Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Discover another Pakistan

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Tourists who once came to Pakistan had varied interests. There is therefore no prefect trip or perfect time to visit Pakistan. However, there is an ideal time between November and mid-March. This is the time to be in the south in Sindh and Balochistan – that is, if the security situation permits. That having been said, while Balochistan may unfortunately be somewhat unsafe for a foreigner, Sindh is a fine place to be and the traveller can have the run of the entire province including the fabulous forts of Rannikot (80 km northwest of Hyderabad) and Kot Diji a short drive south of Sukkur and Rohri.

Besides the desert and the charming lakes of Sanghar district, there are interesting little towns to explore. Nasarpur (near Tando Allahyar) for its colourful cotton khes, Hala for the tiles, Buit Shah for the picturesque mausoleum of the great Shah Latif, Rohri and Sukkur for the medieval remains and also for the ruins of Alor where Alexander paused briefly and which was taken by the Arabs in 711. And of course how can anyone miss Moen jo Daro!

As for the lakes of Sanghar, I only have superlatives. Caught amid rippled sand dunes topped by the conical roofs of Thari chanunras, they seem almost surreal. While some of these lakes are bitter, there are a few fresh water ones as well. In winter the breeze in southern Sindh is weak. But with the onset of March, the breeze picks up and in the desert of Sanghar, it can blow at a steady 30 knots. Now that is what a wind surfer would give an arm and a leg for. But sadly the lakes of Sanghar are going waste with no thought ever having been paid to promoting wind surfing in these pristine, virtually unknown lakes.

This period (between November and March) is also ideal to range as far north as Punjab and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa. Both provinces have their own attractions. But while K-P is largely out of bounds especially for Westerners, Punjab suffers from loose law enforcement. This is highly variable because one never knows where one might face an anxiety making situation.

The mountaineer and trekker have the short window of the northern summers between May and late October. Thankfully, despite the assertions of our semi-literate television anchor persons who go hoarse declaring how terrorism emanates in the Northern Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan are totally safe for foreigners. In Chitral we occasionally hear of trouble in Kafristan from terrorists coming over from Afghanistan. But the rest of the district all the way north to Broghal Pass is quite safe for trekkers.

Pakistanis, no matter which part of the country they come from, are fundamentally friendly and hospitable. The first time traveller needs only be casual upon meeting locals. If the locals speak English, outsider will soon find very talkative, amiable people who will at once invite them into their homes to share some food and that very sweet tea. Personal relationships will fast be formed and wonderful things be discovered.

Given the overall situation, all this, I suppose, takes a good deal of courage. So, for the time being, Pakistan is waiting be discovered only by the very courageous.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 10:34,


At 24 April 2013 at 16:56, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

Another great post that shows how you know this land we call home. Have you been to Cholistan? I you have written, I have missed that.

At 25 April 2013 at 14:18, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

I have been to Cholistan and written about it. These few pieces will shortly be appearing in this blog. Besides Cholistan there is Thar and, especially, Achhro or White Thar with its pristine lakes on its western fringe.

Unbelievable place.


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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days