidnapping and murdering rampage) waiting for foriegner targets. Please correct me if that’s not the point you were trying to make.

      An average person is the same everywhere whether it’s US or Pakistan. The reason we get skewed perspective from media about us or ‘the other’ is that the media operates within a framework of business and political agendas. Redundant to even mention that media in US and Pakistan have completely opposing narrative about each other depicting the deteriorating state of their relationship. The escalation of crimes in some parts of Pakistan is due to the unrest spilling over from the decade long war in border region. Pakistan itself may have huge problems and I am very critical of most of our self-inflicted wounds, but the reality is that most of it is political in nature. Things for Pakistan won’t change overnight but it doesn’t mean that 200 million people (5th largest country by population) should cut it’s ties to the world. There are countless stories of Pakistanis from all spheres of life doing amazing things within and outside the country that proves my point. Paul just had a first hand experience of meeting some of these people. We need to encourage more people to people contact (even with Pakistan’s neighbours) instead of adding to the dominant narrative already out there. No place in the world is perfect, not even US — actually far from it. You don’t see any tourists on the streets of Pakistan now (even though it has HUGE potential) is because of the bad press it has recieved in the last ten years. I do agree with your point of view that it’s definitely not a coincidence.

      To anyone reading this:
      Making broad generalizations about an entire country based on a personal pespective or grievance is not only inaccurate but a disservice to an average person on the street trying to earn an honest living. Any Pakistani living outside of the country should have a far better idea about this.

      Lastly here’s portal that tries to highlight some positive stories from Pakistan: http://goodnews.pk/

    3. zeeshan

      zeeshan  at  · Reply →

      Thank you imran for your views. Don’t you think its time to switch off ‘the news channels’ and get out of your house for once? My friend your view of Pakistan is the view of the news: come out and see for your self.

    4. Saad

      Saad  at  · Reply →

      @Imran… well I can understand your frustration, most of the people who settle abroad, are not that well established in Pakistan, and thus have to face difficulties back home, some of those have developed a certain kind of grudge against Pakistan and its people and its clearly visible in your post….I am from lahore…I am currently in Toronto…lived in Lahore for 20 years till 2010…if you claim there is terrorism in lahore please guide me cuz I don’t know of any incident…last time there was a terror incident was probably in 2010 …you talk about kidnapping….its rare..absolutely rare in lahore ….never ever heard of it…but karachi yes, cuz of political parties and their mobs..karachi you can say has some kind of a security problem, but Pakistan is huge country with a lot of ethinicities with their own culture and language…its a country of 186 million people…don’t generalize everything based on your personal bias !!!

    5. Amna

      Amna  at  · Reply →

      “It’s not a coincidence that you see almost no foreigners on roads in Pakistan. Kidnapping, terrorism and opportunist crimes against travellers sadly are an everyday reality in Pakistan so have on illusions about safety situation in Pakistan.”

      “no foreigners” on road are not due to security reasons but due to “no tourism policy”

    6. Hashaam

      Hashaam  at  · Reply →

      Dude you can never say it’s a terrible place to visit.. Everyone knows Pakistan is a developing country so the problems and disparity between the elite and poor are common.. Justl like Paul said murders also happen in America but a single killing is overblown if it happens in Pakistan..
      There are a only few dangerous places in the country if you look at the entire area of it.. Karachi has an increasing crime rate but several years ago it wasnt like this so it’s just a phase.. We can mention Harlem here that had a crazy high crime rate too.. Social problems exist in every country.. Again of course you cant compare Pakistan with a European country or US generally but the media just takes the criticism to a whole new level.. We have heard so many stories from our friends living in UK or US about getting mugged..
      Bomb blasts and terrorism, that started after 2004, 2005 and peaked at 2008,09 but basing your view about the entire country on it is just not right.. It feels as if Pakistan was never a better country.. Ok, there are a few areas unsafe but mostly it is fine.. I hope you get the gist of what I’m trying to say..

    7. Saadia Sharjeel

      Saadia Sharjeel  at  · Reply →

      Imran you certainly sound like an Indian agent or something. I think you did not read properly, the writer did go to food street and the inner part of the city, besides Gloria Jeans. Nobody kidnapped him.

    8. Ahsan

      Ahsan  at  · Reply →

      I beg to differ Imran. Just last year in October, I happen to be a host of a Spanish couple who were traveling from Spain all through Asia. Anyway, they crossed the border from Iran into Baluchistan on a caravan. They drove the caravan all through Baluchistan and Punjab and came to Lahore. They stayed with me for more than a week, I showed them all over Lahore, good and bad places. I took them to Islamabad and Murree and they loved it. They would come back sometime this year on their way back. They have never been to Pakistan and we met through couchsurfing. Now I’m not an elite, comfortable yes but not an elite by any chance.
      Apart from them, I’ve been a host to an Indian guy as well and I had a great experience with him too. And this all is very recent. I believe Pakistan could be a heaven for tourists. We just have to welcome with good nature and stop our inner phobia.

  14. Sadaf

    Sadaf  at  · Reply →

    So glad to see that you enjoyed and loved our country.. just like we do! Thank you for writing this.. x

  15. CT

    CT  at  · Reply →

    There’s a lot more to Lahore and Pakistan in general. The longer you stay the more you’ll fall in love with the people and the place. Anyone wanting to try the claim i just made is more than welcome as a guest :)

  16. Kelly

    Kelly  at  · Reply →

    Thanks for sharing such a different perspective of the country. Looking forward to the next post!

  17. shereen

    shereen  at  · Reply →

    ONE CORRECTION ; MAUT KA KUAN

    MEANIN G THE WELL OF DEATH and not the WALL of death..

    kuan is a well.

    great post, famous saying, anyone who has not seen Lahore, has not lived !!!

  18. nouman munawar

    nouman munawar  at  · Reply →

    u should have visited lower Punjab also

  19. Huma

    Huma  at  · Reply →

    Very nice. I’m from Lahore. For higher education, i haven’t had time for going back since last 2 years. Believe it or not, i watch the news (from all sources) and myself start believing in the frenzy and FAILED STATE SITUATION going around in Pk which is shown by media.I call my family and say somethings like LEAVE PAKISTAN, GO AWAY, TALIBAN ARE COMING, IT’S GONE and well, my family doesn’t seem to get it that I’m a victim of media’s image projected about Pk.

