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Revision as of 11:05, 13 February 2007

[[File:noframe|250px|frameless|Pakistan]]
Location
[[File:noframe|250px|frameless]]
Flag
[[File:Pk-flag.png|108px|frameless]]
Quick Facts
Capital Islamabad
Government Military Rule
Currency Pakistani rupee (PKR)
Area 803,940 km2
Population 147,663,429 (July 2002 est.)
Language Urdu (official) 8%, Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki 10%, Pashtu 8%, , Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, Burushaski, and other 8%
Religion Muslim 97% (Sunni 77%, Shi'a 20%), Christian, Bah'ai, Jewish, and other 3%
Electricity 230V/50Hz (Europlug & Old British Plug)
Country code +92
Internet TLD .pk
Time Zone UTC+5.0

Pakistan [1] (Urdu: پاکستان) is a populous country in South Asia. Located along the Arabian Sea, it is surrounded by Afghanistan to the west and northwest, Iran to the southwest, India to the east, and China to the northeast. It is strategically located astride the ancient trade routes of the Khyber and Bolan passes between Asia and Europe.

Contents

Regions

Cities

Major Cities in Pakistan

Pakistan has many cities and towns. Below are nine of the most notable. Other cities are listed under their specific regions.

  • Islamabad - The capital, a relatively new planned city with a much more laidback feel than the rest of the country's cities
  • Rawalpindi - Islamabad's much older and busier sister city, it's the starting point for travels to most points in the country
  • Karachi - the largest city in the country, it's an industrial port city and the provincial capital of Sindh
  • Lahore - City of the Mughals, it's a bustling, massively polluted and very historical city that shouldn't be missed
  • Multan - The City of Saints, famous for blue pottery, ornamental glasswork, and Khussa - a type of shoes
  • Quetta - a large and unruly city in the southern state of Balochistan, you'll pass through here en route to or from Iran

Other destinations

  • Karakoram Highway
  • Himalaya
  • Hindu Kush
  • Kaghan Valley
  • Baltistan
  • Swat Valley
  • Gilgit Valley
  • Chitral Valley
  • Ziarat Valley
  • Azad Kashmir
  • Rawalakot
  • Murree and Galiaat
  • Hazara
  • The Hunza Valley [2] is supposedly the setting for James Hilton's Shangri-La, and it lives up to that reputation. The local residents are for the most part members of the Ismaili sect, a more moderate branch of Islam, and are welcoming to the relatively few tourists who make their way there. Once you reach it, the area is extremely safe for travelers. The major town is Karimabad (actually a grouping of 5-6 smaller villages), surrounded on all sides by glorious mountain peaks, foremost amongst which is Rakaposhi - watching the early morning sun catch the tip of the peak from the roof of your hotel, then gently scrolling down the mountainside as it slowly rises in the East, is a breathtaking experience. The Nagar Valley and the Hoper Glacier are situated a dizzying 40-minute drive from Karimabad, nestled below Golden Peak. Baltit Fort sits above Baltit Town, in the heart of Karimabad, with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The Eagle's Nest in Duikar, above Karimabad, overlooks the range of surrounding peaks - Rakaposhi, Ultar and Golden. The Hunza is approximately 100 kms. from Gilgit, and is the last major town as you enter the Karakoram Highway towards the Chinese border.

Archaeological Sites

  • Taxila: Gandhara civilization
  • Takht-i-Bahi: Buddhist Monastery
  • Indus Valley civilizations: Moenjodaro, Harappa
  • Mehrgarh
  • Banbhore
  • Butkara Stupa
  • Chaukundi
  • Thatta
  • Dir
  • Rawalakot Azad Kashmir

Mountain Peaks

  • K2
  • Nanga Parbat
  • Gasherbrum I
  • Broad peak
  • Gasherbrum II
  • Gasherbrum III
  • Dastaghil Sar
  • Kunyang Kish
  • Masherbrum
  • Rakaposhi
  • Batura
  • Kanjut Sar
  • Saltoro Kangri

National Parks

Understand

Climate

Mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north. Flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August)

Terrain

The North West Frontier Province and the Northern Area contain the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush. (Pakistan's highest point is K2, at 8,611 meters, the second highest peak in the world.) Punjab province is a flat, alluvial plain whose rivers eventually join the Indus River and flow south to the Arabian Sea. Sindh lies between the Thar Desert the Rann of Kutch to the east, and the Kirthar range to the west. The Balochistan Plateau is arid and surrounded by dry mountains. Pakistan experiences frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe, especially in north and west.

