Pakistan

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Pakistan (Urdu: پاکستان) is the world's 34th largest country in size located in South Asia. With a population exceeding 180 million people, it is the sixth most populous country in the world. Pakistan is strategically located astride the ancient trade routes of the Khyber and Bolan passes between South Asia and Central Asia. Another pass, which now has the Karakoram Highway through it, leads to Western China. All these passes, and some ports in Pakistan, formed part of the ancient Silk Road which linked Asia and Europe. Pakistan's tourism industry was in its heyday during the 1970s when the country received unprecedented numbers of foreign tourists, thanks to the Hippie Trail. Since the country started making bad news, the number of foreign tourists has come down, due to instability in the country and many countries declaring it as unsafe and dangerous to visit. Even so, it continues to attract tourists due to its unique, diverse cultures, people and landscapes. The country's attractions range from the ruin of civilisations, such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Taxila, to the Himalayan hill stations, which attract those interested in winter sports. Pakistan is home to several mountain peaks over 7000 m, which attract adventurers and mountaineers from around the world, especially K2. (less...) (more...)

Population: 193,238,868 people
Area: 796,095 km2
Highest point: 8,611 m
Coastline: 1,046 km
Life expectancy: 66.71 years
GDP per capita: $2,900
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About Pakistan

History

The history of Pakistan traces back to the beginnings of human life in South Asia. The earliest evidence of farming in South Asia is from 7000BCE in Mehrgarh. Pakistan was home to the Indus Valley Civilization, which is amongst the oldest in the world. By 3300BCE, this civilization had well-planned towns and well-laid roads, but gave no evidence of weapons or fortifications. The Indus Valley Civilization declined and disintegrated around 1900BCE, possibly due to drought and geological disturbances. Most historians believe that the Vedic people, or Aryans, were migrants who encountered this civilization in decline and perhaps hastened that decline. The Vedic people eventually occupied most of North India, while the descendants of the Indus Valley cultures moved South and gave rise to the Dravidian culture. The earliest archaeological traces of ancient Pakistanis are from 7000BCE in Mehrgarh, which grew to be the "Indus Valley Civilization". By 3300BCE, this civilization had well-planned towns and well-laid roads, but gave no evidence of weapons or fortifications. This declined and disintegrated around 1900BCE, possibly due to drought and geological disturbances. Most historians say that the Vedic people, or Aryans, were later migrants, who encountered a civilization in decline and perhaps hastened that decline. According to this view, the Vedic people eventually occupied most of North India, while the descendants of the Indus Valley cultures moved south and gave rise to the Dravidian culture. The minority view challenges this Aryan Migration theory, claiming that the Indus Valley people were in fact the ones who compiled the Vedas.

Prior to the late 18th century, Pakistan was the main Islamic stronghold in the Mughal Empire which covered the Indian sub-continent. The area which now makes up Pakistan kept its status as one of the main cultural and political hubs of southern Asia for over 300 years. From the late 18th century until 1947, Pakistan was part of the British Empire and one can still see the signs of Pakistan's colonial past in most places.

The official name of Pakistan was used after the partition of (British) India into the two nation-states of India and Pakistan in 1947. However, the word Pakistan was first used by Ch. Rehmat Ali back in 1933 in his declaration, Now or Never - calling for its separation from the Empire. Afterwards, British-ruled India was divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (with two sections West and East) and India. Later East Pakistan seceded and became the separate nation of Bangladesh. A dispute over the state of Jammu and Kashmir is ongoing between India and Pakistan.

Today Pakistan is made up of people from various races including Arabs from after the Islamic expeditions, Persians from Bukhara and Samarkand, Turks from Central Asia and the native Sindhus who were converted to Islam. Ethnic groups of Pakistani people are based on ethnolinguistics such as Punjabis, Sindhis, Seraikis, Pashtuns, Mohajirs and Balochs.

Climate

Mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north. Flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August). Fertile and sub humid heat in the Punjab region. The climate varies from tropical to temperate, with arid conditions in the coastal south. There is a monsoon season with frequent flooding due to heavy rainfall, and a dry season with significantly less rainfall or none at all. There are four distinct seasons: a cool, dry winter from December through February; a hot, dry spring from March through May; the summer rainy season, or southwest monsoon period, from June through September; and the retreating monsoon period of October and November. Rainfall varies greatly from year to year, and patterns of alternate flooding and drought are common.

