Pakistan. Traveling and vacationing in Pakistan.

The Land of the Golden Antelope – How we went to Pakistan

Well, we are back from Pakistan. We were 7 people for a two-week trip – I wouldn’t dare to go there by myself. People came here because some of them have 100 countries behind them and some have 130:). Accordingly all conversations revolved around it – who was where and who is going somewhere else. At the same time everyone had such a busy schedule that a reasonable question arose – what do all these people do for a living if they travel all the time? It felt like I was the only one in the group on a well-deserved vacation, while the rest, it seems, have their whole life is a continuous vacation :)

We flew with Turkish Airlines from Moscow with a connection in Istanbul. The tickets were expensive – about 45 thousand rubles, no cheaper. Arrival in Lahore, return flight from Islamabad.

The itinerary was impressive. To begin with, I’ll describe everything briefly, because there are too many impressions and this makes it very difficult to approach writing a report. Then there will be a few more detailed accounts of each day of the trip, there will also be historical excursions that will help to better understand what Pakistan is.

Our guide Pasha accompanied us on the trip. He is Pashtun by nationality, but in Soviet times he studied in Kharkiv, hence the nickname.

So, Lahore. We arrived there early in the morning and arrived at the hotel at five o’clock. This, of course, left a mark on the program of acquaintance with the city – it seems we had planned two days for it, but of these two days we actually slept for half of it.

This is the Badshahi Mosque – the main attraction of Lahore and the whole Pakistan. It was built in 1674, during the reign of Aurangzeb, the Padishah of the Mughal Empire. Those who have been to India should know him as the son who overthrew and imprisoned his father, Shah Jahan, the same one who built the Taj Mahal.

Next to the mosque, Pakistani guardsmen guard the mausoleum of the poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal, the thought leader and one of the founding fathers of Pakistan.

In addition to the Badshahi Mosque, there is another beautiful mosque in Lahore named after Wazir Khan. It was built in 1635, during the reign of Shah Jahan. The same one.

You know what the most striking thing about Lahore is? I’ve been to both India and Bangladesh. Given the general history, I expected to see the same infernal trash on the streets of Pakistan as I saw there. But it wasn’t! Where are the mountains of garbage and steaming garbage dumps? Where were the bodies lying half-covered in the streets? Where are the stray cows and pigs wandering around? They’re gone! They’re really gone! And most importantly – where is the main symbol of the whole “Indian world”, where are the wretched three-wheeled bicycle carts that can carry everything from passengers to huge closets and five-meter pipes? There aren’t any of those either! In Pakistan it is as if there is a rule that heavy loads must be carried either by cars or, at the very least, by horses and donkeys. It really struck me that Pakistanis have a lot more dignity than people in India or Bangladesh.

Lahore also has the Lahore Fort, the Shalimar Gardens, and the Minar-e-Pakistan Tower, but I’ll talk about that later. On the second day we went to the Indian border to take part in a colorful show called “closure of the border. Most tourists go to this place from the Indian side, but we watched it all from the Pakistani side. Here, watch the Pakistani rangers threatening their Indian colleagues with their fists:)

The funniest thing here is how the soldiers walk ceremoniously with their feet up over their heads. They are Pakistanis in black and Indians in red. Note that the Indians still have the old-fashioned white leggings in their uniforms, while the Pakistanis don’t.

While the show is going on, people are periodically getting into the microphone with patriotic shouts –

-Pakistan? -shouts the announcer.

-ZINDABAD. -the people shout back, raising their hands.

-Tili-tili? -the presenter won’t let up.

-PAKISTAN. -the audience shouts in euphoria

This is where I filmed part of the ceremony. The most comical moment is when the guards open the gate and a Pakistani Sikh in a green turban waves his arms wide to shake the hand of his Indian colleague.)

While on the other side of the border, onlookers shout in the same language – Hindustan! ZINDABAD.

Did you know that the official language in both India and Pakistan is actually the same Hindustani language, only Indian Hindi uses the Devanagari alphabet and Pakistani Urdu uses the Persian script?

In general, I must say, I had the feeling that Indians and Pakistanis are one people. The men are visually indistinguishable, especially if they are not wearing Muslim hats or Wahhabi beards. Women in brightly colored outfits look exactly alike. And yet, curiously, there are almost as many Muslims in vast India as there are in all of Pakistan. Amazing, isn’t it? Why don’t they all go where Sharia law is?

