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Tourism

Basic Information
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Culture Of Pakistan

Background

The pleasures of Pakistan are old: Buddhist monuments, Hindu temples, Islamic palaces, tombs and pleasure grounds, and widely spaced Anglo-Mogul Gothic mansions - some in a state of dereliction which makes their grandeur even more emphatic. Scuplture is dominated by Graeco-Buddhist friezes, and crafts by ceramics, jewellery, silk goods and engraved woodwork and metalwork.

Even Pakistan's flotillas of vintage Bedford buses and trucks, mirror-buffed and chrome-sequinned, are dazzling works of art. Traditional dances are lusty and vigorous; music is either classical, folk or devotional; and the most patronised literature is a mix of the scholastic and poetic. Cricket is Pakistan's greatest sports obsession and national players are afforded hero status - unless, of course, they proselytise young and wealthy English women, then marry them.

Nearly all Pakistanis are Muslim and Islam is the state religion. Reminders of their devotion are many: the muezzin's call to prayer from the mosques; men sprawled in prayer in fields, shops and airports; and veiled women in the streets. Christians are the largest minority, followed by Hindus and Parsees, descendants of Persian Zoroastrians. Note that dress codes are strictly enforced - to avoid offence invest in a shalwar qamiz - a long, loose, non-revealing garment worn by both men and women.

Pakistani food is similar to that of northern India, with a dollop of Middle Eastern influence thrown in for good measure. This means menus peppered with baked and deep-fried breads (roti, chapattis, puri, halwa and nan), meat curries, lentil mush (dhal), spicy spinach, cabbage, peas and rice. Street snacks - samosas and tikkas (spiced and barbecued beef, mutton or chicken) - are delicious, while a range of desserts will satisfy any sweet tooth. The most common sweet is barfi (it pays to overlook the name), which is made of dried milk solids and comes in a variety of flavours. Though Pakistan is officially 'dry', it does brew its own beer and spirits which can be bought (as well as imported alcohol) from specially designated bars and top-end hotels.

Activities

With some of the most magnificent mountain terrain in the world, Pakistan is naturally enough a trekkers rave. There are all types of trekking available, from those organized by overseas companies to Pakistan-based outfits. You can also make your own arrangements, which will be cheaper but also more demanding. Popular trekking routes that can stretch from a day to a month are found mostly in Gilgit, Nanga Parbat, Balistan (from where treks leave to K2) and Hunza, all in the country's north. For something a little less demanding there are good one-day hikes in the Ziarat Valley, near Quetta. Other activities include cycling along the Karakoram Highway (from Rawalpindi to the Khunjerab Pass), Potwar Plateau (Islamabad to Peshawar) and the Margalla and Murree Hills (north of Islamabad), mountain biking from Gilgit to Chitral, and white-water rafting along the Hunza, Gilgit and Indus rivers.
 

Culture

The pleasures of Pakistan are old: Buddhist monuments, Hindu temples, Islamic palaces, tombs and pleasure grounds, and widely spaced Anglo-Mogul Gothic mansions - some in a state of dereliction which makes their grandeur even more emphatic. Sculpture is dominated by Graeco-Buddhist friezes, and crafts by ceramics, jewelry, silk goods and engraved woodwork and metalwork. Even Pakistan's flotillas of vintage Bedford buses and trucks, mirror-buffed and chrome-sequinned, are dazzling works of art. Traditional dances are vigorous; music is either classical, folk or devotional; and the most patronized literature is a mix of the scholastic and poetic. Cricket is Pakistan's greatest sports obsession and national players are awarded hero status.

Religion

Nearly all Pakistanis are Muslim and Islam is the state religion. Reminders of their devotion are many: the muezzin's call to prayer from the mosques; men sprawled in prayer in fields, shops and airports; and veiled women in the streets. Christians are the largest minority, followed by Hindus and Parsees, descendants of Persian Zoroastrians.

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