Geography

Located along the Arabian Sea, it is surrounded by Afghanistan to the northwest, Iran to the southwest, India to the east, and China to the northeast. Pakistan has its own unique character but also has many commonalities with neighbouring nations, especially Afghanistan and India.

Pakistan is one of those few countries in the world that has every kind of geological structure. It has the sea, desert (Sindh & Punjab), green mountains (North West Provice), dry mountains (Balochistan), mountains covered with snow, rivers, rich land to cultivate (Punjab & Sindh), water resources, waterfalls, and forests. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan contain the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush. Pakistan's highest point is K2, which, at 8,611 metres, is the second highest peak in the world. The Punjab province is a flat, alluvial plain whose rivers eventually join the Indus River and flow south to the Arabian Sea. Sindh lies between the Thar Desert the Rann of Kutch to the east, and the Kirthar range to the west. The Balochistan Plateau is arid and surrounded by dry mountains. Pakistan experiences frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe, especially in the north and the west.

Activities

Pakistan is a world class destination for trekking and hiking. Gilgit-Baltistan is a "mountain paradise" for mountaineers, trekkers, and tourists. The region has some of the world's highest mountains, including five peaks over 8,000m, many over 7,000m, and the largest glaciers outside the polar region.

Horse riding is also very affordable. Cycling opportunities abound.

For water-based activities fans, Karachi is the only place in the country to head for. From snorkelling, scuba diving, boating, fishing, and even cruise dining.

You can also shop to your heart's content, in massive range of markets and bazaars without worrying about your budget, as a recent survey found Karachi as the world's most cheapest city.

  • Helicopter Tours, 5-A The Mall, AWT Plaza, Rawalpindi,  +92 51 9272-4004.

Food

Pakistani cuisine is a refined blend of various regional cooking traditions of South Asia. Pakistani cuisine is known for its richness, having aromatic and sometimes spicy flavors, and some dishes often contain liberal amounts of oil which contributes to a richer, fuller mouthfeel and flavour. It is very similar to Indian cuisine and there is a good chance that you'd have tasted it in your country as Indian food and Pakistan food often served together in a restaurant. Cuisine in Pakistan varies greatly from region to region. The "Pakistani food" served by many so-called Pakistani or Indian restaurants in the Western hemisphere is inspired by specifically Mughlai cuisine, a style developed by the royal kitchens of the historical Mughal Empire, and the regional cuisine of the Punjab, although degree of authenticity in relation to actual Mughlai or Punjabi cooking is sometimes variable at best and dubious at worst. Within Pakistan, cuisine varies greatly from region to region, reflecting the country's ethnic and cultural diversity. Food from the eastern provinces of Punjab and Sindh and Mughlai cuisine are similar to the cuisines of Northern India and can be highly seasoned and spicy, which is characteristic of the flavours of the South Asian region. Food in other parts of Pakistan, particularly Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, involves the use of mild aromatic spices and less oil, characterizing affinities to the cuisines of neighbouring Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia.

Pakistani main courses food which is mostly consists of curry dishes is eaten with either flatbread, also called wheat bread or rice. Salad is generally taken as a side dish with the main course, rather than as an appetizer beforehand. Assorted fresh fruit or sometimes desserts are consumed at the end of a meal. Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani food, compared to other South Asian cuisines. According to a 2003 report, an average Pakistani consumed three times more meat than an average Indian. Of all the meats, the most popular are goat or mutton, beef and chicken and is particularly sought after as the meat of choice for kebab dishes or the classic beef shank dish nihari. Seafood is generally not consumed in large amounts. Food tends range from mild to spicy depending on where you are and who your cook is. So state your preference before beginning to eat. In general, most of the food that you find in the high end hotels is also available in the markets (but European-style food is generally reserved for the former).

Pakistan food has a well-deserved reputation for being hot, owing to the Pakistani penchant for the liberal use of a variety of spices, and potent fresh green chilis or red chilli powder that will bring tears to the eyes of the uninitiated. The degree of spiciness varies widely throughout the country: Punjab food is famously fiery, while Northern Areas cuisine is quite mild in taste.

To enjoy the local food, start slowly. Don't try everything at once. After a few weeks, you can get accustomed to spicy food. If you would like to order your dish not spicy, simply say so. Most visitors are tempted to try at least some of the spicy concoctions, and most discover that the sting is worth the trouble.