And the total population of Pakistan at the moment is about 200 million. Almost all of them are Muslims. Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, only 3.6%.

In general, India and Pakistan are multi-ethnic and multi-lingual countries. At that only 7% of the population considers state Urdu to be their native language in Pakistan. The Punjabis are the most privileged nation in Pakistan. It is the state of Punjab that is the most developed. Meanwhile, India also has the Punjabi state, where Punjabi is also spoken. And of the Pashtuns, our guide, himself a Pashtun, told us that they can easily be arrested, beaten up or robbed by the police. They are considered come-ons from Afghanistan, although, as we know, the Pashtun lands were simply cut by the Durand Line, and because of that the people were divided, and therefore the Afghan Pashtuns don’t recognize Pakistan at all.

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On the third day of the trip we left Lahore for Islamabad, stopping on the way at the grand Fort Rohtas, another historical monument of the Mughal era.

Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, is a modern city that was built only recently, in 1960. Everything here is modern, including Pakistan’s largest mosque, the Mosque named after Saudi King Faisal.

On the slopes of the Margalla Hills above Islamabad there are viewing platforms where funny monkeys live. Alas, like many cities in Asia, Islamabad is very often obscured by haze, so the view was not very good.

Another important place of the Pakistani capital is the National Monument on Shakarparian Hill. The “Stone Flower” consists of four large and three small petals, according to the number of provinces of Pakistan – Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pashtuniya – as well as autonomous territories – Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and the so-called “tribal zone” near the border with Afghanistan, where the Taliban fighters are now in power.

The older city of Rawalpindi is adjacent to modern Islamabad. And if in Islamabad everyone drives a car, here it’s normal for the five of us to ride a motorcycle :)

What else really impresses is the terrific friendliness of the locals. When they see tourists, everyone smiles and waves, from schoolchildren to gray-bearded grandfathers. And if you tell them Salaam alaikum, they’re happy as children. Many ask to have their photographs taken, and the more advanced ones ask tourists to take pictures with them. A photo with a foreigner is known to bring happiness :)

Those who are not too friendly are all kinds of local security officers. Pakistan is a real military and police state, and security officers with guns are everywhere. Their checkpoints on the roads every 10-15 kilometers especially stressed. Each time we were stopped and each time our guide took out a photocopy of our names, passport numbers and visas. Sometimes we were let go quickly, sometimes for longer, and before we left a Chekist with a “kalashnikov” often got on the bus to “guard” us on the road. This service, as I understood it, was paid for, and we could not refuse. By the way, some foreigners hired such a guard for the entire tour, and had fewer problems because of it. If the Chekists stop the car and see another Chekist inside, their attitude to the visitors is immediately different, more cordial. The escort usually drove to the next post so that he could go home with the other soldiers, and there the car was either released unguarded or given to the next soldier.

Day 5 of our trip began with a visit to the Taksila Archaeological Zone, where the ruins of ancient Buddhist monasteries are located. And then we continued our way north through the town of Abbotabad, where Bin Laden himself lived :)

On our way we met Pakistani gypsies who traveled in a tabor on vehicles like this. Or were they not gypsies? By the way, pay attention – I found an obscure Pakistani custom of keeping a handkerchief rim in the mouth, either wrapped around the head or around the neck. Why? So that the wind doesn’t blow it away? I have seen it more than once, even with ordinary pedestrians.

After you leave the capital, you start to see Pakistan’s famous painted trucks on the roads. You’ve probably seen these in travel movies. The cabin, and on top of it there is a whole carved wooden temple. And with a reverse bias! I wonder what is their aerodynamic quality? However, for an average speed of 20 km / h, which they develop on these roads, it’s probably not so critical:)

And here we had a painted Pakistani bus – it’s just trash and terror:)

And this is how “advanced” Pakistani youth spend their free time. Well, not everyone has to pray five times a day and beat their wives, right?

And this is a more traditional Pakistani “boys club” :)

This is the 6th day of our journey. Today we have to drive 330 km from Besham to Gilgit. The road goes through the Indus valley. Yes, the one from the school textbook on the history of the ancient world.

