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If you Google “travel Pakistan,” or “Pakistan travel,” (this is back in December 2009), you get loads of travel warnings and advisories followed by a couple of international travel websites like Lonely Planet and Virtual Tourist that give you a brief insight into Pakistan and then it degenerates from there. There is not one solid website on Pakistan; no, not even the official tourism website done by Pak government. Actually, what you notice is the lack of any real information on Pakistan, and what stuff there is mostly all negative. By Fareeha Qayoom

By Fareeha Qayoom

M

y boss asked me to put together preliminary contents for a travel website that he was planning to launch on Pakistan called ItravelPakistan.com. The target audience would be local tourists. Since I have only limited tourist information on Pakistan – (I have only been to Lahore, Multan, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Islamabad, Murree and Karachi really. Gujranwala, Peshawar and Sialkot don’t really count as it was in my childhood, so long ago that I barely remember the experiences, let alone the sights or the sounds). Since most of the cities I have visited or lived in were hardly all of Pakistan; I needed a little bit of help, so I decided to Google for information like any other normal person. Guess what?

Natural Divide
Photo by NotMicroButSoft (In Sindh till 9 Feb 10)

If you Google “travel Pakistan,” or “Pakistan travel,” (this is back in December 2009), you get loads of travel warnings and advisories followed by a couple of international travel websites like Lonely Planet and Virtual Tourist that give you a brief insight into Pakistan and then it degenerates from there. There is not one solid travel website on Pakistan; no, not even the official tourism website done by Pak government. Actually, what you notice is the lack of any real information on Pakistan, and what stuff there is mostly all negative.

I was supposed to put together 3 stories for each section – I was stumped but I completed the assignment on schedule – you know, a site plan and three stories for each section in two weeks based on insider knowledge, even if it was not my most comprehensive or best work – after all, I live here so I know a little bit of my country too. This was supposed to be an interactive website – most of the stuff to be posted by the site members. Then, mid-January my boss asked me to do a few more stories as members were slow to post stuff on the site. So I Googled again – this time the search words I used were “travel stories on Pakistan.” I thought people would have posted stories on the sights, sounds and flavors.

Dark day in Pakistan: empty faith
Photo by Swamibu

Imagine my surprise when most of the stuff posted by foreign travelers was about Islam! The locals seem to just take photographs of their trips up north. I was again stumped. Apparently, what the backpacking tourists find remarkable about our country is our religion and our politics. There were literally pages and pages of stories with exotic titles like “Religion, morality, kites and dusk magic,” and “God is,” “Behind the veil,” or “Speaking of Powerful Photos: John Moore’s Pakistan Story,” this was about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on world hum.com, or “Jihad and the left hand of God,” or “Thank you and Goodbye,” I didn’t know what to think? Is this the extent of our culture visible to visitors?

They might like our hospitality and our warmth, they might remark on the beauty of our northern areas or the extreme poverty, simplicity (and filth that they encounter in backpackers hotels!) or history dotting our country but that kind of stuff is actually in minority.

I liked the blog lonely planet had included on Pakistan by the way, “Leave me here,” it was an interesting slant on our country. The guy had traveled all over Pakistan on a shoestring. I found his photo story on Peshawar remarkable. The scenes of destruction, bombings, and the resilience of people…I was just so sad to see one of most historic cities virtually gutted by the Afghan fall-out. I found a couple of videos too that I loved sharing with my friends on facebook.

Flying over the Himalayas
Photo by College of William & Mary

I came to a conclusion that Pakistan is actually one heck of a misunderstood country in the world. Backpackers actually prefer Pakistan to India apparently, at least that’s what they say when reviewing both countries, even though there is no night-life and the dreaded Muslims are in majority here. They might find our politics and our religion confusing but they are actually pleasantly surprised to separate the myth from reality. They all seem to like our simple folk, our hospitality, our resilience and the contrasts.