History

Prior to the 1900's the area of Pakistan was the area from which the Muslims ruled over Central and Southern Asia for over 300 years. Initially this was an integral part of India whic was later broken up by the British India.Today Pakistan is made up of people from various races including Arabs from after the Islamic expeditions, Persians from Bukhara and Samarkand, Turks from Central Asia and the Hindus who were converted to Islam.

The official name of Pakistan was used after the separation of British India in 1947. The once Mughal Empire was divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (with two sections West and East) and largely Hindu India. A third war between these countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan seceding and becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. A dispute over the state of Kashmir is ongoing.

Get in

2007 has been declared the 'Year of Tourism' by the Pakistan government. They will be heavily promoting the sites and are planning to ease visa and entry restrictions (and hopefully costs), so check with your embassy/high commission the most up-to-date information.

Most visitors to Pakistan require a visa. It is often easier to obtain these in your home country but are also available at some of the Pakistan embassies/high commissions or consulates around the world. Visas are usually single-entry and valid for 30-90 days depending on nationality. Double-entries are sometimes given, but be clear when applying that you need this.

Nationals of Israel are not allowed entry to Pakistan as Israel is not a recognised nation in Pakistan.

The consulate in Istanbul does not issue visas unless you are a resident of Turkey, although it may be possible in Ankara.

The Pakistan Consulate in New Delhi issues visas with a few days needed to process the application. Applications are only accepted in the mornings from around 8-11am. Arrive early and expect to spend a few hours at the consulate. Window 4 is for foreign tourist and business visas.

Visas are easier for people of Pakistani origin living overseas.

By plane

Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi are the main gateways to Pakistan by air. However, there are many other airports in Pakistan that have international flights as well to the Gulf and Far East. Two other international airports are in Peshawar and Quetta.

  • Quaid-e-Azam International Airport in Karachi [3] is served by many international airlines, including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Swiss, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and PIA.
  • Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore [4] has been completely renovated with a new terminal for international arrivals and departures. Many airlines are currently operating to the airport including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Gulf Air, Singapore Airlines, Pakistan International (PIA), Saudi Arabian Airlines, Thai Airways, Kuwait Airways and over four private airlines from Pakistan.
  • Islamabad International Airport [5] is currently in review to be expanded and modernized to meet the needs of the future passenger numbers as demand for air travel has increased dramatically. There are many airlines operating into Islamabad including many of the above with British Airways as well. The only problem is that the airport is also used by Government officials as well as arrivals from foreign diplomats so the airport may shut down as security is increased so flights are delayed.

By train

Pakistan has train links with India and Iran.

India has two links: The Samjhauta Express from Lahore to Attari near Amritsar in Punjab. The Thar Express restarted in February 2006 after 40 years out of service. It runs from Munabao in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Khokrapar in Pakistan's Sindh province, but is not open to foreign tourists.

Iran has one link, from Zehadan to Quetta.

Neither train is the fastest or most practical way to enter Pakistan. Should speed be a priority it is better to take the bus, or if you are really in a hurry, to fly, however the trains are sights in their own right.

By car

From ancient times people have been travelling through Pakistan using the Grand Trunk Road and the Silk Road that run through Pakistan and into the Asian subcontinent. It's a rewarding but time consuming way to see this part of the world. New highways have been developed and the country is due for an expansion in its highway network. Currently, a world-class motorway connects the cities of Lahore, Islamabad and Faisalabad, with extension up to Peshawar due to be completed soon.

Pakistan is connected to China through the Karakoram Highway, a modern feat of engineering that traverses a remarkably scenic route through the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains. Which is about to be expanded from current 10m wide to 30m because of the increase in trade traffic due to Gwader port opening.

There are two routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan:

  • The Khyber Pass connects Peshawar to Jalalabad and Kabul and requires an armed escort and a permit to travel through the tribal regions between Peshawar and the border. Onward travel from the border to Kabul is of questionable safety, check the current situation locally.
  • The Bolan Pass connects Quetta to Kandahar and is considered very dangerous. This route is currently only open to locals and aid workers.

By bus

From India: While there is international service running from Delhi to Lahore it is just as fast, much more flexible, and much cheaper to take the journey by stringing together local transport and crossing the border on foot.

From China: You can take a bus from Kashi over the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan.

From Iran: One comes to Pakistan from Iran via the Mijva border in Iran which is half an hours drive from Mashad. The Pakistani border town is called Taftan and has facilities of immigration, customs, hotels etc.

By boat

A ferry service is being run from Dubai to Karachi.