The rest of the road is rough. The asphalt disappears, the road narrows, and mountains appear, from where rocks periodically fall – from cobblestones to the size of a truck. The road has not been repaired for a long time, and because of frequent rockslides is in terrible condition. Passed landslide – the tractor was brought, have raked out, and the destroyed asphalt to restore not began. And so almost on all road. It was funny at first, until we realized that we had driven only 170 kilometers out of 330 kilometers in 8 hours.

While the mountain road goes around the rocks on top, below there are these incredibly scenic suspension bridges. To get to them, you have to leave the main road and take a steep serpentine descent to river level. And you can probably guess why they don’t put bridges on pylons here. It will be blown away during the flood.

Day 7. Gilgit town. Here for the first time we asked ourselves a question: what happened to all the women? There were only men in traditional attire walking the streets.

Land of the Golden Antelope - How we went to Pakistan

Thanks to the Prophet Muhammad for our happy childhood!

Then we were invited to visit the locals :)

Oh, what is this? A machine gun is not a toy for children!

As well as some tourists :)

And for the next three nights we stayed in an absolutely magical place – the Hunza Valley. How do you like the view from the hotel window? Impressive? The fort on the mountain is Fort Baltit, the residence of the Hunza rulers. The region was an independent principality until British troops came here in 1888. By the way, it is an interesting fact that the Hunza rulers, in order to protect themselves from the British, asked for the patronage of the Russian Tsar.

Land of the Golden Antelope - How we went to Pakistan

Day 8. The view from the roof of Fort Baltit is even more breathtaking.

The mountains are very near. And here, among the mountains, many borders converge. Behind that ridge there is already Wakhan corridor, and behind it Tajikistan. And tomorrow we will go to China, which is also nearby.

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And this is the view from the window of another fort, Altit, which was the residence of the Hunza rulers before Baltit. In the distance you can see a thin ribbon of the Karakoram Highway going into China.

At the foot of the fort stretches the village of Altit, all so authentic and traditional.

Here live such authentic grandmothers.

And this is the observation deck “Eagle’s Nest”. Only mountain peaks are higher!

Day 9. Time to go to China. From Gilgit through the Hunza Valley and further towards China there is a brand new road built by the Chinese. It’s very well built, with retaining walls, drainage, fences, posts and markings. But the mountains here are constantly on the move, so in many places it’s already ruined by rockslides and landslides. But once you pass such a section, the road is great again. All in all, it’s a pleasure to drive here.

Have you heard the story of how in 2010 a giant landslide cut the Karakoram Highway and created a huge lake Attabad? Since then, goods here had to be transferred from trucks to boats and taken to the other side of the lake, where they were loaded onto the next trucks. But in September 2015, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the tunnel system built to bypass the rubble – the highway can now be driven through again!

Nevertheless, there are a few more quirks. Tunnel portals often get blocked by glaciers. Road workers chew through the passage, but it can be difficult to break through the ice not in a Jeep. There were also a couple more of these sections and beyond, where cars had to drive along a narrow corridor among the ice. As the guide told me, in one place the traffic was recently interrupted for 22 days because of the “iceberg” (that’s what he called the glacier in Russian:))

This area is a national park. There is a fee to enter – $8 for foreigners. As we drove toward China, we met all kinds of animals. This is our driver with Lily. Lily is a snow leopard:). Note the tail!

The Karakoram Highway is protected from rockslides by tunnels and galleries. Here we met a shepherd who was herding a herd of yaks.

Do you recognize this mountain dweller? On Wikipedia he looks like a cartoon character:)

The higher into the mountains, the more snow is around

The Karakoram Highway serpentine up to its highest point. Then the guide pointed to the top in the distance and said that this is supposedly the famous K2. But I’ve looked on Google Maps till real K-2 is about 120 kilometers away, so it’s hardly the real K-2.

Here is the Khunjerab Pass, and with it the border between Pakistan and China. The altitude is 4,700 meters. I have a personal record – I’ve never climbed higher, not even in South America. Only Chinese visa holders are allowed to go further, and we don’t have one. So we had to turn back.

Map of the first part of the expedition – from Lahore to Khunjerab

Day 10. We drive from Hunza Valley back to Gilgit, and from there we have to somehow make our way to Chitral. No one knows what the road is, including our driver. But the bridges we pass are impressive. They look kind of pedestrian, but you can drive a car sometimes too:)

Men’s Fashion Demonstration

Demonstration of women’s fashion.

