Despite the image that news channels telecast of Pakistan as being nothing but doom and gloom, we the Pakistanis always viewed our homeland at a stark contrast. In our day-to-day life, we saw a land that is abundant in beauty, culture, history, art and heritage. But in 2019, thanks to the efforts of PM Imran Khan, tourism is seeing a revival in Pakistan, which is breaking stereotypes.
This has encouraged civilians to launch tourism campaigns that portray a positive image of Pakistan. One such initiative is, Destination Pakistan, which would seek to broadcast the beauty of the North to the world. Their plan is to invite international travel blogging giants such as vlogger Louis Cole of Fun with Louis and travel photographers, Emilie Ristevski and Jason Charles Hill along with 10 others who will cover the destinations in their unique aesthetic styles.
Their collective following is of over 100 million, so this campaign is sure to reposition Pakistan on the world map as a highly sought after tourist destination. Moreover, singers and artists such as Sahara UK, Waqar Ehsin and Babar Ali will be performing at musical festivals that will be held in these regions.
Here are the top reasons to visit Pakistan in 2019.
1. The People
Last year when New York City based Photographer Markus Jarrow visited Lahore and Islamabad he did not, for a moment feel like he was in an alien land because he was constantly greeted and invited by strangers to their house for lunches and dinners. He also couch-surfed through his entire trip because Pakistani people offered him a bed to sleep on for free. He remarked on their hospitality and said that it was at a stark contrast to how the news portrayed Pakistan as a barbaric land where goras are treated like Eid ke bakray. He also found it very handy how English was widely spoken so he never feel lost in translation. Moreover, when famous vlogger Drew Brinsky visited Pakistan last year, shopkeepers in Peshawar did not take any money from him and gifted him items, which bares witness to the hospitality of the Pakistanis.
2. Beauty of the north
When NAT Geo host, Diego Buñuel visited Shangrila resort in Skardu, he commented that it was like “Switzerland on Steroids”. Today, the infrastructure has developed much more in the Gilgit Baltistan area and there are many resorts, yoga retreats and trails for bikers and travellers especially on the newly reconstructed Karakoram Highway that connects China with Pakistan. There are many music and cultural festivals such as the Baba Ghundi festival in Hunza, the Yak festival in Chitral and the Shandur festival in Chitral to be enjoyed during the months of fall.
These areas are perfect if you wish to have a detox from civilization and technology.
Pakistan is home to a plethora of mosques, shrines, monuments and sufi scholars. If you want to enjoy the dhamaal at The Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh or listen to Sufi music or qawaalis performanced in old Lahore then Pakistan is the place to be.
Many westerners who want to take a break from the uber materialistic city life of their cosmopolitan cities, come to Pakistan and witness the slow-paced and relaxed lifestyle of the homeland. They remark at how people fast and pray in union during the holy month of Ramzan. They are also humbled to see the mass level of charity and in kindness offered to the poor people.
Pakistan benefits from multiculturalism due to having 4 provinces with very distinct cultures, namely, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Each province has its own clothing, language, music and cuisine. There are also indigenous instruments such as the Rubab from Kpk, the dholak from Punjab or the flute from the Gilgit Baltistan region. Each province has its distinct look and style and language.
5. New Art Forms
Many foreigners are shocked to learn that Pakistan has a burgeoning underground art scene including theatre plays, stand-up comedy, music concerts, gigs and raves that offer an eclectic choice in electronic/house music. People can come to parties enjoy the best of music and DJ sets and meet interesting people. When it comes to art and culture and entertainment, they perceive Pakistan to be centuries behind where it actually stands. We clearly haven’t been the best at marketing ourselves but all of that is changing in 2019.
6. Clothing and Fashion.
Pakistan has a booming fashion industry, which meshes ethnic prints and styles with western styles to create the most interesting and beautiful outfits. Whether it’s the ethnic Kashmiri embroidery or the Jholas worn by kalash women, or sindhi ajrak shawls, lehenga cholis, saris, ghararas or shalwar kameez and kurtas – Pakistani dressing has so much diversity in colour and cuts now. Persian couchsurfer and musician Aynaz Najafi loves the Balochi dress and wears it on special occasions. The embroidery is done with great meticulousness and care by the local women of these areas and others make the old meet the new in frequent fashion weeks which are hosted at least 4 times a year!
7. The Food
Nothing beats the deliciousness of our local cuisine. Pakistan is blessed with a variety of different spices, meats, vegetables and lentils that are used to prepare a dynamic menu of dishes. You can enjoy meaty dishes such as biryani, karahi, tikkas, seekh kebab and achaar gosht in restaurants and more vegetable and lentil based dishes at home, which are also healthy and low in calories such as palak paneer, daal sabzi or karhi. Each province has its unique cuisine such as the Sindhi Nihari, Punjabi Karahi, Hyderabadi Biryani, Bolani Namkeen Gosht or the Charsi Tikka from KPK. Mouthwatering!
With so much to offer, Pakistan is an eccentric land, which almost always leaves travellers with a want to return!