    So, I am just wondering that I become confused, and forget about Lahore(Pakistan), then just imagine what would be the image of the world about this beautiful place.

  20. Zagham Naseem

    Zagham Naseem  at  · Reply →

    Thank you very much Paul for sharing positive image of Pakistan. Pakistan indeed a very beautiful and safe country.

  21. Umar Shehzad

    Umar Shehzad  at  · Reply →

    Great article Paul and about all the misconceptions and stereotypes, one can say that we too have a brown version of redneck community living in Pakistan.

  22. Usman Shafiq

    Usman Shafiq  at  · Reply →

    It’s a shame you only had a week long visa. People like you can change the perspectives of many. I am studying in Ireland and I have almost convinced my Irish friends to visit Pakistan for my wedding. I think the next time you visit you should come with your friends and take a drive to Islamabad and up north. You won’t regret it.
    Finally, if you get a chance, attend a wedding (the whole wedding).
    Best of luck for your future!

  23. Marium

    Marium  at  · Reply →

    LOVED the article <3 Lahore is my city and I miss it like crazy every day!!
    I’m so glad you had an awesome experience.
    =)

  24. Mark

    Mark  at  · Reply →

    I am happy to hear you are experiencing the Pakistan I came to know and love nearly 20 years ago. Lahore is an amazing city, so much history.

    I still think about Wazir Khan Mosque and Jehangir’s Tomb. Two very different yet very perfect architectural marvels.

    Looking forward to your future posts, enjoy the trip!

  25. Muhammad

    Muhammad  at  · Reply →

    Paul next time do visit Northern Areas Sakardu, Chitral , Hunza and many more… I bet u gonna remember them for a long time…normally people in Pakistan are very hospitable yes there are some fanatics… generally even the religious clerks are not too much hostile towards westerns.. Its just a group of some fanatics although they are not much in quantity but unfortunately they are worst than animals and I do not consider them as Muslims..

  26. Zain

    Zain  at  · Reply →

    I spent 2 years in UK and I could not stay there any longer because I missed Lahore like hell. Now I am back in the city and I am loving it more. Visited northern part of Pakistan recently and it is all very safe. Media only portrays the one aspect of this country which is quiet low in ratio.

  27. Muhammad Azeem

    Muhammad Azeem  at  · Reply →

    Thanks Paul for this great effort.

  28. Maaz

    Maaz  at  · Reply →

    “During my stay in Europe, I always come across the questions like “Do your women go to school?”, “How do you survive in such a war zone?”, “Isn’t Lahore totally based on the Desert Area?”. And sadly these are really hard and annoying questions to answer for any Pakistani given the fact that the only thing whole western world knows about us is just an imagination of us running with Rocket Launchers on our shoulders and trying to kill somebody.

    But this piece of text (has covered everything, from University lifestyle to the Food culture and) is something I can show off to everyone and proof that Pakistan is a peaceful country. Great article!
    Thank you Paul.

  29. Rubina

    Rubina  at  · Reply →

    HEY come to Karachi tooo! You won’t regret it. Its also a great city and you’ll love it! Despite popular misconception that it it the most unsafe city, I was born here and I love every bit of it. Would never trade it for any other place :)

  30. Rezwan

    Rezwan  at  · Reply →

    Hello Imran. Sorry bro seems like no one paid heed to you. Foreigners can have certain bad experiences everywhere.

    Even in the 1st world country there are people whose only source of income revolves around cheating, fooling and other opportunist crimes involving foreigners. So Pakistan could have some of that too. Atleast Foreigners dont get Raped in Pakistan like in your country…India……”I am Pakistani too” LOL

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/shelitaflame/india-shamed-again-danish-woman-gangraped-in-delhi/article1-1172980.aspx

  31. Quarat ul Ain

    Quarat ul Ain  at  · Reply →

    Paul,

    I grew up in Lahore -Cavalry Ground in fact. & I visit my folks every year or so. I read your article in disbelief at what you didn’t see – it was as if a Northerner in the pre-Civil War era had visited a plantation in the South & had come back with stories of how awesome it was & had never mentioned slavery.

    New York is not just Queens, its the Bronx too. You spent your entire time with the tiny percentage of rich, educated, & rather Westernized people & you did not look beyond what they showed you.

    Did you see the servant quarters in all the posh houses you visited? Did you notice who cooked & served the food you ate – that they never ate with the family & never even got to eat the left overs of the food they had cooked? & the washing up they had to do after the family finished eating at 10 pm? Oh & no electric dishwashers for them!

    You show a beautiful picture of a posh neighborhood, but did you see the slums behind? When you were up on Wazir Khan’s mosque, did you see the poverty, the malnourished kids, in the streets below?

    You said you never felt unsafe. You’re not a woman walking alone. I was. I know what I faced every day. In NWFP & Baluchistan, you won’t find a woman on the streets who is not under 5 or above 70. Want to learn about women’s rights? Go visit Hina Jillani’s office where she runs a women’s shelter & a law service for women. Visit the women’s jail. Many inmates are there because they committed adultery (yes, you get jailed for committing adultery)….in other words, they were raped.

    You said they’ve not been much terrorism….read this for starters:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-15/pakistan-s-terrorist-attacks-since-jan-1-2010-a-timeline.html

    How about the lynchings of Christian homes & churches Badami Bagh & the attacks on the Ahmedi mosque? All happened in that wonderful Lahore you visited. Next time you go to Paki, open your eyes & see.

  32. Khurram

    Khurram  at  · Reply →

    Nice one, Please do come to Islamabad too.

  33. naima

    naima  at  · Reply →

    I love that you loved Lahore, you can visit some more historical places and maybe next time stay there longer. Plus do visit Islamabad, its different and pretty good. Northern areas are a must too. And someone said in the comments that if you get a chance do attend a wedding and that is true, it is a nice experience.

  34. Moeed

    Moeed  at  · Reply →

    Great Work Paul. God bless America and Pakistan.

  35. zaki

    zaki  at  · Reply →

    A great post indeed! I understand that 48 hours or a week for that matter may not be enough time to understand a place. However, this being an experience, the narrative is interesting. Like all things in life, a balance is what eventually makes things understandable. The comment from a reader “Kidnapping, terrorism and opportunist crimes against travellers sadly are an everyday reality in Pakistan so have on illusions about safety situation in Pakistan. ” is something difficult to accept. Yes, these incidents happen. Living in Pakistan and traveling abroad during my career, the only case of having by luggage stolen happened in Montreal. That shouldn’t make me reach a generalization about the city that I loved in my 24 hours visit :) So, there are areas that are definitely not safe. But when anyone visits another country, we usually do not visit such places unless it is required (like a journalist’s assignment etc).