Cuisine

Cuisine in Pakistan varies greatly from region to region. Culinary art in Pakistan comprises a mix of Middle Eastern, Iranian, Afghan, Indian, and Turkish influences that reflect the country's history as well as the variation of cooking practices from across the country. Urban centres of the country offer an amalgamation of recipes from all parts of the country, while food with specific local ingredients and tastes is available in rural areas and villages. Besides the main dishes of salan, with or without meat and cooked with vegetables or lentils, there are a number of provincial specialties such as karahi, biryani, and tikka, in various forms and flavours, eaten alongside a variety of breads such as naan, chapati, and roti.

Pakistani cuisine is a blend of cooking traditions from different regions of the Indian subcontinent, originating from the royal kitchens of sixteenth-century Mughal emperors. It has similarities to North Indian cuisine, although Pakistan has a greater variety of meat dishes. Pakistani cooking uses large quantities of spices, herbs and seasoning. Garlic, ginger, turmeric, red chilli and garam masala are used in most dishes, and home cooking regularly includes curry. Chapati, a thin flat bread made from wheat, is a staple food, served with curry, meat, vegetables and lentils. Rice is also common; it is served plain or fried with spices and is also used in sweet dishes.

Varieties of bread

Pakistan is wheat growing land, so you have Pakistani breads (known as roti), including chapatti (unleavened bread), paratha (pan-fried layered roti), naan (cooked in a clay tandoori oven), puri (deep-fried and puffed up bread), and many more. A typical meal consists of one or more gravy dishes along with rotis, to be eaten by breaking off a piece of roti, dipping it in the gravy and eating them together. Most of the Pakistani heartland of India survives on roti, rice, and lentils (dal), which are prepared in several different ways and made spicy to taste. Served on the side, you will usually find spiced yogurt (raita) and either fresh chutney or a tiny piece of exceedingly pungent pickle (achar), a very acquired taste for most visitors — try mixing it with curry, not eating it plain.

Pakistanis eat breads made of wheat flour as a staple part of their daily diet. Pakistan has a wide variety of breads, often prepared in a traditional clay oven called a tandoor. The tandoori style of cooking is common throughout rural and urban Pakistan and has strong roots in neighboring Iran and Afghanistan as well.

The types of flatbread (collectively referred to as Naan) are:

  • Naan - A soft and thick flat bread that often requires special clay ovens (tandoor) and cannot be properly made on home stoves. Typically leavened with yeast and mainly made with white flour. Some varieties like the Roghani and Peshwari may also be sprinkled with sesame seeds. Naans are seldom, if ever, made at home since they require tandoor based cooking and require prep work. Numerous varieties of plain as well as stuffed naans are available throughout Pakistan and each region or city can have their own specialty. Naan is a versatile bread and is eaten with almost anything. For instance, 'saada naan' or 'plain naan' are often served with Sri-Paya (Cow's head and totters) or Nihari (slow cooked beef stew) for breakfast in many parts of the country. It is recognized by its larger, white exterior.
  • Roti - These are extremely popular all over Pakistan. Tandoori rotis are baked in a clay oven called tandoor and are consumed with just about anything. In rural Pakistan, many houses have their own tandoors while the ones without use a communal one. In urban Pakistan, bread shops or "nanbai"/"tandoor" shops are fairly common and supply fresh, tandoor baked breads to household customers as well. A homemade bread that doesn't have as much flavor as naan. It is a cheap alternative that is ready in minutes.
  • Chapatti - A homemade bread, much thinner then naan and usually made out of unrefined flour, and which is ready in minutes. Most common bread made in urban homes where a tandoor is not available. Chapatis are cooked over a flat or slightly convex dark colored pan known as 'tava'. Chapatis are made of whole wheat flour and are thin and unleavened. Tortillas are probably the most common analogous to chapatis, though chapatis are slightly thick. A variant, known as 'romali roti' (lit: handkerchief bread) is very thin and very large in size.
  • Paratha - An extremely oily version of the roti. Usually excellent if you're going out to eat, but beware of health concerns; often it is literally dripping with oil because it is meant to be part of a rich meal. Paratha is more declicious if you cook it in pure oil like "desi ghee". A flat, layered bread made with ghee and generally cooked on a 'tava'. However, a 'tandoor' based version is also common in rural areas. Parathas are very similar to pastry dough. Parathas most likely originated in the Punjab where a heavy breakfast of parathas with freshly churned butter and buttermilk was commonly used by the farmers to prepare themselves for the hard day of work ahead. However, parathas are now a common breakfast element across the country. Along with the plain layered version, many stuffed versions such as 'Aloo ka Paratha' (Potato Stuffed Parathas), 'Mooli ka Paratha' (Radish stuffed parathas) and 'Qeemah stuffed paratha' (Ground meat stuffed paratha) are popular.
  • Sheer Mal - This is a slightly sweetened, lightly oiled bread that has waffle-like squares punched in it. It is often considered the most desirable bread and is a delicacy to most people. Often paired with nihari. Another breakfast version of sheermal is very much like the Italian Panettone (albeit in a flat naan-like shape) with added dried fruits and candy. It is a festive bread prepared with milk ('sheer') and butter with added candied fruits. Sheermal is often a vital part of food served in marriages, along with taftan. It is often sweetened and is particularly enjoyed by the kids.
  • Taftan - Much like the 'sheer mal' but with a puffed-up ring around it. This is a leavened flour bread with saffron and small amount of cardamom powder baked in a tandoor. The Taftan made in Pakistan is slightly sweeter and richer than the one made in neighboring Iran.
  • Kulcha - This is a type of naan usually eaten with chickpeas and potatoes and mostly popular in urban centers of Punjab.
  • Roghani Naan - (lit. Buttered Naan) It is a preferred variety of Naan sprinkled with white sesame seeds and cooked with a small amount of oil.
  • Puri - This is a breakfast bread made of white flour and fried. Typically eaten with sweet semolina halwa and/or gravy (made out of chickpeas and potatoes). Puri is a fairly urban concept in Pakistan and puris are not part of rural cuisine anywhere in Pakistan. However, Halwa Puri has now become a favored weekend or holiday breakfast in urban Pakistan where it is sometimes sold in shift carts or in specialty breakfast shops.

