It took months and lots of careful planning and I, together with a couple of colleagues, finally found ourselves visiting Badar in his homeland. The trip was made long by the 5-hour lay-over in Bangkok, it was tiring, but I was just excited to finally see for myself the real side of Pakistan - it's everyday life and not the image always shown by media.
In Lahore, Badar brought us to the "Old City" so we could visit the Badshahi Mosque (corrected). It was a bit dark when we arrived since electricity was down but the walled city had some lights on. The area was huge and I'm sure it would've been better to visit in the morning. The mosque stood majestically on one side. It was closed, but Badar made a special request so we could get in. We took off our shoes before we went in and I marveled at the intricate artwork on the ceiling. The mosque could house 100,000 people and at night it looked beautifully mystical.
After a walk around the walled city we headed up to Cooco's Den & Cafe. A well-known roof-top restaurant that was owned by an artist/painter who helped rehabilitate the area which is known to be the red-light district. The roof-top restaurant had the most beautiful view of the mosque. Food was deliciously spicy and a variety of local meat dishes (apparently they eat a lot of meat in Pakistan). Since I already tried eating brain I left the sampling of testicles to my colleagues (it looked like ground beef though).
Our last day was spent in Islamabad. The most-well planned city according to Badar and Mubashak said that the vibe in Islamabad is very much different since the weather is cooler. Islamabad is also where the Himalayas start. We had dinner up in the mountain, overlooking the city. The sparkling city lights looked very much peaceful from up above.
We didn't stay out too late, but chanced upon a pre-wedding party at the hotel which we promptly gate-crashed just so we could see what was ongoing. The henna ceremony was over, but we got a glimpse of the very beautiful bride -- she looked like a goddess! The party attendees started dancing and it was a flurry of color going around and around. I didn't dare go onto the dance floor since I was just happy to see how the party went (I realized that our weddings are so mild and proper!).
So that's just about what we managed to squeeze in between work. We did managed to do some very light shopping -- just for a dress and some shoes, but I was surprised that there weren't any fridge magnets or tiny trinkets I can bring back for my girl-friends. Hopefully next time I'll be able to get Sweetie some of their local tea (which is bigger than coffee and definitely more potent than coffee!). We almost missed our flight back since going through immigration was an adventure onto itself (be sure to be there at least three hours before!!!).
Pakistan is unlike any other country I have visited before. It's beauty and warm people are its best-kept secrets. Someday when it's ready it will be a tourism haven which will give a lot of other places a run for its money.
I will be back!