  36. feri rawanian

    feri rawanian  at  · Reply →

    Paul ,Thank you so much for visiting and writing about it If you are ever in Karachi look me up Would love to show you the city

  37. Ali

    Ali  at  · Reply →

    Paul … obviously very happy to read a positive piece on Pakistan. I am a Pakistani who has returned to Pakistan after living in North America for 2 decades. So on the issue of security for tourists/foreigners … and in the spirit of being objective … Pakistan is just like any where else in the world, things can go wrong … hence, it would be foolhardy to throw caution to the wind. Lahore is probably the safest large city in Pakistan (Karachi – not so much these days :( So my personal advice to people visiting Pakistan is to use common sense, do not move around unaccompanied, do not flash around dollars and passports … and just generally stay alert.

    Having said that … it is an awesome country to visit … with loads of culture, diverse landscape, history, great food and as rightly mentioned a few times … sincere hospitality!

    So Enjoy … but stay smart and safe!

  38. Alina

    Alina  at  · Reply →

    an interesting account, well of course. being a pakistani myself (born, bred and educated here), i cannot see why anyone could resist falling in love with a culturally sound country like this one and more so, withstand its hospitality; even if that comes in the wake of very negative media conspiracies.
    thanks for the review mate..

  39. Adil Lahorei

    Adil Lahorei  at  · Reply →

    i wish to must be visit with me the walled city of lahore where u can see the real culture of lahore and i waz sure that u must be a lot of enjoy there :) well no worries next time

  40. furqan

    furqan  at  · Reply →

    Thanks a lot for visiting our country and writing about the positivity of our Country.. We all loving and caring people as other ones in world. So come here and enjoy the seasons food hospitality historic places and everything we have in Pakistan . I love my country

  41. Kashif Ahmad

    Kashif Ahmad  at  · Reply →

    Its really great post, specially because its about clarifying misconceptions about #Pakistan.

    Next time you come to Pakistan then you are invited to #Karachi too, and you must have a longer visa maybe 21 days or more…

  42. Wasim

    Wasim  at  · Reply →

    Great article. I am from Lahore and having lived in different cities of Pakistan and rest of the world I can say Lahore and Lahorees(people from Lahore) ABSORB you while in other cities you get ADSORBED. As they say Lahore Lahore aye(Lahore is Lahore)

  43. Khawaja

    Khawaja  at  · Reply →

    Lahore is the heart of Pakistan and no matter from which social status your hosts were you would not have found them any less hospitable.The only people who rival the Lahories in hospitality are the pakhtoons.Pakistan is a great place for tourism especially its north.The only thing you need to enjoy a great trip is a strong liaison with someone in the city you are visiting and the all is well.

    Jinaain Lahore ni takayaa o jamaya nahi (If you have not seen Lahore you have yet to live )

  44. Abdur Rahman Mian

    Abdur Rahman Mian  at  · Reply →

    Dear Sir
    Very nice of you to have visited and shared your impressions
    of your precious 36 hours!
    You visited a select part,though. But,it is part of the whole.
    I chose to live in Lahore,in spite of several options and invitations,for me to live else where,on this globe.
    Good part of half a century,I have visited from Arctic,Aukland,
    Timbuktu and Zulu-land. But Lahore, L’hore Eih.
    Wish you safe journeys elsewhere around this globe….with a
    Tilted Axis.

  45. hussain

    hussain  at  · Reply →

    Lahore is the beginning. The north of Pakistan is a heaven, when situation gets better do go there.

  46. Humzah

    Humzah  at  · Reply →

    Good for you, buddy. I am glad that you had such an enjoyable experience. Let me know if you require any help regarding your trip to Islamabad.

    The unfortunate bit is that while media does exaggerate to get ratings, the fact of the matter is that taliban and al-qaeda, in whatever manifestations, have corroded the country and are a bane to its existence. However, what cannot be taken away from us is our culture of hospitality. Hopefully, more and more tourists will come over and over a period of time, the negative image would be overturned.

  47. Fatima

    Fatima  at  · Reply →

    As a pakistani student studying abroad and comtinuously trying to convince people to visit Pakistan, this article makes me SO happy! And I’m so, so, so glad and appreciative that you not only gave Pakistan a chance but also wrote about it. A huge thank you from the nation and we hope you get to visit again!

  48. Maha

    Maha  at  · Reply →

    It can not be stressed enough: Pakistan is a country with a myriad of flavors, colors and experiences. From the wild beauty of our mountains to the bustling plains. As a Pakistani myself, I haven’t yet experienced all, there is simply so much to see! I’m so happy to read of your account in my city, and will be looking forward to reading more. If possible, do also visit the shrines of Sufi saints in Multan and Ucchh Sharif. Like I said, beauty can be found anywhere in this vast land of ours. Cheers :)

  49. fahad

    fahad  at  · Reply →

    thanks for coming to our city

  50. Qamar

    Qamar  at  · Reply →

    A great read. I tell you the smaller towns and villages are even more safe than larger cities. Next time you plan to visit the smaller towns and northern area of Pakistan, you may not have the facilities of a city like Lahore, but I am sure you will forget the hospitality and beauty of Lahore. This is an amazing country. Only a handful of terrorists together with the International media has destroyed the image of Pakistan.

  51. Ibtasam

    Ibtasam  at  · Reply →

    Heartening to see that you enjoyed your visit to Lahore.

    There are so many other places in Lahore that you would enjoy if you decide to visit again. Fortress, Lahore Museum, Lahore Zoo (One of the oldest, founded 1872) Liberty, UET Lahore, Polo club etc. It really is Paris of the East :)

  52. Lahori Agnostic

    Lahori Agnostic  at  · Reply →

    Imran,

    No I don’t claim this is some RAW / CIA / Zionist conspiracy but your post is far more misleading than the article. Yes I agree the country has problems, it lacks freedom of expression, security, tolerance, gender equality, education, etc, but the author writes specifically about Lahore, not Pakistan in its entirety.

    Despite increasing social ruralisation, an increasing crime rate, problems of Lahore are common to any big city like New York, London. These problems will never kill its culture.