As you might have noticed, 'Naan' is usually used to pick up liquid and soft foods like shorba in curries and beans. Forks and knives not commonly used during meals in Pakistan (unless someone is eating rice or is dining out). Attempting to cut a naan with a knife may elicit some amusement around you. Watching others may help.

There are too many shorbas, or sauces/soups, to enumerate.

Vegetarian dishes

Popular and commons veg dishes are:

    • Daal - Yellow (made of yellow/red lentils) or brown (slightly sour) lentil "soup". Usually not very spiced. Common to all economic classes.
    • X + ki sabzi - A vegetarian mixture with 'X' as the main ingredient.
    • Aloo gobi
    • Baingan
    • Karela
    • Bhindi
    • Saag

Pulses/lentil dishes

Various kinds of pulses, or legumes, make up an important part of the Pakistani dishes. While lentils (called daal), and chick peas (called channa) are popular ingredients in homestyle cooking, they are traditionally considered to be an inexpensive food sources. Because of this reason, they are typically not served to guests who are invited for dinner or during special occasions. Combining meat with lentils and pulses, whether in simple preparations or in elaborate dishes such as haleem, is also a distinctively Pakistani touch not commonly seen in neighbouring India where a substantial number of its population are vegetarians.

    • Haleem - Thick stew-like mix of tiny chunks of meat or chicken, lentils and wheat grains.

Rice dishes

Pakistan is a major consumer of rice. Basmati is the most popular type of rice consumed in Pakistan. Rice dishes are very popular throughout Pakistan. The rice dishes are sometimes eaten mixed with other dishes. The most simple dish of Pakistani cuisine is Plain cooked rice (Chawal) eaten with Dal (Lentil). Khichdi is Plain cooked rice cooked with Dal. The Karhi chawal is Plain cooked rice eaten with Karhi.

Biryani is a very popular dish in Pakistan, is cooked with pieces of beef, lamb, chicken, fish or shrimp. and has many varieties such as Lahori and Sindhi biryani. Tahiri, which is also a form of vegetarian biryani, is also popular. All of the main dishes (except those made with rice) are eaten alongside bread. To eat, a small fragment of bread is torn off with the right hand and used to scoop and hold small portions of the main dish. Pickles made out of mangoes, carrots, lemon, etc. are also commonly used to further spice up the food. Biryani smells more nice from the saffron and other seasonings added. In the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, feasts using mountains of spiced rice combined with pieces of slowly roasted lamb are often served for guests of honour. These kind of pulaos often contain dried fruit, nuts, and whole spices such as cloves, saffron and cardamom. Such rice dishes have their origins in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Dishes made with rice include many varieties of pulao:

  • Murgh pulao - Chicken and stock added. Creates a brown rice.
  • Yakhni pulao - Meat and stock added. Creates a brown rice.
  • Matar pulao - Pulao made with peas.
  • Maash pulao - A sweet and sour pulao baked with mung beans, apricots and bulghur (a kind of roughly milled cracked wheat). Exclusively vegetarian.
  • Khichdi
  • Zarda

Meat dishes

Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani cuisine compared to the other South Asian cuisines and is a major ingredient in most of the Pakistani dishes. The meat dishes in Pakistan include: bovine, ovine, poultry and seafood dishes. The meat is usually cut in 3 cm cubes and cooked as stew. The minced meat is used for Kebabs, Qeema and other meat dishes. Of all the meats, the most popular are goat or mutton, beef and chicken and is particularly sought after as the meat of choice for kebab dishes or the classic beef shank dish nihari. The meat dishes are also cooked with pulses, legumes and rice.