However, in the more conservative areas along the border with Afghanistan, women are forced to dress like this.

We got from Gilgit to Gakuch all right, but then the road was rough again. There was no more asphalt, only narrow paths with stones sticking out. If we had had such a jeep – would not have been a problem, but because we were going, recall, on an ordinary minibus.

In one place we had to wade through the stream. The locals were standing around throwing rocks, trying to fortify the ford. We had jumped over the plank, and then watched as our driver, scaring the locals, raced through the ford, but ran across the wheel on a rock, the bus was thrown to the side, and he was running broke the mirror of the truck:)

Of course, we overestimated our strength. Who would have thought we would be able to go from Gilgit to Chitral in one day? Ahead of us was the 3700 meter Shandur Pass. We crossed it at night. At first we drove along the plateau, in the darkness we saw little by little yaks grazing in front of the bus. Then a serpentine road and we reached the highest point of the pass. The border between Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pushtunia runs here. The policemen at the border checkpoint held us for about an hour and a half while they communicated with their superiors, who communicated with their superiors. Communication was conducted from the headquarters, which was located in a valley, and the policemen went there by shining a flashlight on the road. At the checkpoint itself, as I understood it, there was no communication.

From there, in complete darkness, we descended the endless serpentines from the pass, crossing some pretty rough streams from the mountains on the way. To avoid getting stuck among the rocks, we passed them this way – the driver inspected the ford, then made a magical pass with his hand, noting the best way to cross it, then sat down and raced through the raging stream. This was the first time I experienced how unbuckled air passengers feel when they hit unexpected turbulence. At one of the crossings the bus was thrown so that I was thrown high up and hit my head on the roof!

So we crossed about three streams, but all luck can come to an end. Trying to find a motel in the village of Mastuj, we first drove along a narrow trail along the edge of a cliff – eerie as it was at night, with headlights on – and then ran into a rushing river that was impossible for our minivan to pass. For about half an hour we wandered around the precipice, wondering what to do next. Then we were taken by jeep to the other side and placed in some rat house in the basement, because there were no rooms available in the hotel. The driver stayed overnight near the cliff with our luggage.

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As we were told in the morning – at night some soldiers drove by on this road and were very unhappy that he was standing there. They said “either you clean up your dumpster, or we’re going to throw it into the abyss. There was nothing to do, so the driver tried to drive over the river. Of course, he got stuck. He started to call our guide, and together they gathered some people, called for a tractor, with his help and the help of the locals somehow dragged the bus.

Alas, it all happened at night, so no photos remained. And the 11th day began with the fact that we left Mastui and drove further in the direction of Chitral. What a road there – words can’t describe.

Response: Pakistan Country Tour – Beauty and Extreme Behind the Scenes of Danger.

Another reality, extreme, chic architecture, oases, wildlife, high mountains, romantic ports, historicity.

Taliban presence, low standard of living, poverty, information blockade, in some places unsanitary, infectious diseases, powerlessness.

Pakistan photo

Many people subconsciously equate Pakistan with Afghanistan, if not confuse the two countries altogether. Little is said about it. It’s kind of a forgotten country. Although, no, they have started talking about it recently. It turns out that Osama bin Laden lived there for the last years before his death.

Personally, I find Pakistan interesting by its extreme, beauty (I’m not kidding), sense of reality, history, way of life, nature and mountains.

The trip there was in August 2011. I’ll tell you right away, it’s really expensive. Pakistan is a closed country for tourists. Therefore, it is possible to get there without problems only on someone’s recommendation. Plus, even with the support, you’ll still have to go through the “ordeal” at the embassy. When you go to the interview, forget about other plans for the day. The procedure will take seven hours or more. Then you will have your fingerprints taken, then you will wait in the hallway. If you go out for a walk in the courtyard, don’t act too freely. Keep in mind – you are being watched. While you languish for more than ten hours waiting, work is going on in the offices.

That’s it, the visa is in hand!

The new problem is that Ukraine has no air service to Pakistan. You have to fly via United Arab Emirates. Kiev-Abu Dhabi-Islamab. It is good if you get a plane of Arab airlines. For example, a Boeing 737. Length – 73 meters – 10 rows wide. The capacity is 600 passengers.