    Despite increasing inflation a bagpacking tourist can still find many cheap dhabbas with mouth watering food like chaat, fish-fry, broast, halwa puri, paye, nihari, hareesa, haleem and what not! You will find certain punjabi delicacies like hareesa, garato,katlama etc that are only known to Lahoris.

    Before partition, it was considered the “garh” of Punjab and it still is. You will never experience the sociable, hospitable, punjabi speaking culture anywhere like you do in Lahore. You can never stand at a hotdog stand in Manhattan and have a random discussion or joke around with the salesman like you can with a chanay wala in gulberg or chaat wala near regal cinema. It might be statistically a “Big City” but it still has that warmth of a closeknit small town that never sleeps!

    If it hadn’t been for our corrupt tourism authorities, in 1981 World Heritage Fund was willing to spend millions in preserving the wall city the same way it did in Cairo. This still goes to show the value of our cultural heritage that many of us fail to recognize.

    As far as security issues concerned, statistics speak for themselves. Also, mind you, Lahore has a population exceeding 5 million and its bound to have an increasing crime rate but still it has managed to maintain some level of security. It does not have the same social problems as other “big cities” in the region where rape cases are a norm. For this the credit ofcourse does not go to the governments but to its people.

    Despite increasing intolerance, Lahore is also the intellectual capital of the country as it produces one of the best minds in the region. Its a household fact that NHS and the US health care system has many Lahori trained doctors and we continue to produce countless number of engineers and doctors, not from elite families but from lower-middle class backgrounds for whom going to schools like UET, KE etc is pretty affordable.

    Anyway I could go on and on about how great this city is, but y’all should really come and experience it yourself!

  53. Tabinda Atif

    Tabinda Atif  at  · Reply →

    Awesome article!! Im thrilled to know you got to see the real Pakistan, not the one the media so wrongly portrays! Lahore is a city like no other! I live in the States however my hearts still in Pakistan! Hope u get to visit again soon & make some mre great memories!!

  54. uk

    uk  at  · Reply →

    Hey… Interesting read. There is so much more to discover for you while being in Pakistan.

    Just to keep you safe  one advise, just to be on the safe side, don’t publicize your itinerary like that next time you are visiting PK.

  55. Atif

    Atif  at  · Reply →

    Dear Paul;

    People are good everywhere, I was stuck in North Dakota (almost near to Canada) in a ditch in total white out in January 2011 98% of people who crossed me stopped and offered their help. It is same everywhere. I disagree with Imran, I was born and brought up in Lahore, have never witnessed any non-Pakistani kidnapped, or in any such situations ever in my life that I spent in Pakistan.

    There are areas in Chicago, or as you mentioned Detroit, where it does not make sense to go, same applies to any big city in Pakistan. There are people, who advised me not to go to Tacoma in evening, which came out as just another misleading advice. Tacoma in evening is great to be to have dinner or enjoy a walk in downtown.

    Next time, whenever you go there, you can advise your hosts to make sure that they look at your rest as their first priority, and you will be well rested. I have few friends in Lahore and Karachi, you are most welcome to contact me, and I will make sure you get more wonderful sight seeings, meeting with people with various genre, even, you can also visit some farms, or perhaps can be taken to do mountain trekking.

    Thanks for making me feel better about the country of my birth, as media otherwise seems that Pakistan is some barbaric people homeland.

    Do go to Lahore Museum, visit in Karachi the beaches or Arabian ocean, go to Bahawalpur and later Qila Dirawar in the middle of Cholistan desert to witness both Past and present of people.

  56. Mohammad Faisal

    Mohammad Faisal  at  · Reply →

    I am from Lahore Pakistan and loved the way you described it. I welcome every one come and visit us we are not being like what news channels are doing for there TRP.

  57. Kamil

    Kamil  at  · Reply →

    I just cant understand how you mentioned Detroit & Lahore in the same sentence.
    Could you compare the Skyline of Detroit with Lahore? NO because Lahore doesnt have one.
    The university you went to is a private institution which is probably the best in Pakistan. Next time around try and go to a govt school or a hospital.
    What you didnt see or experience was the double standards in the people there. People are judged in material terms, the more you own (or you can show off) the more you get respect. There is no respect for a man walking down the old city road where you went.
    I can write for hours the things that perhaps you will never know or your hosts however hospitable they maybe; didnt mention to you.
    This country is in a state of Psychological paralysis if something like that exists.

    These people are as delusional as one could get. Taking pride in being a Nuclear Power when there is no electricity in the country? You think thats something to be proud off?

    The moral state of the people is crippled to say the least. More than any threat to the country terrorism, attacks, war etc… are the people there themselves.
    I am a Pakistani & I am strong enough to admit that I am not proud of it.

  58. Saadia Sharjeel

    Saadia Sharjeel  at  · Reply →

    Do go to the mountains next time.

  59. sadia

    sadia  at  · Reply →

    Imran.. i dont know which part of the world are you living in (where u dun find any problems/issues at all).. and i dont deny that the problems u mentioned do exist in pakistan, but go and read paul’s first post, which would provide a more detailed account of what he aimed at doing.

    Therez a lot more positive to lhr n pakistan as a whole than is depicted in the media and this is what paul has explored.. im not from an elite class, but i did enjoy every bit of my freedom in pakistan and the love and respect tht people had to offer there (not denying the presence of criminal sort,, but where in the world do you not find them now?)

  60. Rezwan

    Rezwan  at  · Reply →

    Hello Imran or whatever your real name is. Sorry bro seems like no one paid heed to you. Very conveniently chosen Pakistani name “Imran” :-)

    Foreigners can have certain bad experiences everywhere.

    Even in the 1st world country there are people whose only source of income revolves around cheating, fooling and other opportunist crimes involving foreigners. I have been in and out of pakistan for last 10 years and had resided from Europe to North America. When i started travelling and when people used to find out that i am new to that country then there were certainly some people who used to try and fool, cheat and at times robbed me aswell. So Pakistan could have some of that too.