Tandoori chicken, prepared in a clay oven called a tandoor, is probably the best-known Pakistani dish originated in Pakistani Punjab.

The variety is endless, but here are a few examples:

    • Roasted Chicken (whole) - A whole chicken roasted locally known as 'charga' locally.
    • Aloo Gosht (Potatoes and Meat) - Chunks of potato and goat meat in gravy. Levels of spice vary. One example of a generic dish that includes most things + Gosht(meat).
    • Nihari- Beef simmered for several hours. A delicacy often eaten with Nan, Sheer Mal, or Taftan. Few people will have this available without spice. Eat with lemon, fried onion and caution: it is one of the spiciest curries. Thick gravy made from local spices. Is made with both chicken and beef. Is oily and spicy. Available mostly everywhere.
    • Paye - or 'Siri Paye' is a stew of goat/beef/mutton bones (typically hooves, skull) and bone marrow. Extremely nutritious and generally eaten for breakfast with naan. Very, very wet salan, often served in a bowl or similar dish. Eat by dipping pieces of naan in it, maybe finishing with a spoon. Can be hard to eat.
    • Korma is a classic dish of Mughlai origin made of either chicken or mutton, typically eaten with nan or bread and is very popular in Pakistan.

Barbecue and kebabs

Meat and grilled meat has played an important part in Pakistan region for centuries. Sajji is a Baluchi dish from Western Pakistan, made of lamb with spices, that has also become popular all over the country. Another Balochi meat dish involves building a large outdoor fire and slowly cooking chickens. The chickens are placed on skewers which are staked into the ground in close proximity to the fire, so that the radiant heat slowly cooks the prepared chickens. Kebabs are a staple item in Pakistani cuisine today, and one can find countless varieties of kebabs all over the country. Each region has its own varieties of kebabs but some like the Seekh kebab, Chicken Tikka, and Shami kebab are especially popular varieties throughout the country. Generally, kebabs from Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tend to be identical to the Afghan style of barbecue, with salt and coriander being the only seasoning used. Regional kebab recipes from Karachi and the wider Sindh region is famous for its spicy kebabs, often marinated in a mixture of spices, lemon juice and yogurt. Barbecued food is also extremely popular in some cities of Punjab such as Lahore, Gujranwala and Sialkot.

Pakistani cuisine is rich with different kebabs. Meat including beef, chicken, lamb and fish is used in kababs. Some popular kebabs are:

    • Chicken Tikka - Barbequed chicken with a spicy exterior. Looks like a huge, red chicken leg and thigh. For all meat lovers. Is available most anywhere.
    • Seekh Kebab - A long skewer of minced beef mixed with herbs and seasonings.
    • Shami Kebab - A round patty of seasoned beef and lentils, softer than seekh kababs.
    • Chapli Kebab - A spicy round kabab that is a specialty of Peshawar.
    • Chicken Kabab - A popular kabab that is found both with bone and without.
    • Lamb Kabab - The all lamb meat kabab is usually served as cubes.
    • Bihari kebab - Skewer of beef mixed with herbs and seasoning.
    • Tikka kebab - A kebab made of beef, lamb or chicken, cut into cubes, marinated with a yogurt blend and grilled on coals.
    • Boti kebab - A kebab made from fillet of meat. Sometimes marinated with green papaya to help tenderize the meat.
    • Shawarma - It is usually a kebab or lamb strips in a naan with chutney and salad.
    • Shashlik - Grilled baby lamb chops (usually from the leg), typically marinated
    • Chargha
    • Dhaga kabab
    • Gola kebab
    • Reshmi kebab
    • Sajji

Desserts

Popular desserts include Peshawari ice cream, Sheer Khurma, Kulfi, Falooda, Kheer, Rasmalai, Phirni, Zarda, Shahi Tukray and Rabri. Sweetmeats are consumed on various festive occasions in Pakistan. Some of the most popular are gulab jamun, barfi, ras malai, kalakand, jalebi, and panjiri. Pakistani desserts also include a long list of halvah such as multani, sohan halvah, and hubshee halvah. Kheer made of roasted seviyaan (vermicelli) instead of rice is popular during Eid ul-Fitr. Gajraila is a sweet made from grated carrots, boiled in milk, sugar, green cardamom, and topped with nuts and dried fruit and is very popular in the country during winter season.