By the way, the plane – with a chip! And they say that Arabs are boring (I do not think so). In short, the flight was long, but not boring. On the back of each seat is a monitor, with a remote control (buttons with arrows, as well as options to zoom in and zoom out). Thus, it is possible to freely observe what is happening overboard – and, moreover, from all sides. I’ve never seen anything like it. Always staring into a shallow porthole, but here – space!

We arrived in Islamabad! Passed through passport control. If your passport has an American visa (and not even closed) – it will be faster. You’ll see why.

Next is the bag search. They can overrun everything. Protest is useless. They are looking for explosives. Out of the airport. The police and military are all around.

The journey begins. By car – for security purposes. We drive slowly. We are looking at the people. The first thing that catches your eye is the local women. Surprise!

We are used to Muslim (particularly Arab) women wearing veils and hijabs. And here – quite openly! Long dresses, sometimes silk suits (pants and a long-sleeved tunic), a scarf at most. Many drive cars, and quite freely sit in cafes – smoking.

The explanation is simple. Pakistan has nothing to do with the Arab world. Historically, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh were one nation, artificially divided by colonists into four separate nations. But still, it is one nation.

Pakistan is inhabited by Hindus professing Islam. The language of communication in the country is Urdu. Many people know English.

At first it is difficult to appreciate Islamabad for sights and interesting places. As geeks, you get into an atmosphere that looks like the country is under martial law.

Pakistan photo

The city is only about 30 years old. It was built specifically to concentrate power and administration away from the “turmoil”.

The diplomatic enclave is an interesting and, most importantly, safe place. It has 20 hectares: beautiful architecture, greenery, fountains, alleys.

Pakistan photo

But it is fenced off from the main part of the city with a concrete fence, 10 meters high. It is good to look from a height – from a distance. The enclave is guarded by 200,000 people.

It is worthwhile to walk around on foot, and it is immediately obvious that the city was originally built as a capital. Here most of the territory is equipped as an administrative one. But the architects did not forget about the local Asian features.

Pakistan photo

Generally, if you are in Islamabad, and moreover with a guide, whom you trust, you begin to divide the meaning of the news reports of pro-Western mass media by 10, or even by 20.

What does it mean to say that the country is closed to tourists? It is nonsense! Look for yourself!

Islamabad is an oasis. The city is surrounded by greenery. Beautiful scents of tea, which grows everywhere. Many sights and monuments of other cultures, but native to Asia.

Pakistan photo

The guide says that even before the city was founded, this area was authoritative because it was considered a crossroads of trade routes leading to India, to Tibet and to Central Asian countries.

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Moreover, with many foreigners passing through these lands, the locals also tried to prove themselves, and to sell the fruits of their labors profitably.

Hindus tell us that when Islamabad was being laid, the village of Saidpur, the center of pottery in Pakistan, fell under development. Today it is not forgotten. The city is famous for its crafts.

By the way, again, it is very important to walk around the city with a guide. Immediately all doubts are dispelled, stereotypes are broken and fears disappear. When asked, “There’s a war going on in Pakistan? Where do so many soldiers come from?”, the guide calmly answers: “There is no war in Pakistan. Officially, the country is only at war with terrorism. These military personnel are here for the safety of the population.”

As I concluded myself, though, the relationship between the armies patrolling the same street is not easy.

Here I would like to recall and elaborate on what I wrote about in my review of the city of Shechem (Palestine). The fighters of any army who are in territory with a terrorist threat look closely at outsiders. They assess them. There is one rule (unwritten, but subconsciously enforced in difficult countries): “If you walk confidently, then you have reason to walk here!” The slightest fidgeting, as a manifestation of insecurity, will draw attention to you, and you will become an object of aggression.

While in Islamabad, it is important to set yourself up for the following: there will be many checkpoints, you will have your documents checked without end (mostly by American soldiers), but these are just the gaps you need to get through in order to continue your journey unhindered.

There is a lot to see in Islamabad. Visit the Mah-Faisal-Masrjid Mosque, one of the largest in the world. You can take a nice walk and relax in the shade of the trees – in the Gardens of Daman-e Koh. They are located directly on the terraces of white-white buildings. If you can afford it, stay at the hotel “Scheherazade”. If you can’t afford it (like me), you can just admire its architecture.

