Ali Moeen Nawazish
Monday, October 31, 2011
“Pakistan is such a beautiful country,” he said putting down his camera and flipping through the images, “I am loving it so much that I don’t want to leave”. These were the words of an old friend, Pierce. I first met Pierce at Cambridge when he was my next-door neighbour at Trinity Hall.
He has always been fond of travelling and this time around he was trying to travel around the world after we graduated this June. He started his journey from London, hitchhiking all the way to Poland via France, Belgium and Germany.
He then continued on to the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) after which he made his way to Russia. From Russia his travels took him down through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and then to China before he crossed the border at Sost into Pakistan. It is his journey through Pakistan which really caught my attention, and I wanted to share it here today.
He told me that he was slightly afraid and unsure when he was first crossing the border, but he explained that the general view of Pakistan in the West is not negative but it is accepted that there are some issues. It was exactly this which he was slightly concerned about. Coupled with the on-arrival visa issues, he was not sure what lay ahead. “It was exciting but I had no idea what it was going to be like. But, what I came across absolutely blew me away.”
The first place he visited was Gilgit, where rather than the major cities he enjoyed the small towns and villages a lot more. He also went trekking near Karimabad, cherishing the beautiful untouched landscape, snowy mountains and pure bliss that we are so fortunate to have.
The north he says is so misunderstood, it is so beautiful and he says that you get a sense that security issues are more at the forefront in major cities like Islamabad and Lahore, rather than up in the north. It is so peaceful and beautiful. However, because of these misplaced fears, tourism has decreased by about a third in the north.
“The local industry seems to be dying or decaying. People are optimistic but don’t want to give up. They are ready for new tourists and everyone I met asked me to give my friends back home their hotel business cards and details. They told me to tell them and other Pakistanis I meet across my travels to come to the area, and that it’s open and waiting for them!”
At this point, I started feeling guilty as he continued showing me the amazing pictures that most of us would not recognise to be Pakistan. So few of us having lived here all our lives have ever taken to explore the true beauty and culture of our country. Pierce then started talking to me about how friendly everyone was in Pakistan.
“What is most amazing about the people in Pakistan is that they are genuinely hospitable and concerned about your wellbeing without generally any expectation of reward or compensation. You don’t get a fake-ness that you might see in other places.”
His travel then took him down all the way to Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Lahore where he experienced modern day cosmopolitan life and the cultural heritage of the Punjab. “It is amazing to see the diversity in the country.
“Pakistan experiences all the four seasons, has such good fruit in its farmlands. The modern cities are a contrast to the beautiful landscapes of the north but they too are beautiful in their own way. From the food, the culture to the people I think I enjoyed Pakistan the most even though I still have much more of it to see.” Pierce now plans to explore Pakistan a little further before crossing the border at Wagah and going to India. I will be forever grateful to him for showing me how truly beautiful Pakistan is, but also grateful for reaffirming the realisation that Pakistan is too valuable to ever give up on and for reiterating that we together are responsible for its future.
The journey Pierce is undertaking is not only remarkable, but also one full of discovery. Yet, it is a journey that anyone can take, and it is important to understand that. So many people choose to go abroad for their vacations and holidays and it isn’t wrong, but I think they should give the local areas and people of Pakistan a chance too to captivate them.
“The take home message from my trip I think is that Pakistan is such an amazing and beautiful country. I, as other travellers, have not come across anything that would be a threat or perceived to be dangerous.” This is true. It isn’t dangerous. I picked him up from Pirwadhai bus stop in Rawalpindi, and he was absolutely fine. We should not generalise one or two issues to the whole country.
Don’t lump all of Pakistan together in one package. It isn’t all the same!
The writer is Youth Ambassador Geo and Jang Group.
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: facebook. com/ali.moeen.nawazish)