Discover Pakistan from the eyes of a young explorer Omer Masood as he takes you on a extraordinary journey
By Marian Sharaf Joseph
akistan is many things to many people, to me; it’s a ‘land of opportunity.’ If you want adventure, excitement and chance to explore new horizons, you have come to the right place. Pakistan is a land of contrasts – take your pick; nature, seasons, geography, culture, food, arts and crafts, lifestyles, languages or people. It may seem small on the world map but it is quite big when you actually set out to explore the place, there is so much to see, learn and discover.
Valuemag discovers some extraordinary facts through the eyes of Omer Masood, a young explorer, who traveled all over Pakistan on his motorbike! Once, he was able to travel from Gilgit to Lahore in one day only – it’s a three day journey by road. My reaction, oh, wow! Not only that, he’s been to China on his motorbike. He was only twenty-two at the time. Here is some amazing information Omer has to share with us.
Khunjrab Check Post: Situated in the biggest mountainous range of the world; The Karakorams, Khunjrab Check Post is the highest check post in the world with a temperature below freezing point in peak summers. This is a friendly border where anyone can walk up to meet a bunch of warm welcoming Chinese.
Thakot Bridge: This Bridge lies before Besham in North and holds significance for car dealers. This is the place where you can find ‘custom chor cars.’ Any car crossing this bridge has to pay Pakistan Excise Duty. The bridge divides the two regions.
Sust: This is the last custom check post of Pakistan. Located on the periphery of China and Pakistan, traders from both countries meet every day to exchange goods that are then sold across the country. This is why Sust is considered as Pakistan’s Commercial Border.
Sunda Border: The border of Sindh is guarded by simple check posts. Sunda Border is one of the prominent borders of the province situated beyond Omerkot from Haroonabad to Bahawalnagar. This border line is only marked by a simple barb wire. There are no flag ceremonies like that of at Wagha Border. Though they are check posts, you can’t easily tell where Pakistan ends and India begins.
White Palace: Recently under threat of Taliban, White Palace was once the home of a king of the Swat Valley. Today, it is used as guest house for parliamentarians.
PAF Shahbaz – Only Military and Commercial Airport: Also called Jacobabad Airport, it is the third largest airport of Pakistan in terms of area. It can be used jointly for military and commercial flight operations. And is a Forward Operational Base (FOB), which would become fully operational during wartime
HUNTING HIGH AND LOW
K2 (Godwin Austen): K2 is world’s tallest mountain peak after Mount Everest though; geographers have recently stated that the peak of Mount Everest is taller than K2 only due to massive snow capping it. Thousands have lost their life on K2 because of its extremely steep slopes rising high towards the sky.
Siphon: Located in north of Lahore, River Ravi flowing from India and BRB Canal flowing from Sutlej meet at this point. To prevent the rush of Ravi from over flooding BRB, a concrete beam is built under the river. In other words, BRB Canal crosses under the river Ravi flowing over it. This is what makes Safun so amazing!
Junction: Known only as ‘Junction’ or ‘Point’ the world’s largest mountain ranges; Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush Mountain meet at this point. This is the only ‘Point’ in the whole world; not to forget that the Alpines and Andes were born out of these mountainous ranges. At this point, River Gilgit also merges with River Indus that creates an amazing fusion of Rivers in the Sea.
Shangrilla: In early 1960s, a private Pakistan airline known as Oriental Airlines nearly escaped a crash in the mountains of Sakurdu. The passengers and the crew survived. Some landlords of Shangrilla bought the plane from the government and kept it there as a souvenir for sightseeing. Storm, snow or sun; Oriental Airlines can be seen hanging between the mountains.
Silk Route: This is the eighth wonder of the world. It is the most difficult highway of the world due to its high altitude, difficult geography and critical weather conditions. Unlike any highway the world over, the Silk Route is extremely dangerous, yet well-paved. Only experts or locals can survive; that too if luck is on their side. Used for trade and by mountaineers on their way to meet
K2, the highway winds between snow-crest Mountains, screaming wind and crashing glaciers.
Off The Record
Bara Bhai: In a far off village, district Sialkot it is said that Bara Bhai is a sacred place of a ‘Muslim Saain.’ It is believed that in Pak-India War 1965, not even a single Indian bomb exploded here. Locals believe that it is guarded by the ‘Saain.’ If you don’t believe us, visit Bara Bhai and you will find bomb and shells of 1965 War decorating the homes of the locals.