  61. Misbah

    Misbah  at  · Reply →

    The truth is, Lahore, and Pakistan in general, does have a lot of problems but our society is one that is quite unique to the kind of world view that has gained popularity. We are not Arabic, or the Taliban or Barbarians. But we are certainly a confused lot. Some are trying to be Arabic because they identify themselves with Islam while some are trying to be westerners because thats what education here entails; then there are those who try to balance out the two and try to be both. We’ve tried so hard to suppress the Indian, subcontinental culture from our society that its become difficult to trace back our cultural roots. You have seen Lahore through the eyes of the english speaking elite (I myself being a part of it), who are as detached from the masses (The people who make up 95% of Pakistan) as the Britishers were towards the Indians during the colonial era. That doesn’t however mean that Lahore is not a beautiful city. My city is a beautiful place with lots to offer, but the people who inhabit it have a long time to evolve and the side you’ve experienced is really the lifestyle of a small percentage of privileged individuals.

  62. Annie Rizwan

    Annie Rizwan  at  · Reply →

    Great read n good Job Paul..
    I appreciate your courage in being adventurous enough to choose Pakistan for your visit. There are quite a few like you. Being an American I believe would BE the hardest job to get a week long visa.. I am from lahore n I lived in Boston for about six months. . Currently I’m residing in Germany but where ever I’ve been till now, all I’ve listened about my country is what the international media had ever projected. Even while reading your article right now, I am watching a news on BBC that says there is a library in Pakistan named after Osama Bin Ladin..
    Sadly no one would ever cover the brighter side of Pakistan, the spring festivals of Lahore.. It’s the first ever article from an American that truly has showed a soft and lovely Pakistan.. The image Pakistan actually deserves..thanks for sharing your views
    .

  63. Ayesha

    Ayesha  at  · Reply →

    what a lovely post! I am currently away from home and missing Lahore like anything….I cant believe no one told you what they say about Lahore (or did u forget to mention?)….that ‘if you havent seen lahore, you are yet to be born’ and the simple one liner that about the city: ‘Lahore is Lahore’
    What better way to describe a city as lovely and vibrant as Lahore!
    what’s your favourite Lahori food btw?

    1. Saifmansoor

      Saifmansoor  at  · Reply →

      Same here!

  64. Muhammad

    Muhammad  at  · Reply →

    Paul You have seen the heart of Pakistan ‘ lahore’ but you should come and visit the Newyork of Pakistan ‘Karachi’…

  65. Moazzam Khan

    Moazzam Khan  at  · Reply →

    Hey Paul

    I just want to THANK YOU for coming to Lahore man! The difference between what the media portrays of us and what we really are, is just astonishing.

    People like you will be always welcomed in Pakistan.

    Thank You once again

    =]

  66. junaid

    junaid  at  · Reply →

    nice views..I m sure you enjoyed your stay and you are most welcome .. just something i m really concerned about is that the name of our HOLY book is QURAN and not koran if u really like to share your experience share our values too .. it is requested you make change the word koran to OUR HOLY book QURAN in ur reference

  67. Faisal Tirmizi

    Faisal Tirmizi  at  · Reply →

    Paul if you ever face a consular issue, come to Chicago. Ethan Casey has also written a wonderful book about Pakistan. He is publishing its second up updated edition in May.

  68. Terese Carolan

    Terese Carolan  at  · Reply →

    I just want to say I am just newbie to blogging and site-building and definitely liked your web site. Almost certainly I’m going to bookmark your blog . You definitely come with superb article content. Many thanks for sharing your blog.

  69. Taali

    Taali  at  · Reply →

    I only take issue with the general consensus that emerged that the quran teaches great respect for women. Literal translations of many chapters of the quran, such as Surah rehman, include God guaranteeing pious men (apparently god speaks only to males in the quran, from jinn or mankind) that they shall receive an infinite number of virgins to bed in the here after … Heaven… Etc, if they are good now.

    Not exactly the kind of teaching that leads to respect for women. Under the dutiful, cautious attitude, are frustrated people, and a growing rate of rapes every day.

    Also, the quran promises women that they shall definitely be with their husbands in heaven, while the husbands have sex with endless virgins. i’d rather go to hell, wouldn’t u?

    Otherwise, nice blog!

  70. Saifmansoor

    Saifmansoor  at  · Reply →

    I am a Pakistani living in Aus, been telling people the same things , trying to break stereotypes, hope your blog helps a little bit

  71. Taali

    Taali  at  · Reply →

    Also, i agree with kamil before me. Ur Article is entertaining and readable, objective and oh so positive. Sounds like lahore was very exciting for u, hehe! Maybe ur life really was in danger….. From boredom…. Between one family dinner to the next….

    Lahore is only beautiful because of its pain. The over population, the traffic. The hospitals. Anybody who says otherwise is…. Not being very blunt.

  72. Misbah

    Misbah  at  · Reply →

    I totally loved this post. I read a comment here about Pakistan being safe only when you are well-connected. I disagree to that. I belong to a small area and I feel those areas are comparatively safer. Though you cannot find a “party scene” there but it is so great. I would highly recommend visiting one.

  73. Hamad Rasool

    Hamad Rasool  at  · Reply →

    Dear Paul… I appreciate your write up and the responses & especially to Imran, Dear IMRAN Y need to visit Pakistan at least once.. !
    I am so proud of being a Lahori and Pakistani and keep travelling across Pakistan for my business and Trainings trips to almost every major city of Pakistan and never had any mishap ever. I wonder how Media finds so crispy stories on crimes in Pakistan. I have conducted trainings in Peshawar Multan Faisalabad Bahawalpur, Hyderabad, Karachi, Rawalpindi & Islamabad and always got extra ordinary welcome always. Pakistan is so loveable the only thing is how we see it half full or half empty…. !

  74. Faisal kapadia

    Faisal kapadia  at  · Reply →

    Right so the great myth that pakistan is just about
    Beards and bombs is broken once more. Is it safe though oooh is it safe?? What a limited version the author has experienced.. Well guess what we experience when we visit say L.A as a tourist? The “limited version” of all california has to offer? Ever been to compton?? Oakland??? Ive been mugged there twice… I live in karachi been mugged here too twice… Been mugged on the streets of istanbul as well so what? Its pretty silly to assume that a tourist is gonna experience every lane and ghetto before he writes a blog on pakistan. Plus this guy went to the inner city infact he went to many places you dont see tourists go too is he supposed to apologize if he stayed in a nice area and had fun? Duh the whole point is that there are nice areas :p – Do look me up when visiting karachi i promise its gonna be as safe as NYC for ya and more fun!

