I know this isn’t the most appealing of places to visit, but I’m still going to try to convince you otherwise. Because I went to Pakistan, and it’s been the most amazing trip experience I’ve ever had. It is not dangerous as how the media portrays it and it’s not an extremist nation either. It was a gorgeous place, with beautiful people, happy to welcome a tourist into their family. So here are the three reasons why you absolutely must go there once in your lifetime.
There is a good explanation why I placed this at the top of my list. Because it was the factor that made my entire experience phenomenal. Pakistanis are genuinely hospitable and I cannot tell you the countless amount of times I’ve been invited to someone’s house for dinner, lunch or tea. To them, tourists are a blessing because they see so few. For many, I was their first encounter with someone outside Pakistan. So, fair warning, if you visit Pakistan, you’ll be getting a lot of attention. People will stare at you, not because they’re rude but because they cannot believe their eyes. It’s really that uncommon to have a tourist walking around in Pakistan exploring the sights.
Let me tell you a story of one of the dinners I was invited for. Shaukat had invited me to dinner with his family, and little did I know how big of a deal it was for them. When I turned up, almost every member of his immediate and extended family was there.
All the younger ones ran down to the ground floor to escort me up to their home. Excited kids, running up and down, family members shouting to each other, “She’s here, she’s here!” Their hospitality was borderline overwhelming. They ushered me into the living room, offered me tea, coffee, water, coke, all at the same time. Chatting with me so excitedly and taking picture after picture after picture. After the amazing dinner, they brought out a cake. And sang a birthday song for me! It wasn’t even my birthday! I asked Shaukat what was the point of this. He winked and said to me, “Life is for us to enjoy. Just go with it, you’re making everyone very happy”.
At the end of the gathering, Shaukat’s mom pulled me in for a hug and said to me in Urdu, “Tum meri beti ho”. You are now my daughter.
That’s how fast it would take for you to become a part of a Pakistani family. One dinner.
Food makes every experience better! And Pakistani food is the bomb. These people don’t cook half-assed meals, the food that comes out of their kitchen is sinfully good. It’s like they take every form of spice you can imagine, mix them with the main ingredient, which most of the time is meat, and cook it for hours and hours till all the flavors harmonize. And when you taste it, you just die of happiness, because it is that good. I’ll let pictures do the talking. These are my 3 favorite dishes while I was in Pakistan.
Karachi Goat Brains Nihari (Magaz Nihari)
Yea, I said it. I absolutely love to eat goat brains, Pakistani style. The brains are unbelievably soft and creamy and the gravy, spicy and slightly salty.
You’ll have to eat this with roti to balance out the salt from the gravy.
Man…when you put the entire combination into your mouth, you will melt with satisfaction, the taste is too good. Then you’ll never forget it, and you’ll be tortured your whole life because you cannot eat it anymore unless you go back to Pakistan.
Ok, I am biased here. I love fish, but usually, I steam my fish. In Pakistan, steamed fish is unheard of. Fish is only fried. And in Lahore, there is a unique way to fry them.
The fish deep fried in oil comes out very crispy on the outside but extremely tender on the inside. Just thinking about it now is making my mouth water. Sweet and a little bit spicy, you’ll thank me when you’re savoring this yummy goodness in Lahore.
Biryani in Pakistan
Basically the bread and butter of Pakistan. You’ll get Biryani anywhere especially at weddings. And most of them are incredibly tasty. It is essentially Basmati rice cooked and flavored with spices and chicken or beef so you get a wonderful aroma and taste from the dish. Be careful when eating biryani though, once you start you cannot stop. I’m the testament for that. I left Pakistan substantially heavier than I was when I arrived.
And don’t get me started on Pakistani desserts! I’m still craving them up to today. I will list them out for you in another post because I have such passion for them, but for now, let’s move on to the third reason why everyone should visit Pakistan.
Right, let me backtrack a little. I’m a Malaysian, who has lived in the city for the better part of my life. And I thought I was pretty exposed to different cultures what with KL being one of the hot spots in the South East Asia region. But when I landed in Karachi, Pakistan was when realization set in that I was in a whole other world. One I never ventured into before.
But once I decided to just go with it, I found myself in the middle of many exciting adventures beyond my wildest imaginations.
I went to many tourist destinations to see the sights and eat the food. But true contact with the culture came after I mingled with the locals for a while. They taught me their way of life, described how they view the world, what they loved, what they dreamed of. And my mind was truly challenged in accommodating these new paradigm shifts. It was a truly refreshing and humbling experience to be part of the Pakistani culture even just for a little while.
I will write a lot more about Pakistan in my other posts if you guys are interested, let me know in the comment section. But I’ll end with this. From the bottom of my heart, I’m incredibly happy I made the decision to travel to Pakistan, despite all the discouragement. And I would most definitely return, because there is so so much more to explore. This is truly an extraordinary country.