I’ve watched many vloggers about Pakistan before coming to Islamabad. You can check out too by Eva Zu Beck on youtube. She’s done some amazing videos on Pakistan.
Since Imran Khan has become a Prime Minister it’s easier to travel to Pakistan and get visas. My husband and I got our visas fast and online. The system, where you fill in all essentials details, require patience. Once we got the visas I was excited. However, travel plans were delayed due to coronavirus.
When we finally were allowed to travel it was exciting to say the least. My husband and I felt safe on the plane because the rules were strict, if you don’t have a negative PCR certificate printed out you are not allowed on the plane. We had to wear masks during the flight too.
Landing to Islamabad
When we were landing in Pakistan it looked like magic. The soft fog prevented me from seeing it all in detail. However, what I saw was the green, the mountains, the grass and the trees. The fog looked like a magical Shakespeare tale about to unfold right before my eyes.
We landed. The heat hit us immediately. It’s a first October of my life to be hot. It’s summer 38 degrees heat celsius!
When I travel I like to look like the locals as much as possible and not to stand out from the crowd like a sore thumb. Why? Everyone will pick you out and ask questions. This goes for wherever you travel. I wore shawar kameez to blend in.
Because of coronavirus we had to fill in the forms, which delayed us because people do not give out pens anymore. To get a pen at the airport was like getting a gold coin because it meant you could get your luggage and be on your way. We snatched one from a person who’d just finished his form. We felt lucky.
The airport had beautiful Islamic designs on the walls. It was light, airy and clean. The luggage collection belts area had wall paintings representing all kinds of religions and faiths. I immediately felt included and welcomed.
First Impression of Islamabad
Once we got our luggage and left the airport building, we were greeted by a mass of people waiting for their family members to appear. It felt like I am in a concert waiting to see a famous singer. A lot of people with flowers, balloons and whatever else one could give to their loved ones once they greet them.
What hit me first in Islamabad was the massive space. Huge roads, great big green spaces and the sun. The name of the city comes from two words Islam the religion and abad a city or inhabited town/city. It’s a purpose build city. Islamabad became capital of Pakistan in 1960’s.
We stayed at a Serena hotel. It took my breath away when we stepped into it. The design is stunning. Everything is so big, the ceiling, the hallway, the restaurants and everywhere you looked it’s just stunning design. Add a beautiful Islamic gardens and it’s a palace.
Pakistan’s taste and colours
In Pakistan, nothing tastes the same, at least not to me. Green tea, for instance, is not a green tea as I know it. It doesn’t taste like a green tea I am used to. Maybe what I am used to isn’t the real taste?! They serve it here with a tiny lemon or as I called it a baby lemon. It’s delicious. The fruit here is different too.
For instance, bananas taste different. I had great tasting bananas in Zanzibar where they grow. The bananas in Islamabad are smaller in size but are delicious. The grapefruit that has just been picked from a tree is divine. The colours and the taste is much stronger here than anywhere else I have ever been to.
Everything in Pakistan is turned up a few levels. If it’s spicy it’s going to burn your mouth. You’ll feel the heat inside your body as if a magical flame travels inside your body. If it’s bland it will be bland not that I’ve tasted anything bland here! If the road is big it’s enormous. Everything here is real nothing is staged or designed to take advantage of you.
The natural park Margalla Hills is astonishing full of barking deer, monkeys and fascinating bird sounds. My husband and I bought a house in Islamabad. We’ve been busy sorting the house out and making sure we stay fit. Hence, I’ve seen very little of Islamabad so far. I have seen a tiny bit of Rawalpindi too but not enough to have an opinion just yet.
Islamabad is a very different city to anywhere else in Pakistan. Islamabad has sixteen universities and has more people with disposable income. Islamabad seems very young. People drive everywhere. My first impression of Islamabad which can be totally wrong, so far, is a very liveable and a great city.
I’ve never seen so much respect shown to women anywhere else in the world so far. I don’t know if it’s religion got something to do with it or it’s the culture or people have a lot of respect for themselves and others. For example, we had many builders in the house they wouldn’t even look at me let alone speak to me or ask to make them a cup of tea.
One could argue it’s their job on the line but other people that had come to the house the behaviour was respectful. Unlike in the UK, they make jokes, chat to you and expect you to make a cup of tea for them. Some of the builders smell of alcohol too. Make some weird remarks or make me feel uncomfortable. I had some weird experiences throughout my fifteen years in the UK.
I need to see more of this beautiful place to have a real opinion as I’ve only seen so little. I’ve interacted with very few people so far. However, that’s only a first impression and first impressions might be wrong. I am yet to be proven wrong.
There is no feral or inappropriate behaviour. What I mean by it, in Europe it has become a norm to see people peeing on the streets. That type of behaviour I’ve seen a few times in Spain by the tourists. I don’t see drunk people on the streets misbehaving, being loud or drawing attention to themselves. There’s no drunk men and women I would be crossing a street from.
People usually are busy with doing their prayers, their work, making sure their children are ok. I feel I am in a safe society where everyone seemed to have their act together. Even the lady that comes to clean the house, she does the job and off she goes as she has four children to look after.
People are friendly. They’d look at you. My husband and I come with a term “a Moroccan stare”. Have you ever seen a horse’s stare? It’s that type of stare a very long, inquisitive look at you. It doesn’t mean any harm to you. No-one would ever dream of touching or mistreat you. They might try to overcharge you for something you’d like to buy.
But that’s no different to any other country. People will try to talk to you for one reason or another. However, that’s no different to anywhere else in the world.
Poverty in Pakistan
Poverty is real in Pakistan, however, I haven’t seen anyone sleeping on the street. People do ask for money but they don’t sleep rough. If they do it’s not visible. In Islam, people are obliged to help others. If they see someone sleeping rough someone would help them. Having said that, I haven’t seen other cities like Lahore and Karachi yet. It might be a different story there.
In Islamabad you’ll see massive mansions with a security guy at the front. There are areas that are wealthy and less wealthy. In Pakistan, people live on little money. Take the lady, for example, that comes to clean the house every day for a whole month. Her services costs us 60 euros a month. She asked me to get her some shoes with laces. Two different realities.
Take my words with a pinch of salt. I’ve only seen a very small part of Islamabad so far so it’s not even one percent of the whole country. I’ve only been here a week and a bit. It truly is a first impression that can be totally wrong. I see Pakistan as is without prejudice and without someone telling me how it is. Everything I write is my own opinion and what I see.
That’s not to say, it will not change. We are about to set off to the Northern part of Pakistan Gilgit and see the glorious mountains. I will see a different Pakistan for sure.
Love and Light.
I will leave you with this video by Eva zu beck. We are going somewhere there…