What are your first thoughts, when you hear about Pakistan? Does it intrigue you, scare you, arouse uncertainty, arises questions, makes you go and search where is Pakistan on the map? For me, Pakistan is an inspiration. I’m still exploring more and more about it and it’s impossible to show you all the colors and tastes of this beautiful land in just one article. So, leave the myths and stereothypes, forget the informations given by western media and let me show you undiscovered face of Pakistan – the face of many rivers and valleys, high mountains, colorful clothes, rich folklore, amazing cuisine and welcoming people.
First, let me tell you about Pashtunwali, which is a code of honour among Pathans people – one of the main ethnic group of Pakistan. According to the code, tourist is a guest and guests should be treated well. Someone from outside of Pakistan attracts attention on the street, naturally, since the country is still developing in therms of tourism and doesn’t have many visitors. It’s still an undiscovered land, a mystery for the world. But people are the core of Pakistan. They are generous and curious and once you will be a tourist there, you will be treated as guest. They will offer you help, if you need, as well as a cup of tea and a small talk. Hospitality and generosity are one of the main features.
Pakistan is country of creative and hardworking people, who were taught to be resourceful. There is „jugaad” mentality present in everyday life of Pakistanians. „Jugaad” is about always finding a solution. Even with very few resources, you can find a way to solve a problem. Basically, impossible is nothing. People improvise a lot, even without recources and skills to do something, they will still make it in order to meet the needs. As my Pakistanian friend said „sometimes that means not being professional but still getting the job done”. Optimism is another feature we can discover in Pakistanian people. For any problem, there is always solution and people never give up on trying to make up something, always hoping that in the end things will be just ok.
Diversity is another feature in Pakistan. There is a northwestern Pasthtun part which has very ethnic pashtoon culture. The northernmost part which has affinity with central Asia. The entire eastern belt is similar to Indian adjoining parts and western belt which shows affinity to Afghan and Persian ethnicity. The southeastern Sindhi culture with its deep mystical roots, as many saints dwelled these lands and are still remembered after centuries being passed. What is worth to mention about province of Sindh is Makli Necropolis, which is one of the biggest graveyard in the entire world, also finding its place on UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
Nature in Pakistan is something the most unique in the world, with its variety of landscapes. First thing coming to my mind are the mountains, especially Himalayas and Karakoram. There are five of the highest mountain peaks in the world located in Pakistan – famous K2 is among them. Next to the mountains, there are valleys, lakes, rivers, deserts and I could write a book to describe the whole beauty of the Pakistanian nature. Here, I will just mention one of the marvels, which is Attabad Lake. The history of its creation is quite wrapped in tragedy. It was created as a result of landslide which drowned the whole village and blocked the road access in the area, which was a natural disaster. What did Pakistanian do is bringing boats, transporting people and all the things with them. For now, lake is a tourist attraction, but it won’t remain there forever as the water level is decreasing and one day drowned village and road will emerge above the water surface again.
Pakistan has difficult history. Mostly because of geographical position it’s seen as dangerous country, very often mistakenly perceived as a terrorist country, which is an extreme opinion. Western media also doesn’t help in creating the best impression of the country, as we can hear a lot about what is going on in neighbor countries of Pakistan, such as India, Iran or Afghanistan, which influences the general view of Pakistan. Not so many people know the fact, that Pakistanian lands were for many years under British domination. British heritage can be seen in Pakistan to this day and what can be the most surprising for people who don’t know much about this country is that in fact Pakistanian people speak English. As I mentioned about diversity, it can be also heard in languages people use in there. Except English and national language, which is Urdu, there are several different languages like Punjabi, Pashto or Sindhi, that coexist.
You will probably ask about women and their rights in Pakistan. Yes, it’s a muslim culture, some of the areas are more conservative and there is more patriarchal attitude toward women. But, it has to be said that women are in fact a backbone of this country. They have free speech and they are not afraid to speak out, they are strong and independent and many have high positions in corporations, they are entrepreneurs, they have their own companies and to say it in general – women work for themselves. Here I have to mention lady Benazir Bhutto as she was the first female elected prime minister of whole Muslim world! It’s also a myth that all women need head cover. Dressing style is actually quite decent. It means mostly long and loose pants plus very common in there tunic. But colors and shiny ornaments make the clothes so interesting and artistic, that even being modest, can be still festive.
My short article about amazing Pakistan has to be finished with love storytelling, since the folklore is still present in songs and stories and everyday life. What I learned is that there are many rivers flowing through Pakistan. There is Ravi, which is the river of connoisseurs and Indus – the river of the faithful. Chenab is the river of lovers and here is where this beautiful and tragic story begins and ends. Once upon a time a young man Mahival fell in love with potter’s daughter named Sohni. She loved him back, but a marriage with other man was already arranged. Sohni and her husband inhabited a house on the other side of the river. But love was too strong and any river couldn’t separate Sohni from her beloved Mahival. She swam secretly across the river every night to meet her lover and she used pots made by herself to stay safe from hostile river’s depths. When Sohni’s sister-in-law discovered this, she replaced a pot with the one that was still crude and unfinished. The other night Sohni took the pot to swam again and in the water it started to fall into pieces. She called her lover to help her and both of them drowned in the middle of the river trying to get to each other…