  75. kamran hayder

    kamran hayder  at  · Reply →

    Thank you very much paul…Pakistan and pakistanis welcome people from all over the word, please come and see us, see this paradise on earth….

  76. SUB

    SUB  at  · Reply →

    About Lahore: You are not as yet born if you have not seen Lahore
    About Karachi: No one person can claim to have seen all of it in a single lifetime

    Next time when you are in Pakistan mind that. Its a big country with some 180 million people (not sure if the illegal immigrates from Afghanistan, India, Bangla & even Philippines are accounted in to that ) so there is a LOT of diversity

    If some people prefer to be safe, they may stay home

  77. Zee

    Zee  at  · Reply →

    Hey Paul!

    So you were in my neighborhood! Cool! Hope you had fun… The post is a treat to read. Keep coming back for what you missed in your first 36 hours!!

    Cheers!
    Zee

  78. Umar Khan

    Umar Khan  at  · Reply →

    While everyone here is gushing over how nice it was of this author to “defy stereotypes” as he himself so self-righteously puts it, people fail to realize that this post is nothing but some kind of sociological research project in which he analyzes the perceptions and attitudes of Pakistanis like someone might analyze the entrails of a guinea pig. The worst part is he pretends that the article is about objectively evaluating the merits of Pakistan as a tourist destination, even though clearly the aim is to conduct a survey of the political and religious beliefs of Pakistani elites. He cynically manipulates people’s sense of pride in their homeland and prefaces his findings by a bunch of kumbayaha touchy feely oh-so-magnanimous pontification on how he’s so enlightened that he can transcend stereotypes, throwing a bone to a people who are starved for recognition as being something other than a bunch of dirt poor terrorists while slicing them open. But by making discussion of genger segregation and womens rights his primary goal in this 36 hour visit, it’s clear that he went to Pakistan loaded with pre concieved notions about how “the oppression of women” is a defining feature of Pakistani society and expecting that his hosts will bend over backwards to dispell his own prejudices. I mean seriously 36 hours is barely enough time to even briefly explore the monuments and bazaars of the Old City alone yet somehow this guy claims to have done that while also having conducted like 3 fairly extensive interviews. And on the complete opposite edge of Lahore too. Unless you were flying around in a helicopter I dont see how you could have done justice to your stated aim of attempting to evaluate the merits of Lahore as a touritst destination while also hosting a roaming think tank. Which leads to the conclusion that his claim is bogus and he could care less about the value of lahore as a tourist destination. On the other hand, he works as a “management consultant”, just like Shiza Shahid of McKinsey (an international management consultancy firm) who is openly recognized as the main drivign force behind the international PR campaign that was Malala Yousafzai. So it makes sense why he was so fixated on “the oppression of women” that 90% of his article is all about how he went around demanding excuses and justifications from Pakistanis about why they are “so horrible to women”, with like three lines about “yeah and I saw like some old mosques or whatever”. Because the West needs to constantly highlight how “misogynistic” the Muslim world and flood their media with these tearjerker stories of the oppression of women. Of-course, the women who get killed in drone strikes or aerial bombardment in the name of oil…er…. I mean freedom, get no airtime. Malala gets to have her face plastered all over the internet, address the UN and go on the late night talk show circuit while the story of Abeer, the teenage Iraqi girl who was raped and murdered by US soldiers who then killed her whole family, is suppressed and never mentioned. And this guy goes around interrogating Pakistanis about why they oppress women and never once ask “how do you feel about the women who have died from American military action in your country and your neighboring country?”.

  79. Tony

    Tony  at  · Reply →

    I have lived in Lahore for almost 9 months now, and I agree with so much of what I have read here. I would say, though, that other areas of Pakistan seem to be not as safe as the city I have been fortunate enough to live in.

    There are some very beautiful areas of Pakistan, and some are safe, with no tales of massacres, and others that have had one incident. The sad thing is that when one thing happens in an area, people say it is unsafe. Is it unsafe to fly in an airplane because of the missing Flight 370?

    I totally agree to the statistics mentioned about homicide rates in Detroit. I have lived in LA and Phoenix, and I have felt safer here than in the wrong areas of either of those places. When I was in college, a guy from my university went to a party in Pomona, CA, and he never made it home, because he was shot by gang members. Why is it that these kind of statistics are not mentioned, while Pakistan is made to seem like a hard place to keep your life?

    People who live in countries like Pakistan and India, Thailand and the like, are always shocked when they hear about homelessness, murder rates and jobless people. I told a friend (not a person who was struggling finacially) about the fact that there were homeless people in America, and that some people could not afford to drive a car. He shook his head in disbelief, and said he would never believe something like this.

    This is why people should get out into the World and see for themselves what it is really like…

    Very interesting post – I am glad to find it!

  80. Kamran Khan

    Kamran Khan  at  · Reply →

    Loved this post… You have spoken the hearts of all Pakistanis out… we are not as bad as the world thinks… in fact the situation in Pakistan is misinterpreted everywhere in the world… Bravo fro this article…. whenever you plan to visit the mountains please let me know and be my guest….

  81. Fatima

    Fatima  at  · Reply →

    I think it’s great that you enjoyed your trip to Lahore. People in the US do not imagine co-ed college campuses or coffee shops, and I am glad that this picture of Pakistan is portrayed here.

    However, I do wish you got a chance to visit middle class families and working class families, and to take a short trip to a small town and also a village outside of Lahore. You saw a glimpse of privileged life in Lahore. I think you would be equally impressed by the hospitality and friendliness of more average Lahori families, too. (Very often in Pakistani parlance, fairly elite people call themselves “middle class” when they are statistically extremely privileged, but to be sure, you were not visiting truly middle class people.)

    As far as terrorism, I am a foreigner and not a Pakistani, but I am more fearful of petty crime like purse/luggage snatching or even extortion kidnapping than I am of terrorism in major cities in Pakistan. In Karachi the problem is not terrorism related to religious extremism, but ethnic political gangs vying for power who have made the city dangerous and violent. In US news, things are almost never reported on Pakistan from that angle, only from the Islam-Taliban-terrorism angle.

    Lahore is such a historically rich, beautiful city. My favorite part of visiting is the food, especially the Lahori style roghni naan. Food street is awesome! So glad you visited and shared that with readers!

