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A Passage to India …and Pakistan! by Farzan Navab
Part 2 - Pakistan

Modern Lahore

Rug weaving in Pakistan
Two branches of the same tree Going home
The self service "village"  



Modern Lahore
The new Lahore airport, clean streets and modern buildings surprised us particularly since we had just arrived from India, where life looked considerably different. In spite of what we are used to see on TV, life in Lahore seemed normal and there was no sign of Al Qaeda. Not that I could recognize a so called terrorist if I would see one. But I mean to say that people were busy going after their business. Most women did not wear the veil and at the night of our arrival, Qamar took us to a former British club that today entertains the affluent and modern Lahori crowd. An eighteen hole golf course and several swimming pools together with a full bar (that did serve alcohol) and a restaurant were among the many amenities the private club would offer its members. This was truly an unheard of kind of thing in a Muslim country with the Taliban banging on its doors!

Navab Brothers and Haji

  At another occasion, we were invited to lunch by our hosts Qamar Zaman and his father whom we called Haji (since we did not know what else to call him, not being sure if Zaman in fact was his last name or the middle name of his son) at Lahore’s prestigious Pearl Continental hotel. We noticed that there were some very attractive women hanging about in well designed traditional Pakistani attire. We soon found out that there was a fashion show in progress and that we could see some of their offerings at the hotel lobby. Again, for a muslim country that is associated with the Taliban and is in the midst of a struggle with hard line clerics, this was an interesting sight to see.

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Two branches of the same tree!
The difference between life in India and Pakistan may appear more subtle than one imagines. After all the two countries were a single nation at one point. The partition of India came about in 1946 and Pakistan as such is a new nation. Much in the two cultures is shared by the two people, including Urdu or the Hindustani language.
But it is important to realize that had Pakistan not been created, problems for India’s Muslim population would have been much greater. As it is, India has about three hundred million Muslims, most of whom live in dire conditions. Judging by an admittedly superficial observation, and looking at Lahore only, one can assume that the Muslim population in Pakistan is somewhat better off.

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The self-service "village"
We experienced the delight of Punjabi cuisine first hand as we were taken to the “Village”, a kind of corny recreation of a village house that lacked much in the way of atmosphere but made up for it by having some of the very best ethnic food I ever had. The open kitchen was organized through a series of booths displaying varieties of meat, chicken and seafood. The self service kitchen was not a sophisticated affair but the the spicy yet tasteful food was good and the effect was long lasting. My measure of a good ethnic restaurant is if the natives go there. The Village was indeed packed with villagers.

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Rug finishing in Agra
Buried in wool

Rug finishing in Lahore

Rug weaving in Pakistan
Rug weaving in Pakistan was also the product of Mughal rulers of India. In fact just a few miles outside of the Pakistan-India border and not far from Lahore, is Amritsar an old weaving center during the Mughal era. And today a few miles west of Lahore is Faisalabad, an active weaving center in Pakistan and a weaving area that contributes greatly to the Pakistani production. But there is also a lot of Afghan production that is done at the southern side of the border with Afghanistan. There, in the town of Peshawar, a great deal of Afghan rug production is made and then brought to Lahore for export. Up until ten years ago, rug production in Pakistan consisted of traditional Persian designs in tight weave structures such as Kashans and Kermans or varieties of Bokhara type rugs. More recently the influx of Afghan rugs in to Pakistan has changed rug production in that country. Afghan weavers are very talented and with their background in tribal rug weaving they are well qualified in recreating older designs.
  Again, like in India, all weaving is done in a cottage industry environment and all post production is done at business centers that house within them various workshops. None of these rugs are sold to tourists. All are produced for export, mostly to Europe and the United States. Tourists in India as well as in Pakistan are offered the so called “silk” rugs that are mostly made of rayon, a synthetic material, or mercerized cotton.

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Going home
As we said farewell to Pakistan we were thinking about our journey home. The reality of spending a huge sum in two weeks of rug buying had not sunk in yet. Naturally we were preoccupied with other things.
  We were now returning to Delhi to catch a flight back to Amsterdam but our return path turned out to be more arduous than we expected. We were arriving in Delhi as transit passengers that did not need to go through immigration. But there was much confusion at the overcrowded airport with no transit hall in sight and no one who could help.
  With only two hours left before we could catch our flight, we spent over an hour trying to find what to do. Finally an airline representative figured that he had to fetch our luggage physically and transfer it to our plane before we could board the plane. We accepted this bit of excitement as the price to pay for a wonderful journey, and we were officially called the Nawabs, if not of India but at least of Minneapolis!

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