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Fareeha Qayoom
Fareeha Qayoom
Publisher and editor-in-chief of Tkfr.com and former print editions of The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review (tkfr), a trade newsletter for the textile and apparel industry of Pakistan. In short, Publisher, editor, and a blogger. In addition, she has served as Managing Editor of MIT Technology Review Pakistan, print and web editions (2015-16). Total of 7 editions were published under her leadership by ITU, Punjab's first public technology university under the license of MIT Technology Review (USA). She has also managed Value Mag in the same capacity, a real estate and lifestyle magazine for Value TV - 2008-9. Published freelancer for The News on Sunday 1994-96. Fareeha has over 21 years of solid management experience – of managing brands (like Harley Davidson, Munsingwear, Chaps, Chaps Ralph Lauren etc.,), Retailers (like Target, Mervyns, Kohl's, Marks and Spencer etc.,), customers (VPs, Product Managers, Unit Managers, and Buyers), and products (apparel - woven, knits, men's, women's, children's, Print and online publishing units), projects, teams, and processes, information, content, and data, staff, vendors, and time. Versatile and adaptable with international exposure, communication and language skills (oral and written), and a consistent track record of achieving company targets and objectives, plus a MA in Political Science from Punjab University, a MSc in Economics from La Salle University, Louisiana, USA, and a BA in Economics from Kinnaird College for Women.

10 Comments

  1. RAFIQ says:

    Good to know about new site http://www.itravelpakistan.com and hope you will post on this site also about pakistan travel information, ……

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  2. fareeha says:

    More Reading?

    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/pakistan

    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travelblogs/419/19326/Peshawar?destId=357183

    http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-country/Pakistan/tpod.html

    http://www.tourism.gov.pk/

    http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Asia/Pakistan/TravelGuide-Pakistan.html

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  3. Secularism vs Islamism
    By Iqbal Akhund
    Monday, 22 Feb, 2010

    In a recent TV debate on this subject, the applause meter would have given the win to Islamism. The debaters, three on each side, faced a small mixed audience — quite a few girls, many wearing hijabs, also young men in jeans and a handful of beards.

    The ‘secularists’ appealed, in measured tones, to the intellect, made references to European history, called for tolerance, pluralism and progress. The ‘Islamists’ were assertive, emotional and received applause when they spoke of the ‘moral decadence’ of the West and condemned, to louder applause, the West’s aggression against Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya and Iraq.

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/16-secularism-vs-islamism-hs-04

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  4. Framed by the Taliban
    Posted by Mary Bowers on 02 26th, 2010 | No Comments
    “Can we do anything in Pakistan without it being linked in some way to either appeasing the Taliban or kicking sand in their faces?” asked blogger XYZ on CafePyala.com, who also had a few choice words to say about my methods of journalism (which incidentally I would gladly tackle off-pitch if I know the name of the faceless cackler to whom I make my argument).
    http://blog.dawn.com/2010/02/26/framed-by-the-taliban/

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  5. Cialis says:

    Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

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  6. Made in Pakistan
    Anjum Niaz
    Sunday, 21 Mar, 2010

    “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him” is the mantra for making it big, especially on alien soil. Would it not be wonderful if we too could make it ‘big’ and boast a billionaire? I said to myself as I wistfully looked out of the window of my airplane and saw a parked Boeing 747 with the letters “India” written boldly across the fuselage. We were in North Carolina, the venue of high flying businessmen mooting ideas on how to make more money. Mukesh Ambani, rated 4th richest man in the world had flown from India in his own jet. Nita, his charming wife and business partner stayed back to look after the family fortune. No one from Pakistan was there. “Well my sister lives in Karachi,” was the closest I got to hear on Pakistan from another Indian billionaire Azim Premji.

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/made-in-pakistan-130

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  7. Introducing Pakistan
    By Fareeha Qayoom

    Newsweek called Pakistan the “most dangerous country in the world,” in its October 29th 2007 article. Is this a valid opinion?

    Yes, Pakistan has served as a crossroad to the world since ancient times and will continue to do so in the coming future. Its unique geography makes it one of the most dangerous intersections of the world; if you want to believe Newsweek, however, it’s also true that you can’t blame the crossroad for its dangerous reputation. You have to blame the drivers who continue to use this road and cause all the accidents in history!

    Pakistan had a rich cultural history even before its independence in 1947. Counting from Indus Valley Civilization onwards, this region has been the beneficiary of Vedic, Persian, Indo-Greek, Turco-Mongol, Muslim and Sikh civilizations – it has also seen its share of invasions by the Indo-Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, Afghans, Mongols and most recently by the British. Since its independence in 1947, it’s managed to survive in fits and starts, even though, its west wing separated back in 1971 and formed a whole new country called Bangladesh, its recurrent war of words over Kashmir with India and now the current situation in Afghanistan frequently makes the western media and politicians jittery, not to mention, its status as a nuclear state. So yes, we might get frequent bad press in the media but we (as natives of Pakistan) know different; it’s one of the most beautiful countries of the world. We live here. We ought to know.