    Best!
    -Fatima

  82. http://portageparkdistrict.org

    http://portageparkdistrict.org  at  · Reply →

    Wow, this article is good, my sister is analyzing these kinds of things, therefore I am going
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  83. Mariya

    Mariya  at  · Reply →

    Hello Paul,

    It felt like a soft breeze to read your article until I scrolled down. The article makes it clear that you have expressed from your personal experiences and do not represent a social media depicting the ‘safety issues’ of Pakistan.

    I am a Pakistani who has lived her entire life abroad but spent several years in Islamabad for medical school. Yes, things are different and then why not?! Pakistan is still a developing nation facing issues at all levels. We certainly we cannot overlook the fact that much needs to be done and no one really knows how long that will take.

    Yes, there are major safety concerns, there are thriving and malnourished children on the streets, uneducated kids, homeless people, Taliban ready to fire, unemployed professionals, etc etc. ( I could go on). But then as any society has, there’s a brighter side too. There are philanthropists and humanitarians like Abdul Sattar Edhi and The Burneys themselves who carry a good burden of helping their nation. Many and I mean many people work voluntarily to serve the underserved. Charitable organizations are not a rare sight in Pakistan. Maybe our administrative level may not be serving the nation well, but people are patriotic and enthusiastic in doing good to their Mother Land.

    I have personally been a victim of terrorist attacks in Pakistan when my cousin died of a random shooting, when my Uncle was robbed whilst being gun pointed, when my neighbor’s son was kidnapped. Almost each Pakistani has such experiences to share. And issues like these will continue. Being a Pakistani, my heart bleeds for my fellow brothers and sisters. Much needs to be done! Every country has their own issues and we certainly have serious ones. But then good and bad come together hand in hand.

    I am glad Paul that you had the opportunity to experience the hospitality that the people of Pakistan had to offer. Undoubtedly, Lahore houses one of the most hospitable men and women that one can come across. Pakistan beholds historical assets, marvels of architecture, the breeze of warm hospitalality, the serenity of the Northern Mountains, the “full of life” Punjab with it’s traditional richness, the culturally enriching Sindh & Balochistan, and the Khyber Pakhtuns who will give up their lives to save their visitors. I would not be surprised that you would be thrilled to visit the Northern Areas of Pakistan and many other places. I wish you safety in your future endeavors!

  84. Moazzam

    Moazzam  at  · Reply →

    Hi Paul

    Thank you for trusting Pakistan and giving Lahore an honor to be your host. I am also a Lahori and I wish I could also see you here.
    If anyone from anywhere want to visit Lahore. I can be the host and you would love to visit this place as Paul has shared.

    Thank$

  85. Raza Abbas

    Raza Abbas  at  · Reply →

    Dear Paul,

    It is a delight to read your post in relation to your recent visit to Lahore, Pakistan. I am happy to know that you were greeted with utmost hospitality, exactly what we “should” have been famous for around the world. Unfortunately, the ulterior motive of the decision makers around the world often over-shadows the true essence of a society, exactly like the case with Pakistan.

    I am a born and bred Lahori and currently settled in Islamabad which is the capital of Pakistan. Being the capital, there is generally a higher density of expats living in Islamabad and trust me they all share the exact same feelings that you do. It is highly unfortunate to see a couple of replies stating how your post does not portray the actual scenario for the reason that your stay was limited to 36 hours, but there are expats who have been living in Pakistan since more than a year now and there isn’t a slight difference in their verdict on life in Pakistan than yours.

    While there is definitely an air of terrorism that is present in Pakistan but it is restricted to a particular region. Just the way you can not compare the standard of living in New York to the standard of living in the Detroit in terms of crime rate and safety, one can not compare the standard of living in Lahore to the one in Kohat.

    You should definitely re-visit Pakistan and explore other cities such as Islamabad, Karachi and the northern areas which are a fine example of the best scenic beauty.

    Best,
    Raza

  86. Ozair

    Ozair  at  · Reply →

    Paul ,
    Next time if you make a plan going to the northern areas of Pakistan , i suggest you go to Hunza , Fairy meadows ,Gilgit , Skardu , Deosai plains . There are a lot of Travel agencies there that can provide you a perfect itinerary and possibly all kinds of service you could require e.g porters , transport , accommodation etc . Direct P.I.A flights go from Islamabad to Skardu / Gilgit . The best season to go there would be from May to September .

    Good luck with the future travelling .

  87. Umar Khan

    Umar Khan  at  · Reply →

    Oh really, Paul? Your intention was “neither to conduct an in-depth sociological experiment or provide a detailed tourist guide to Lahore?” Wow what a weak cop out. Then again, expecting people like you to admit the duplicitous nature of their representations is like expecting a chameleon not to change its colors.

    If your intention was not to provide a detailed tourist guide to Lahore, why did you frame your article in the format of the 36 hours in….series? By doing so you clearly wanted to give the misleading impression that you wanted to treat lahore the way any other city had been treated by the travel section of the New York times. If your intention was “simply to share the experience I had exploring both issues and places I was personally curious about based”, then why did you not title the article as “My experience in exploring the mentality of lahoris, and stopping to check out a couple of tourist spots as an aside”? It wouldn’t have anything to do with trying to make it look like you were doing Lahoris a big favor by ranking it right besides the 700 other cities that have been discussed in the 36 hours format, while really just appeasing your hosts to make them more amenable to opening up to you? Because here’s the thing; if you read the 36 hours in London article, for example, it goes on to describe the pubs and baths and tours and what not. You know what it’s NOT about? it’s not about some shady foreigner going around interrogating Londoners about their views on the social and political landscape of England. The same for New York: it talks about candy stores and the Lincoln theatre but NOWHERE does the author go around grilling people about their veiws on 9/11 or America’s subsequent military engagements or the racial profiling that became rampant in this country with the passage of legislation like the Patriot Act. I’m guessing the other 700 36 hours articles did not feature the kind of thinly disguised social assessment that seems to be the primary purpose of your article. Do me a favor and dont insult my intelligence or that of my fellow countrymen by trying to deny the intentionally misleading nature of this article and it’s format. You had an agenda before you went to Pakistan, and your activities there prove that agenda had nothing to do with exploring merit of Lahore as a tourist destination which is UNDENIABLY the implication you were trying to make in framing this article in the manner of the 36 hours in….series. Theres only two possiblities, either you are incredibly incompetent and thought that discussions of social and political issues passes for tourism, OR you were trying to mislead people on purpose into thinking that you wanted to give Lahore a chance and look past the stereotypes to asses the truth about what Lahore had to offer, while clearly you think that a city in PAkistan is relevant only to the extent that it must either confirm or dispell your own pre-conceived notions about the attitudes of PAkistan towards women. I an inclined to think that the later is the truth, because it’s hard to think anyone could be stupid enough to focus on people’s ideological perspectives when their chosen format dictates that they should be focusing on the sights, sounds and experiences of the CITY not it’s people. Because “management consultant” are generally not stupid: on the contrary management consultant firms hire the best of the best, the most intelligent. Because management consultancy is about helping better govern corporations, who in turn govern human affairs more than national governments can ever hope to. Management consultants are called on to employ their vast analytical skills to figure out how best to allow corporations to maximize their profits and disenfranchise the rest of the world. Next time you write an article, have the guts to own up to what you are really trying to do instead of pretending you’re just a harmless tourist trying to see the sights.