Buddha Mantle: Traces of Buddhist culture are found in the North of Pakistan but Buddha Mantle is a special place of worship. The stone is about 30 ft high. Though there is no annual pilgrimage held here due to the severe weather conditions, any Buddhist visiting Pakistan definitely visits Buddha Mantle to receive Buddha’s blessings.
Gurdwara Panja Sahib: Panja Sahib is a sacred rock with a hand print of Guru Nanak imprinted on it. Situated in Hasan Abdal, 48 km from Rawalpindi, Sikhs pilgrims visit it twice on their pilgrimage. Legend has it that Wali Qalandar and Guru Nanak’s devotee Bhai Mardana had a row over drinking water. Wali Qalander’s pond dried up when Guru Nanak produced a miraculous pond of water to quench Bhai Mardana’s thirst. At this, Wali Qalander threw a piece of mountain at Guru Nanak, which he stopped with his hand. If you ever visit Hasanabdal, you can actually go up and see Panja Sahib for real.
St Patrick’s Basilica: This is the first Church in records to be built in Sindh. A Basilica is grander than Cathedral, not because of its size but mainly because of its high ranking priest(s) – a Cardinal. Pakistan is placed in one of the most honored lists of countries that behold a Basilica. It is built in Gothic style. It measures 52 meters by 22 meters with the capacity to accommodate at least 1,500 worshippers at a time. The Basilica was designed by three members of the Society of Jesus: Father Wagner, Brother Kluver and Brother Lau
Kafiristan: Surprisingly, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has a small village called ‘Kafiristan.’ The Kafirs have an extraordinary ritual for the dead; the dead are not buried. They are rather stored in a room (like a tomb) where items of daily use are served to the deceased.
Mariamabad – Ziarat-e-Muqaddasa Mariam: Situated about 80 km (50 miles) from Lahore on the GT Road is a small village called Mariamabad. Legend asserts that in early 1800s, Hazrat Mariam appeared and helped the locals during drought. Miracles continue to happen here. Today, Mariambad is National Marian Shrine, where pilgrims travel from all over the country; some by vehicles, others by foot.
Life or something Like that!
Makrani Natives of Gwadar: Initially, owned by Muscat, it was later bought by Pakistan. History states that Muhammad Bin Qasim coming here brought along African natives also that have today made the Makrani Tribe in south of the country. No wonder, their features resembles the Africans.
International Polo at Shandur: Shandur is world’s highest Polo Ground, where players from around the world and Pakistan come for annual season of festivity. It is the tourist spot that attracts foreigners.
Mystic Music: Of all the genres Pakistani’s love, Sufi Music – also referred to as Mystic Music tops the charts. Esteemed musicians
like Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have taught Sufi music in universities abroad. Tourists visiting any area of Pakistani would visit the
shrines to enjoy the mesmerizing affects of mystical melody; Shrine of Shah Jamal and Data Gunj Buksh in Lahore are must visit where you can enjoy the aura of spirituality with whirling dervishes.
Hunting for Big Game: Pakistan is blessed with a variety of wild life starting from the north all the way to the south. The season of ‘Trout’ hunting is in summer in Naran, while Siberian birds are hunted in January. Hunting for Wild Boar is open year long. Wild Wolf can also be hunted in various locations in North and South.
Scrumptious Food: We have a profound heritage of cuisine influenced by various cultures. As Pakistan has been a hub of various nations, its food varies from one province to another. There are cuisines for every occasion, season and reason. The cuisine of Punjab is dominated by lentils, pulses such as Haleem, Hareesa and Channay. In the north i.e. KP recipes of Beef, Lamb with Nan are hot items. Sea-food is the specialty of Sindh, while, the special dish of Balochistan is Saji that is made of camel/ cow/lamb with rice and vegetables stuffed in it. Similarly, ‘Lassi,’ ‘Lemonade,’ ‘Kehwa’ are some of the famous traditional drinks. Like music, dialect and lifestyle, the cuisine varies from area to area within provinces too. ■
This article was originally published in the print edition of “Valuemag”, issue 13, August 2009