    • Enjoy a variety; ice cream can be found in an abundance of flavors such as the traditional pistachio flavoured Kulfi;
    • Falooda is tasty rosewater dessert and is a popular summer drink throughout the country. Traditional ice-cream known as 'kulfi' mixed with vermicelli, pistachio nuts and flavored with rose-water. Most ice-cream shops have their own versions.
    • Shirini or Mithai: is the generic name for a variety of sweet treats in Pakistan. The sweets are extremely popular in Pakistan and called different things depending on where you go. Eat small chunks at a time, eating large pieces can be rude and will generally be too sweet.
    • Kulfi is a very traditional made ice-cream mixed with cream and different types of nuts.
    • If you want to go to some ice-cream parlors, there are some good western ice-cream parlors in Lahore like "Polka Parlor" "Jamin Java" "Hot Spot". For traditional ice creams, the 'Chaman' ice cream parlor across town is quite popular.
    • Halwa is a sweet dessert. Halwa comes in different styles such as made of eggs, carrots, flour or dry fruits. The halwas are made from semolina, ghee and sugar, garnished with dried fruits and nuts. Carrot halwa (called gaajar ka halwa) is also popular, as is halva made from tender bottle gourds and chanay ki daal. Karachi halva is a specialty dessert from Karachi,
    • Firni or Kheer is similar to vanilla custard though prepared in a different style. the Sohan Halwa is also famous in the country. Equally famous is Habshi halwa, a dark brown milk-based halwa.
    • Gulab jamun — a cheese-based dessert. It is often eaten at festivals or major celebrations such as marriages, on happy occasions and Muslim celebrations of Eid ul-Fitr.


A part from local restaurants, international fast food chains have also popped up throughout Pakistan. They include, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Subway, Nandos, Mr.Cod, Papa Johns, Dominoes etc. You are also prone to finding more European chains than North American.

Snacks (Pakistani fast food)

Pakistani snacks comprise food items in Pakistan that are quick to prepare, spicy, usually fried, and eaten in the evening or morning with tea or with any one of the meals as a side-dish. A given snack may be part of a local culture, and its preparation and/or popularity can vary from place to place. These snacks are often prepared and sold by hawkers on footpaths, bazaars, railway stations and other such places, although they may also be served at restaurants. Some typical snacks are dahi bhala, chaat, chana masala, Bun kebab, pakora, and papar. Others include katchauri, pakoras-either neem pakoras or besan (chickpea) pakoras,gol gappay, samosas—vegetable or beef, bhail puri or daal seu and egg rolls. Nuts, such as pistachios and pine nuts, are also often eaten at home. These snacks often smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals.

Other

  • Pakistani Chinese cuisine
    • Chicken Manchurian is the most popular dish with pieces of stir fried chicken served in a red ketchup based sauce. It is normally served with Egg or chicken fried rice. Basmati is the most common form of rice used.
    • Chinese soup - Chicken corn soup and hot and sour soup are ubiquitous in restaurants, homes and on TV. these are served with staples such as vinegar (sirka) and chili pepper.
    • Noodles - Chicken chowmein and Chopsuey are popular. Their method of cooking employs hearty use of soy sauce, ajino moto, vinegar and chilli sauce with vegetables, boneless chicken and/or Keema (minced meat). Oil concentrations are higher than normal Chinese noodles.

Pakistani condiments

Popular condiments used in Pakistani cuisine:

  • Chutneys
    • onion chutney
    • tomato chutney
    • cilantro (coriander leaves) chutney
    • mint chutney
    • tamarind chutney (Imli chutney)
    • mango (keri) chutney (made from unripe, green mangos)
    • lime chutney (made from whole, unripe limes)
    • garlic chutney made from fresh garlic, coconut and groundnut
  • Achars (pickle)
    • mango achar
    • lemon achar
    • carrot achar
    • cauliflower achar
    • green chilli achar
    • garlic achar
    • gongura achar
    • Hyderabadi pickle
  • Sauces
    • Raita — a cucumber yogurt dip

Etiquette

In Pakistan eating with your hand (instead of cutlery like forks and spoons) is very common. There's one basic rule of etiquette to observe, particularly in non-urban Pakistan: Use only your right hand. Needless to say, it's wise to wash your hands well before and after eating. For breads for all types, the basic technique is to hold down the item with your forefinger and use your middle-finger and thumb to tear off pieces. The pieces can then be dipped in sauce or used to pick up bits before you stuff them in your mouth. Unlike India or Middle East, spoon is commonly used in Pakistan for eating rice dishes.