    It’s only in Pakistan that you experience all facets of weather from spring and summers to monsoon rains to fall and winters…it’s only in Pakistan that you can see total geographical contrasts like deserts and fertile plains, highest mountains and snow to the hottest regions like Sibi where you could probably fry an egg under the sun to plateaus, hills, and rivers, lakes, green valleys and semi-tropical coastlines. It’s only in Pakistan that you can find the traces of the earliest human societies like the Indus Valley Civilization. It’s only in Pakistan that you can see the remains of an ancient culture still thriving in all its purity – the people of Kalash Valley. It’s only in Pakistan that you can see great virgin lands untouched by human habitation existing side by side with huge tracts of metropolitan urbanized cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. It’s only in Pakistan that you can see some of the best world heritage sites slowly crumbling to pieces. It’s only in Pakistan that you can retrace ancient history by touring, walking, biking and driving down the Karakoram Highway, the original location of the ancient Silk Trade Route. It’s only in Pakistan that you can see a great fusion of east and west and something unique called Pakistan.

    It might be a country off-the-beaten track as far as tourism and tourists are concerned. It might never acquire the reputation of the ‘next big thing,’ as the holiday destination of choice by the world; it might always be a hard-sell because of its ‘tough’ neighbors like Afghanistan, India and Iran, for some, even China or Pakistan itself, but the fact remains, Pakistan is indeed one of the loveliest countries of the world.

    The natives remain open and welcoming, warm and hospitable people who are not out to get you. No, the country is not a tourist trap, simply, because the tourists have not discovered it yet and might never do. Pakistan probably will remain a hidden treasure, a well-kept secret for only the insiders. You might feel like one of the ancient explorers of the world when you set out to discover and explore Pakistan but what the heck – isn’t that a great feeling? You know a secret no one else knows, going-where-no-man-has-gone- before thing; you know taking ‘the road less traveled’ which might make ‘all the difference’ to you.

    “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.”
    Excerpted from ‘The Road not taken,’ by Robert Frost

    http://www.itravelpakistan.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49:introducing-pakistan&catid=36:features&Itemid=63

    More features on Pakistan?
    http://www.itravelpakistan.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=36&Itemid=63

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  8. comment: Foreign media-ocrity
    BY GUEST ON 08 18TH, 2010 | COMMENTS (25)

    “It’s such an exciting time to be in Pakistan.” This is a line one hears time and again from every new arrival of foreigners that lands at Islamabad airport. From the US Secretary of State, to the new foreign service employees at an international embassy, to the newest international media correspondent, Pakistan seems to be the new land of opportunity. Except that this opportunity doesn’t really work for us too much, considering we were declared the most dangerous country in the world last year and now, because of natural disasters, are at our absolute lowest point. Sadly, Pakistan is being mined by the rest of the world as an example of how good it can get when it gets really bad.

    http://blog.dawn.com/2010/08/18/foreign-media-ocrity/

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  9. Changing Times
    BY FAZAL KHAN ON 09 14TH, 2010 | COMMENT (1)

    These days just about everyone in California knows Pakistan, well at least in Southern California where I’ve lived for the past 13 years. When I tell people I’m from Pakistan I often hear responses like, “Pakistan? Isn’t that where Bin Laden is hiding? I hope your family is safe!” Or “Pakistan? Oh that’s where the flood happened isn’t it. Is your family safe?” And my personal favourite as of late, “Pakistan? Wasn’t there something about a gambling scandal with the cricket team?”

    http://blog.dawn.com/2010/09/14/changing-times/

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  10. Pakistan’s image problem
    By Hasan Zaidi | From the Newspaper

    THE recently published 2011 BBC World Service Country Rating Poll, which surveys global perceptions about “16 major countries, plus the European Union”, has confirmed for many Pakistanis that they are getting the short end of the stick around the world.

    According to the latest poll — the poll has been held every year since 2005 — while positive perceptions of 13 of the 16 countries increased from last year, Pakistan was among only three countries about which negative perceptions showed a marked upswing.

    http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/16/pakistans-image-problem.html

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