There are beautiful parks for recreation along the artificial Raval Lake.

Islamabad has beautiful vegetation. Around the gardens of roses and jasmine. There’s an incredible fragrance in the air.

I’m attracted to countries that still have at least some wildlife. The forests around Islamabad are home to leopards, wild rams and goats, gazelles, geese, jackals and wild boars. Eagles, vultures and parrots fly in the sky. There are many motley peacocks. But there is also a danger – snakes.

In general, a real nature reserve!

And then, driving 30 kilometers away from the center of the city, we find ourselves in a real slum. Amazing contrast! Many houses are made of garbage. If there are parks, they are filled with people – some are sitting, some are lying down, and some are sleeping. The guide says that many people live like this on the streets. There is garbage all around. These are very poor neighborhoods. And there are really a lot of them in Pakistan.

Pakistan photo

The rich people are 3-5% at most. There are no restaurants in the slums. There’s just Handels, but no liquor. Everything is filthy. Hence a lot of infectious diseases.

They don’t eat pork for religious reasons, and beef and lamb for financial reasons. There are real mules here. Their meat is also eaten.

Pakistan photo

There are a lot of chickens. I’ve seen Hindus butchering poultry. Simple! An incision is made in the neck. One hand is taken by the neck and the other by the skin. A tug! And if you want to buy a chicken, they do it right in front of you. There are chicken rippers sitting all over the place.

Pakistan photo

Then there are checkpoints, barricades, wire and soldiers. You drive 350 kilometers to the city of Lahore.

Pakistan photo

It can be classified as a fairytale city, like Cairo. It is right on the border with India. Here, besides terrorism, there is another danger – India and Pakistan are at war.

Lahore is the cultural center of Pakistan. You can visit the Lahore Fort, which houses a weapons museum. The Palace of Mirrors will take you into a “virtual reality”. You will enter the atmosphere of antiquity and spirituality by entering the tomb of Sufi saints. In Lahore is the central mosque of all Pakistan. It accommodates 110,000 people.

Have you ever seen 400 different fountains concentrated in one area? If not, you have to go to the Shalimar Garden.

There is a real display of luxury in Lahore: the Pearl Mosque of Shah Jahan and the Golden Mosque – Wazir Khans.

There is really a lot of East in Lahore. But as you travel around the city (you can walk here for a long time), if you are European, you are bound to feel the colonial influence, in particular the English influence. Thank God that it is reflected only in the administrative buildings. In the European style buildings are built: the Supreme Court, the Central Post Office, the Governor’s Palace and the National Museum.

Pakistan photo

This has its own charm! Europe in the “center” of the East!

By the way, Rudyard Kipling lived and worked in Lahore for many years. You can see the legendary cannon of Keene, described by him.

There is also a stadium – Fortess – built in the form of a fortress.

By the way, a slum is a slum, but they make movies in Pakistan. Lahore is the center of the country’s film industry, Loilwood.

The Relatively new district of Lahore, the Mall, has a European atmosphere and beautiful architecture. And there is the “Old City” – with bazaars, neighborhoods, eateries. A lot of rickshaws that call for shops or offer something right on the streets.

As we later realized, it’s the shopping lovers who come to Lahore. There is a huge selection of everything: gold and silver items, leather goods, embroidered fabrics, bracelets, crockery and silk.

Pakistan photo

Lahore has many parks with mini zoos, children’s playgrounds, lakes, inexpensive cafes and souvenir shops.

In the hotel there was an old newspaper. It wasn’t clear, as it was written in Urdu. But there was a picture of Osama bin Laden halfway down the page. Naturally, the desire arose to visit the city where he lived in recent years and where he was allegedly liquidated.

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To do so, one must return to Islamabad. Winding mountain paths lead to Abbotabad. You have to take a special car. It takes three or four hours to get there. By the way, this is the only city in Pakistan that was named after an English colonist (James Abbott), and subsequently not renamed.

There are many roadblocks at the entrance. They appeared recently. Until May 2011, it was an unknown semi-resort town. People used to come here to escape the heat, as it is located at the foot of the Himalayas.