Drinks

Tap water can be unsafe for drinking. However, some establishments have water filters/purifiers installed, in which case the water is safe to drink. Packed drinking water (normally called mineral water in Pakistan) is a better choice. As for bottled water, make sure that the cap's seal has not been broken, otherwise, it is a tell tale sign of tampering or that unscrupulous vendors reuse old bottles and fill them with tap water, which is generally unsafe for foreign tourists to drink without prior boiling. Bottled water brands like Aquafina (by PepsiCo) and Nestle (by Nestle) are widely available and costs Rs 80 for a 1.5 L bottle of mineral water. At semi-urban or rural areas, it may be appropriate to ask for boiled water as well.

The taste of the water is said to be very good in the north-eastern side of Pakistan, especially in Swat, Kaghan and Gilgit. Ask for bottled water wherever possible, and avoid anything cold that might have water in it.

Try a local limca cola, which makes a "pop" sound when opened. Pakola, Pakistan's premier soft drink brand, is available in flavours such as Ice cream soda, Lychee, Orange, Raspberry, Apple Sidra, Vino, Double cola and Bubble up. Try Lassi, which is a classic yoghurt drink served either plain or sweet and sometimes flavoured or even fused with fresh fruit. Rooh-Afza, a red-coloured, sweet, herbal drink. Sugar Cane Juice — which is extracted by mechanical force — is best when served fresh. You might also love the Falouda and Gola Ganda, which include various kinds of syrups in crushed ice.

  • Tea (or Chai as it is referred to in Pakistan) is popular throughout the country.
    • Both black and green tea (Sabz chai or qahvah) are common and are traditionally drunk with cardamom and lots of sugar. Lemon is optional but recommended with green tea.
    • Kashmiri chai (Pink Tea), a traditional tea beverage from Kashmir, is a milky tea with pistachios, almonds and nuts added to give additional flavour. This tea is very popular during weddings, special occasions and in the cold season.
  • Coffee is also available in all cities.

In the warmer southern region, sweet drinks are readily available throughout the day. Look for street vendors that have fruits (real or decorations) hanging from their roofs. Also, some milk/yogurt shops serve lassi. Ask for meethi lassi for a sweet yogurt drink and you can also get a salty lassi which tastes good and is similar to the Arabic Laban if you are having "bhindi" in food or some other rich dish. There is also a sweet drink called Mango Lassi which is very rich and thick, made with yogurt, mango pulp, and pieces of mango.

Alcohol (both imported and local) is available to non-Muslim foreigners at off licenses and bars in most top end hotels. The local alcoholic beer is manufactured by Murree Brewery (who also produce non-alcoholic beverages including juices). It is illegal for Muslims to buy, possess or consume alcohol in Pakistan. There is a huge black market across the country and the police tend to turn a blind eye to what is going on in private.

Tea varieties

Pakistanis drink a great deal of tea, which is locally called "chai in most Pakistani languages" and everywhere you can get tea from one variety or another. Both black with milk and green teas are popular and are popular in different parts of Pakistan. It is one of the most consumed beverages in Pakistani cuisine. Different regions throughout the country have their own different flavors and varieties, giving Pakistani tea culture a diverse blend.

  • In Karachi, the strong presence of Muhajir cuisine has allowed the Masala chai version to be very popular.
  • Doodh Pati Chai is thick and milky. It is made by cooking tea leaves with milk and sugar and sometimes cardamom for fragrance. Extremely sweet, this is a local variation of a builder's tea. It is more preferred in Punjab.
  • "Sabz chai" and "kahwah", respectively. Kahwah is often served after every meal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Pashtun belt of Balochistan and with saffron and nuts in Kashmir.
  • Sulaimani chai is black tea served with lemon.
  • Kashmiri chai or "noon chai", a pink, milky tea with pistachios and cardamom, is consumed primarily at special occasions, weddings, and during the winter when it is sold in many kiosks.
  • In northern Pakistan (Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan), salty buttered Tibetan style tea is consumed.