  88. Hassan Aphtab

    Hassan Aphtab  at  · Reply →

    An interesting response to an article we have been craving to read for a long time. It reinforces our denial. We as a nation have been mauled so dadly and so frequently that we have learnt to live with it. Only the people who have been directly effected by the violence can feel the desperate situation we face. Women in Pakistan are not only denied education but are also treated as second class citizen. They are traded and killed to defend family honour. They are raped on the orders of the community courts and are subject to acid attacks. Workplace harassment is common. We conveniently ignore that we failed to govern ourselves through a civilized and a robust democratic dispensation. Dictators are welcomed. Journalist are killed. Terrorists are set free by the courts out of fear of reprisals. The presidents and prime ministers avoid appearing in public out of fear. Places of worship are destroyed.
    Waiting for the next suicide bombing to happen. This is not ordinary crime which inflicts big citied. Pick pockets do not go around blowing themselves up. The author is right that in this chaotic situation we have learnt to deny the clear and present danger and live a seemingly normal life.

  89. abid hussain

    abid hussain  at  · Reply →

    Its a good thing that you r doing Paul..!
    Apart from the natural beauty, safety, cooperation and hospitable environment did u notice how cheap is it to live in Pakistan.
    People who are living hand to mouth in America or Europe can live an elite life with the same earning… because the lowest avg income in any of the American state would be among highest of the earnings in Pakistan. Its lucrative for the foreigners isn’t it.

  90. Waqas

    Waqas  at  · Reply →

    Thank you Paul. Stay happy! greetings from Pakistan

  91. Muhammad Naeem

    Muhammad Naeem  at  · Reply →

    Love to see this post; I am living in Lahore; and previously I was living in ‘Cavalry Ground’ Gloria Jeans, Old-City’s Food Street and Cuckoo’s Den are my favorite places here. I am extremely thankful to you Paul for describing the real picture of Lahore. Next time when you came to Lahore or Pakistan please be my guest. Lots of Love and bundle of thanks for this post.

  92. Robyn

    Robyn  at  · Reply →

    This is brilliant! I will definitely be keeping up to date with your adventures!

  93. Lily

    Lily  at  · Reply →

    *resubmitting because phrase was left out of last paragraph due to insertion of brackets*

    Thanks Paul for sharing your experience and thanks to everyone else for sharing their perspective. The trouble I have with evaluating the safety of visiting Pakistan is NOT that I do not believe it is a beautiful country, or that the average Pakistani is welcoming and hospitable, or that Lahore is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. I do not believe Pakistan is full of bearded terrorists and that one is subject to encounter a suicide bomber on every street corner.

    However, comparing crime rates in major American cities to incidences of violence in Pakistan is both facile and misleading. Yes, no matter where one visits one must be aware of one’s surroundings and use common sense. Some areas of town certainly have higher crime rates than others. But we’re not talking about concerns regarding crime in Pakistan, but rather the threat of terrorism. And that is an entirely different ball of wax.

    One may be able to minimize the chances of being mugged by being aware of one’s surroundings and avoiding high crime areas, but a terrorist attack can happen anywhere at any time. And yes… that includes in the USA (e.g., 9/11 and last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon).

    But the concern with an American visiting Pakistan is that the very fact that one is an American makes one a target. As W. Raza noted, relations between America and Pakistan are poor and are deteriorating. Frankly, I can’t blame some Pakistanis if they feel less than kindly towards a country that is regularly conducting drone strikes. So with political tensions growing and the presence of the taliban and al-qaeda, it just doesn’t seem wise for Americans to throw caution to the winds. But then that is a very personal decision in terms of how much risk one is willing to take. But make no mistake that it definitely is a risk. Just because there are accounts of American tourists who have had wonderful visits doesn’t indicate otherwise. After all, it’s entirely possible to take a 2:00am stroll through –insert high-crime area in any major American city– unscathed and enjoy the unique beauty and solitude of the wee hours of the morning, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I personally would love to visit Pakistan one day… just not now.

  94. David E.

    David E.  at  · Reply →

    Hello Paul.
    I recently too a trip to Pakistan as well, 2 and 1/2 weeks for a family wedding. We started in Karachi, then to Rahim Yar Khan, Lahore, then finally to Islamabad. I would say that you are spot on about the hospitality. I’ve never met a friendlier, more welcoming nation. When I was there, I was treated like a movie star. Invitations to houses for dinner, going out every night, and day, and the best food places every chance we got.
    If I would have to take one of those places off the list, I would have to say Karachi would be the choice for me. The upper parts of Pakistan were cleaner, safer, and nicer. We were invited to Peshawar, which is just North Of Islamabad, but was told that is the unsafe place for Americans, and was warned by many locals to avoid that area.
    One concern I came across, is that while we were traveling from Karachi to Rahim Yar Khan, by train, there was a bombing on the train tracks about 20 minutes ahead of us. It was reported that the bomb was meant for our train and prematurely detonated. I can’t express how happy I was that someone messed up when planning their surprise. I’m pretty sure that the bomb wasn’t meant for us, but thinking that it was me, my wife, 5yo daughter, and 3yo son, sure made me a little anxious about jumping on a train again. We rented a van and driver for the rest of the trip.
    All in all, it was an excellent trip, and I am looking forward to going back as well. Happy, and safe journey to all who visit Pakistan. ;)

  95. Sulaiman Malik

    Sulaiman Malik  at  · Reply →

    When are you coming to Isloo? I would love to show you around

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