So, there was a military academy, so what! There is the nearby province of Swat, where in 2007 there was a war with terrorists, so hundreds of refugees found shelter in Abbotabad. All the newspapers wrote about Swat valley. It was the place where the U.S. intelligence agencies allegedly spotted Bin Laden. But it turned out differently.

In August 2011, no one was allowed near Osama’s house. It was forbidden to take pictures. Then the military loosened the grip and people began to come to the city specifically to visit the place. Lots of journalists, photo and TV cameras at the gate.

In the end, the local authorities, used to being so quiet, got fed up, and demolished the mansion, right in front of the locals.

Next on the program was a visit to the city of Karachi (the former capital of Pakistan).

We left it for last, because we had to study the situation thoroughly. The fact is that the entire northern part of the country (including Karachi) is considered uncontrolled territory. Government troops are there, but they have no influence. Many radical Islamist terrorist groups are based there. There are U.S. troops, there are local police, but it’s all nominal. It’s clear that the Taliban are “in charge” in the city.

I recommend to visit Karachi, but only with a reliable escort and a good host.

If your “rear is covered,” you can look at the city diametrically differently.

Karachi is a classic port: sea, taverns, and plying schooners. Trade.

If you can, visit the area of Saddar – bazaars, restaurants and cafes. There are good hotels and inexpensive motels. It’s pretty cozy.

Pakistan photo

I would advise you to take a look at the Clifon resort, which is a paradise. It is paradoxical, but wealthy people from all over the world come here to rest. Islands, beaches, sea, attractions – and all this in Taliban-controlled territory? It’s paradox!

By the way, the local bartender said that a lot of rich people vacation here, but they don’t trust the local police, soldiers and American peacekeepers. They come here with their own guards. And as security guards they prefer Russians or Ukrainians – officers who have been through the war in Afghanistan: they know well the local tactics, both of combat and of negotiation.

The hot spots in such areas are often the targets of attacks. And there is not always the necessary money to resolve the issue positively…… In these cases, this is where competent negotiation is needed.

Okay, let’s leave it at that.

Next we visit the local zoo, the National and Archaeological Museums, and the Honeymoon House.

Was amazed to see the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, which is located in Karachi. It was built in 1855. Its bell tower served as a lighthouse for passing ships. A local priest says that this is what kept the Orthodox shrine safe in the lair of Islam.

It’s an interesting conversation with the local police officers. They are constantly improving ways to combat terrorism. In North Pakistan they can kill or kidnap for ransom. But in the rest of the country they don’t kill or steal because almost everyone lives poor. There is no one to steal from. So the main problem for law enforcement agencies today is bombings. It is aggravated by the fact that it is mainly young children who do it.

A local “sheriff” recounted a case where a mosque blew up in the city of Peshawar, killing 60 people. A 14-year-old boy arranged all this. And not for the sake of pranks. There are special closed camps in Pakistan, where children are inculcated to commit terror “in the name of Allah.

Pakistan photo

By the way, there is another impression of the local children. Can you imagine, they know how to enjoy an ordinary candy! The UN constantly brings them sweets and their parents groceries, detergents, shampoos and the like.

Pakistan photo

Pakistan photo

Although, in principle, the country can live normally. For example, they grow amazing rice there, but it is unclear where it goes. I have never seen anything like that in our country.

In Pakistan, slavery is well developed. Every more or less wealthy person has a servant. Moreover, it is prestigious to be a servant there. This “title” is handed down from generation to generation.

There are no expensive cars in the cities. Ministers and rich people drive Toyotas and Hondas. The Toyotas are assembled in Karachi.

Despite the fact that Pakistan is a Muslim country, the sounds of minarets are almost inaudible, even during namaz.

By the way, local schools teach that Ukraine is an Islamic state. Of course, this is a delusion.

Already on the plane to Abu Dhabi you involuntarily think: How can the country, which has so much unique history and architecture, be “closed” to tourists? That’s first. Secondly, how long will a country where you can actually make money from tourism, recreation and rice exports continue to receive subsidies from the United States (which accounts for 60% of Pakistan’s budget)?

Yes, the country is dangerous. But it is historically dangerous. And everyone here has long been accustomed to it. Moreover, much has been exaggerated by pro-Western media. Myths will take a long time to dispel.

In the meantime, with a reliable host, welcome to the center of the East on Asian territory.

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