Get around

In the past, getting around was a very hectic task, but nowadays it's very easy because of the advent of motorways and many private airlines.

By plane

  • Pakistan International Airlines [6]
  • Aero Asia International [7]
  • Shaheen Air International [8]
  • Airblue [9]

PIA serves numerous domestic destinations and is the only airline to serve the three airports in the north of interest to trekkers or climbers: Chitral, Gilgit, and Skardu. There are usually two flights from Islamabad to these cities daily, but they are often canceled due to bad weather. The flights are often over-booked, show up early to guarantee your seat.

By train

Pakistan Railway [10] provides passenger rail service. The stations tend not to have their timetables in English, but sales agents can usually explain everything to you. There are several different classes of fares depending on amenities. Foreign tourists and students with an ISIC card can get 25% and 50% discounts, respectively, by first visiting the PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation) office, getting verification their, and bringing that with them to the train's commercial ticket office (which is different from the regular ticket office, but usually close by).

By bus

A large portion of travel between cities in Pakistan is carried out by bus. Travelling between Karachi and any of the country's other major cities by bus may take days, and is usually advised against, because of highway robbery, known locally as 'dacoitry'. With that exception, however, travel by bus is often the cheapest and most convenient alternative. The Dae-Woo company runs a regular bus service between several major cities, with air-conditioned buses and seats booked one day ahead. While rather unexpensive, they are still almost five times as expensive as the cheap and uncomplicated rides offered by minibuses or larger buses between the major bus stations of the cities. Fares are often (though not always) paid directly on the bus, there is no aircondition, and sometimes very little knee space, but you get where you are going all the same, and I have never met with anything but kind interest and friendly conversation on my many rides. Buses leave almost incessantly from the major bus stations for all the major cities, and many smaller locations, so booking ahead is neither possible nor necessary on the simpler buses. When travelling between major cities, smaller buses are to be preferred over the larger ones, as these tend to take up passagers along the way, and therefore travel more slowly.

The situation is similar for local transport. While the organization of local transport may look a little different between cities, there is usually an active bus service running through the city, with varying levels of government control.

By rickshaw

For local transport within cities, auto rickshaws are a cheap and flexible alternative. A development of the bicycle rickshaw, the auto rickshaw is a small vehicle powered by a two-stroke engine, constantly emitting a stuttering noise and foul blue-black smoke. Blue-and-yellow auto rickshaws take passengers, other colours tend to be privately owned. The inexperienced traveller should negotiate prices before entering the rickshaw.

Rickshaws are banned in the capital Islamabad.

Talk

See also: Urdu phrasebook

Pakistan's official language is English and many people in big cities can speak it. However, Urdu is the national language and is spoken throughout Pakistan as lingua franca. In addition to Urdu most Pakistanis speak their regional languages or dialects such as Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto (Pushtun), Balochi, Saraiki, Shina, Burushaski, Khowar, Wakhi, Hindko etc.

English is the official language and is used in all government, educational and business entities, and is also understood and spoken at varying levels of competence by many people around Pakistan, especially by the upper classes and people who have gone through higher levels of education.

Buy

Pakistan is excellent for buying carpets, pashminas (woolen scarves), and carved wood, including furniture and various handicrafts. You have to beware of fake shops selling counterfeit products. This can usually be avoided by not buying from roadside dealers, small shops etc. Many modern shopping centers have sprung up, mainly in Karachi, acommodating shops like Khaadi, Hang Ten, etc., and eateries like Pizza Hut, Indulge Cafe, etc. The shops might be a bit expensive but the quality is worth it. In general, be sure to visit Zainab Market, Sunday Bazaar, for best deals and a taste of Pakistan's rich antiquity past. Peshawar's Old City is as rich in ambience and arabian-nights-bazaar feeling as in cheap brassware, jewellery, handicrafts and semi-precious stones, and stand in stark contrast to Islamabad's square shopping centres with modern manufacture and old crafts, notably Supermarket and Jinnah market. Almost everything is commercially available in Pakistan. To purchase alcohol, you need to have a license or prove that you are a foreigner. Cigarettes are available everywhere.

Eat

Pakistani food mainly consists of various kinds of kabobs eaten with either flatbread or rice. Food tends to be either mild or very spicy depending on where you are. So state your preference before beginning to eat. In general, most of the same food you can find in the highest quality restaurants/hotels there is available commonly in the markets (but European-style food is generally reserved for the former).

