Me in Islamabad and Murree

19 06 2009

After a 40 minutes bumpy flight from Lahore to Islamabad, here I was in the capital of Pakistan, a young city, built especially to serve as a capital as  Karachi already became to crowded, to exposed, and it was not close to the center of the nation.

So, in the 1960’s the Pakistani Government decided and started to build this city, near the town of Rawalpindi, in the middle of the woods. As per this reason, Islamabad is one of the greenest and well organized cities in South Asia. It is said to count up to 1.5 million people nowadays and if you would ask somebody from Karachi or Lahore how the life in the Capital is, the most probable answer you would get is: “boring”. You could say so, but then again what city doesn’t seem boring compared to the near 18 M people, agitated and nervous Karachi or 10 M people, fascinating and filled with history Lahore?

DSCF0251I myself liked Islamabad very much. It is somehow quiet, impressive through its organized city plan or through some majestic pieces of modern architecture such as Faisal Mosque, Pakistani Monument or Saudi-Pak Building.

One of the 3 days I spent in Islamabad was almost completely wasted as I had to confirm the already bought tickets to Gilgit – a pit stop on my way to Hunza Valley. I stayed 7 hours in the crowded, noisy and hot office of Pakistani International Airways (PIA) in Rawalpindi to get my flight tickets confirmed. It was the first time in my life I saw people fighting to get some plane tickets (the tickets to Northern Areas – Gilgit and Skardu – are limited), the first time in my life I saw an Airliner Office operating in such an archaic manner (imagine a countryside railway station from Eastern Europe and maybe you will get half of the big picture :P) and the first time when I was confused several times to a Pakistani Pathan – inhabitant of the Northern parts of Pakistan with the colour of the skin a little brighter.

Rawalpindi is a city that doesn’t say very much, but it was nice to walk around it and experience some genuine Pakistani daylife. Almost forgot: in Rawalpindi I saw a Pakistani porn Cinema :D, I had a nice cold beer at Pearl Continental and I saw the place where Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

Next morning, my flight to Gilgit was expecting me… but then guess what?!? After waiting for seven hours in PIA office of Rawalpindi to confirm the ticket, in the morning I arrived in the airport to find out that the flight was canceled in the last minute. Facing such a “disaster” the only logical solution was to join the Lahore interns (Matt, Laura and Stefanie) in their trip to Murree – and so I did.DSCF0386

Murree is a Pakistani mountainous touristic resort 70 km away from Islamabad. It was not as spectacular and impressive as Hunza Valley would have been but still it was a very interesting experience thanks to its markets, heights or people.

Overall, this trip around Pakistan was one of the highlights of my internship, either it was hot or cold (Murree – 10 degrees Celsius and rain during night time), plains or mountains; it gave a better perspective over Pakistan and also the occasion of some new nice friends ;). More pictures you can find either here or here.