Pakistan Feast of Sacrifice

The last few days of my trip to Pakistan coincided with the first half of Eid ul-Azha (also known as the Feast of Sacrifice in English, Eid ul-Adha in Pakistan or Kurban Bayrami in Turkish).

Previously I have spent this feast in Sivasli/Antalya, Aleppo and Pamukkale/Selcuk/Izmir. In 2003 I just missed out on spending the feast in Egypt.

Just like in Turkey, the most obvious signs of the of the holiday were livestock (mainly goats, sheep and cattle) in unusual places. I even saw two goats in the centre of Lahore dressed in jackets with their legs sticking through the sleaves!

Livestock feed markets for animals prior to their sacrifice, on the side of a Karachi road

A soon-to-be sacrificed Brahman cow in Lahore’s old city

Goats in Lahore

A large livestock market on the outskirts of Lahore. Because of this market and the cars surrounding it my already late bus to Islamabad was delayed further.

I arrived back to Karachi too late to witness Hani’s family sacrifice a cow and a sheep, but, of course, there was still plenty of food left over from the barbecue.


Pakistan Music

Pakistani music is diverse and I managed to sample a few styles during my trip.

Although there was music at both of Hani’s wedding receptions, it did not take a prominent role.

The music at the second reception consisted of a tabla and a sitar, the basis for Pakistani classical music.

Every Thursday in Lahore there are two special performances: Qawwali music at the Shrine of Data Sahib in the afternoon and Sufi drumming and dancing at the Tomb of Shah Jamal in the evening. Thanks to Malik and the personnel at Regale Internet Inn, I and the other Internet Inn customers had some of the best seats at both events.

Following are three photos and three videos from the Qawwali performances of 28 December. Vocals dominate the Qawwali style of music and the singing can get quite animated at times. Worldwide, the most famous Qawwali singer was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, someone Eddie Vedder was privileged enough to work with.

Every so often a man would come around to collect tips for the group then performing. At least two or three different formations performed. Some people went and threw notes over the band or other audience members just like at a Turkish wedding.

Following the Qawwali performance, outside of the Shrine of Data Sahib some Gypsies performed in the street. They are societal outcasts with their long hair, body piercings and different dress but are seen as holy/providing good fortune, hence the crowd. Note the bells hung around their belts. These guys also attended the Sufi dancing that night.


Sufi Drumming and Dancing
That evening, several of us from the Regale Internet Inn caught rickshaws to the Tomb of Shah Jamal just outside Lahore for an evening of dhol drumming and sufi dancing.

Prior to the dancing the brothers Goonga and Mithu Sain drummed, at one stage joined by a saxophonist. The below video is pitch black and the sound is muffled because I recorded it with my camera in my bag as taking of images was not allowed. Despite these defects, the sound is still cool, particularly for anyone into jungle p0rn music or under the influence of mind-altering substances.

Later in the evening the dancers came on and starting dancing their freestyle Sufi styles. The almost purely male crowd were enjoying their hash in various forms and everyone had mellowed out so I slyly recorded the next video. Two of the dancers whirling themselves into ectasy in the below video were not originally meant to be dancing. The guy with the hat gave Drummer Goonga Sain a 1,000 rupee note (the largest Pakistani denomination, about USD 16.50) and for that his mate was allowed to sit front and centre and he could dance with impunity. The guy in the mustard-coloured dress insisted on dancing despite the best efforts to get rid of him by one or two of the ‘real’ dancers.

Despite the extremely loud drum noise, asleep in the tree above where I was sitting were pigeons. Unfortunately, the two people sitting next to me were shat on 2 or 3 times by these winged rats.

As the night was cold, the concrete seat uncomfortable and, most importantly, I wasn’t smoking the weed, I did not totally get into the sound and left with other Regale Internet Inn backpackers before the performance finished early the next morning. Outside the courtyard, other drummers were doing their stuff in front of another audience.

A Bhangra band provided entertainment New Year’s Eve at Regale Internet Inn. The group consisted of Chimta (large tongs), harmonium (squeezebox), ektara (single-stringed guitar) and dholak (drum) and voice.

The harmonium

The ektara

New Year’s Eve, Lahore, Pakistan

I spent New Year’s Eve at the Regale Internet Inn, Lahore, where I stayed. They had a BBQ and a live Bhangra band played to an audience largely consisting of backpackers along with the odd local and expat living in Pakistan. All in all, I guess people of more than 20 natiionalities were present.

Pakistan’s culture and laws are very conservative and the sale of alcohol is highly restricted, only available to foreigners at specially-licensed five star hotels. Originally, I was happy to have an alcohol-free NYE, but on the day I changed my mind. On New Year’s Eve day I walked with three other foreigners from the hostel to the closest five star hotel. Around the side of the hotel we entered a room. Boxes and boxes of beer and spirits were piled up. The liquor is produced and sold by the State – a nice earner. The prices were very expensive for Pakistan but comparable to Turkish costs. I only drank a few beers. The verdict – drinkable, nothing special but 100 times better than Syrian Barada beer.

The previous 3 NYE’s I spent in the Mersin-Adana area of Turkey and this time I was very happy to be somewhere different. Pakistan is the 7th country I’ve seen the new year in. The other countries: Australia, USA, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Turkey.

A British teacher, Australian Amy and the cook looking after the barbecue
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Pakistan Transport

Pakistan’s roads are full of all kinds of traffic – auto rickshaws, cars, buses, motorbikes, horse and carts, donkey and carts, trucks, pedestrians, bicycles and even the odd camel.

The buses and trucks are very colourfully decorated, particularly in Karachi.

I wanted to go on an intercity train ride in Pakistan but a journey did not fit in with my plans.

Here is a video I recorded of a Lahore street near the old city:


The rear of a Karachi bus

A donkey and cart and a bus in Karachi

Karachi chaos

The local buses are designed for passenger overflow to sit on the roof

A Lahore cart transporting fabric

Many of the auto rickshaws feature graffiti. In Lahore I just had to take a photo of the one above.

The above three photos are of the same Lahore bus. Kae, the Japanese backpacker was on his haunches in front of the bus when the driver tooted the horn – you should have seen Kae move 🙂

The Niazi Express bus station, Lahore

A closer shot of the Niazi Express symbol incorporating a kangaroo

A man at a freeway stop feeding miner birds and crows along with himself. Pakistan’s only freeway runs from Lahore to Islamabad. My Niazi Express coach is the one on the left. The bus on the right is an “Ahmed Hussein Butt Ways” bus (emphasis added). Note the eucalyptus trees in the background.

My bus left Lahore for Islamabad an hour or so late and then was delayed further by Eid livestock markets. I was certain I was going to miss my domestic flight back to Karachi. My stress-induced headache was not helped by the full-volume showing of an extremely violent Bollywood film. 200 plus people died in many full-on incidents, yet not one kiss was shown.

The bus stopped outside Islamabad and I was weighing up whether or not to get off or not. I got off, and for a rare occasion, I was glad to be approached by a taxi driver. He quoted 300 rupees (US$5) for the journey to the airport. I was in no mood to bargain. I explained my predicament to him and off we hooned in his seatbelt-free micro machine. The driver displayed super maneuvering creativity and I estimate we went through more red lights than green lights! Much to my relief I eventually arrived at the airport 30 minutes before departure. For his effort, the driver received an extra 100 rupees.

Karachi Airport, my last time on Pakistani ground. From left to right: Pakistan International Airlines, AirBlue and MNG Cargo (a Turkish freight company).