  • The types of flatbread (collectively referred to as Nan are:
    • Nan - A soft and thick bread that often requires special clay ovens and cannot be properly made on home stoves. It is recognized by its larger, white exterior.
    • Roti/Chapatti - A homemade bread that doesn't have as much flavor as naan. It is a cheap alternative that is ready in minutes.
    • Paratha - An extremely oily version of the roti. Usually excellent if you're going out to eat, but beware of health concerns; often it is literally dripping with oil because it is meant to be part of a rich meal. Pratha is more declicious if you cook it in pure oil like "desi ghee".
    • Sheer Mal - This is a slightly sweetened, lightly oiled bread that has waffle-like squares punched in it. It is often considered the most desirable bread and is a delicacy to most people. Often paired with nihari.
    • Taftan - Much like the sheer mal but with a puffed-up ring around it. This is generally just as good as the sheer mal but easier to eat liquidy shorba with.

As you might have noticed, Nan is usually used to pick up liquid and soft foods like shorba and beans. Utensils are not commonly used during meals in Pakistan except to serve dishes (unless someone is eating rice and would like to be polite or is unpracticed eating it by hand). Attempting to cut a naan with a knife and drink shorba with a spoon may elicit some amusement around you. Watching others may help.

  • Types of kababs (mainly made of Beef or Lamb) are:
    • Seekh Kabab (سيخ کباب) - A long skewer of Beef mixed with herbs and seasonings.
    • Shami Kabab (شامي کباب) - A round patty of seasoned Beef, softer than seekh kabobs.
    • Chapli Kabab (چپلي کباب) - A spicy round kabob that is a specialty of Peshawar.
    • Chicken Kabab (مرغ کباب) - A popular kabob that is found both with bone and without.
    • Lamb Kabab (کبابِ برہ گوشت) - The all lamb meat kabob is usually served as cubes.
  • More Pakistani Foods:
    • Roasted Chicken (whole) (مرغ بريان) - A whole chicken roasted. Very famous around Pakistan. You'll see them on the rotisserie while driving on Lahore streets.
    • Biryani (برياني) - A dish with mixed pieces of chicken and rice. It smells nice from the saffron and other seasonings added.
    • Chicken Tikka - Barbequed chicken with a spicy exterior. Looks like a huge, red chicken leg and thigh. For all meat lovers. Is available most anywhere.
    • Haleem - Thick soup-like mix of tiny chunks of meat, lentils and wheat grains.

There are too many shorbas, or sauces, to enumerate. However, you should know of the most common ones.

  • Vegetarian
    • Daal - Yellow (plain) or brown (slightly sour) lentil "soup". Usually unspiced. Common to all economic classes.
    • Aloo Gobi - Potatoes and cauliflower. Cooked so that both are soft and breakable with finger pressure.
    • Bhindi - Okra, Can be bitter...
    • X + ki sabzi - A vegetarian mixture with 'X' as the main ingredient.
  • With Meat
    • Aloo Gosht (Potatoes and Meat) - Chunks of potato and goat meat in gravy. Levels of spice vary. One example of a generic dish that includes most things + Gosht(meat).
    • Nihari- Beef simmered for several hours. A delicacy often eaten with Nan, Sheer Mal, or Taftan. Few people will have this available without spice. Eat with lemon, fried onion and caution: it is one of the spiciest curries.
    • Paye - Very, very wet salan, often served in a bowl or similar dish. Eat by dipping pieces of naan in it, maybe finishing with a spoon. Hard to eat.
  • Desserts
    • Enjoy a variety; ice cream can be found in an abundance of flavors such as the traditional pistachio flavoured Kulfi;
    • Falooda (فلودہ) is tasty rosewater desert. The sweets are extremely popular in Pakistan and called different things depending on where you go. Eat small chunks at a time, eating large pieces can be rude and will generally be too sweet.
    • Kulfi is a very traditional made ice-cream mixed with cream and different types of nuts.
    • If you want to go to some ice-cream parlors, there are some good ice-cream parlors in Lahore like "Polka Parlor" "Jamin Java" "Hot Spot".

Drink

Tap water is not fit for drinking unless you have lived there and drunk it for a long time, and even then you run a considerable risk of incurring amoeba or other afflictions, against which being accustomed is no help. The taste of the water is said to be very good in the north-eastern side of Pakistan, especially in the district of Sialkot. Ask for bottled water wherever possible, and avoid anything cold that might have water in it. In Karachi and Lahore, you will find that bottled water is available everywhere.

  • See Stay Healthy for details.
  • Tea (or Chai as it is referred to in Pakistan) is popular throughout the country.
    • Both black and green tea (Sabz chai or qahvah) are common and are traditionally drunk with cardamom and lots of sugar. Lemon is optional but recommended with green tea.
    • Kashmiri chai is a milky tea with almonds and nuts added to give additional flavour. This tea is very popular during weddings and in the cold season.
  • Coffee is also available in all major cities.

In the warmer southern region, sweet drinks are readily available throughout the day. Look for street vendors that have fruits (real or decorations) hanging from their roofs. Also, some milk/yogurt shops serve lassi. Ask for meethi lassi for a sweet yogurt drink and you can also get a salty lassi which tastes good if you are having "bhindi" in food or some other rich dish. There is also a sweet drink called Mango Lassi which is very rich and thick, made with yogurt, mango pulp, and pieces of mango.

Sleep

Hotels or mahmankhane (مہمان خانہ) are usually found around busy transportation hubs like bus stations. Don't be fooled by an impressive lobby. See the room, check the beds, the toilets, the lights, the windows, etc.

If you have a big enough wallet you may want to try the reputable luxury hotels such as the Pearl Continental Hotels, Holiday Inn Hotels and many five star hotels located in all major cities as well as many tourist destinations. With the exception of these upper-end hotels, the term "hotel" in Pakistan is reserved for simpler establishments, with "guest house" referring to medium-sized establishments where the standard is typically higher.

Learn

Learn various dances. Taking some traditional cooking classes can also be very helpful later.

Work

Many Pakistani companies are looking for Sales representatives and usually all manner of companies will be happy to speak to a well-dressed Westerner about business.

Many tourists are known to buy leather goods and other curios in Pakistan sell them in Goa India or somehow get them shipped back to the West.

Otherwise your best way of working is contact the numerous Aid agencies that work out of Peshawar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Stay safe

While Pakistan is a fairly stable and welcoming country you should always seek advice about off-limits areas before coming.

Avoid at all costs anything even slightly resembling a protest, as these can become violent very quickly, as demonstrated by the Muhammad cartoon riots in Lahore and elsewhere, and Western interests and individuals are occasionally targeted.

Stay away from tribal areas and the sensitive Afghan border regions as the Pakistan goverment has little to no authority in these areas and cannot aid you in an emergency. If traveling in the south of the country seek advice from tourist offices and embassies about which areas are safe and not... travel to large portions of the southern states is not advisable or requires an armed escort.

Stay healthy

Visitors are strongly advised to refrain from drinking tap water; many Pakistani locals themselves drink boiled or purified water. Take every precaution to drink only boiled, filtered or bottled water. Tap water is known to contain many impurities. Ice is usually made from regular tap-water, and may be even harder to avoid. Fresh milk from the carrier should be boiled and cooled before consumption. Non-pasteurized dairy can spread tuberculosis. Nestle Milk Pak, Haleeb Milk, and others are trusted brands and are available at most grocery stores.

Take precautions against malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes. The first and most effective way is to avoid getting bitten, but if you plan to stay in a place where malaria is common, you may need to eat prophylactic medicine as well. The risk of getting Malaria decreases with higher altitudes.

In the summer it gets very hot. Be careful to stay hydrated.

Do not eat food that has been lying out for some time, as high temperatures speed up deterioration. Avoid posh but unfrequented restaurants.

Some Pakistani dishes can be very spicy! Always notify your host, cook or waiter if you can not take very spicy food.

Tuberculosis is common in some regions. Be careful of the people with a hacking cough.

Respect

Pakistanis pride themselves on their tradition of hospitality to guests (mehmanawazi in Urdu, milmastia in Pashtu). Just a greeting of Salam Alaykum will get you far in endearing yourself to people. If you are travelling outside the big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad it is advisable to learn some basic Urdu or a regional language.

Do not make silly jokes about religion, women, sex, or alcohol. You will cause offence and it is something you're really ill advised to do.

Just respect and observe. Pakistan is a conservative country and it is advisable for women to wear long skirts or pants in public (Pakistani women wear the traditional shalwar kameez). Dress codes for men are more lax although they should refrain from wearing shorts in public. As well, showing someone the sole of your feet or shoe is considered an insult, and can lead to you being considered disrespectful.

Contact

PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Ltd.) [11] was a government-run phone company providing communications services such as land-line phones, mobile phones, Internet, and VoIP services. Now the company is privatized and is run by UAE's Phone company etisalat. Major providers of mobile phone service (GSM) are:

This country guide is usable. It has links to this country's major cities and other destinations (and all are at usable status or better), a valid regional structure and information about this country's currency, language, cuisine, and culture is included. At least the most prominent attraction is identified with directions. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!




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