Biscuits are often enjoyed with tea.

Beverages

Besides tea, there are other drinks that may be included as part of the Pakistani cuisine. All of them are non-alcoholic as the consumption of alcohol is prohibited by Islam. During the 20th century, drinks such as coffee and soft drinks have also become popular in Pakistan. It is very common to have soft drinks nowadays with Pakistani meals. istani meals.

  • Lassi - Milk with yoghurt, with an either sweet or salty taste. Lassi is a traditional drink in the Punjab region
  • Gola ganda - Different types of flavours over crushed ice
  • Sugarcane juice (Ganney ka ras) — In summer, you can get fresh sugarcane juice in many places and even a lot of fresh fruit juice varieties. Be careful as fresh juice may contain many germs besides unhygienic ice. The juice vendors do not always clean their equipment properly and do not wash the fruits either.
  • Lemonade (Nimbu pani)
  • Sherbet (A syrup mixed in water)
  • Sikanjabeen - Lemonade (Mint is also added)
  • Almond sherbet
  • Sherbet-e-Sandal - Drink made with the essence of sandal wood
  • Kashmiri chai/Gulabi chai - a milky tea known for its pink colour, with an either sweet or salty taste
  • Sathu - Famous drink from Punjab
  • Thaadal - A sweet drink from Sindh
  • Sardai - Mixture of different nuts and kishmish.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol is generally be frowned upon. Murree Brewery is the only reputable maker of Pakistan's beer brand which is widely available throughout the Pakistan. Karachi is very lax towards Alcohol where there're wine shops from one can get any brand of liquor.

Shopping

The national currency of Pakistan is the rupee (Rs.), which is commonly shortened to Rs and coins are issued in 1, 2, and 5 rupee denominations. Banknotes come in Rs 10 (green), 20 (Orange Green), 50 (Purple), 100 (Red), 500 (Rich Deep Green), 1000 (Dark blue), and 5000 (Mustard) values. The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise (singular: paisa). 5 rupees 75 paise would normally be written as Rs5.75. It is always good to have a number of small bills on hand, as merchants and drivers sometimes have no change. A useful technique is to keep small bills (10-100) in your wallet or in a pocket, and to keep larger bills separate. Then, it will not be obvious how much money you have. Many merchants will claim that they don't have change for a 500 or 1,000 note. This is often a lie so that they are not stuck with a large bill. It is best not to buy unless you have exact change.

The coins in circulation are 1, 2 and 5. Coins are useful for buying tea, for beggars, and for giving exact change for an bus fare or auto-rickshaw.

Pakistanis commonly use lakh and crore for 100,000 and 10,000,000 respectively. Though these terms come from Sanskrit, they have been adopted so deeply into Pakistani English that most people are not aware that they are not standard in other English dialects. You may also find non-standard, although standard in Pakistan, placement of commas while writing numerals. One crore rupees would be written as 1,00,00,000, so first time you place a comma after three numerals, then after every two numerals. This format may puzzle you till you start thinking in terms of lakhs and crores, after which it will seem natural.

ATMs exist in most areas and accept major cards such as AmEx, MasterCard and VISA.

Pakistan, and particularly Karachi, features in surveys as one of the cheapest places in the world to shop. It has a massive range of markets and bazaars to visit and things to buy without worrying about blowing your budget:

  • Textiles and Garments such as garments, bed linen, shirts, T-shirts can be bought very cheaply from local branded stores include Chen One, Bonanza, Ideas (Gul Ahmed), Cambridge Shop. Many world renowned brands like Adidas, Levis, Slazenger, HangTen, Wal-Mart etc. get their products prepared from Faisalabad which has one of the largest textile industries in the world. You can find cheap products of these brands at local stores. You can get a pair of Levis jeans (or any other good brand for that matter) at a very reasonable price ranging between Rs 1,400-2,500.
  • Leather goods, like shoes, jackets and bags are also a speciality of Pakistan. Go to English Boot House, Sputnik, Shoe Planet, Servis, Metro, Gap shoes, Lotus, Step-in, Jaybees for best quality shoes at low prices.
  • Sports goods like cricket bats, balls, kits, footballs, sports wear and almost anything related to sports you can imagine. You will not find such high quality equipment at such low cost anywhere else. Sialkot produces 90% of the world’s sports goods and is the largest provider of sports equipment to FIFA for the World cup.
  • Musical instruments are produced economically and to high quality in Pakistan. You can even get an acoustic guitar for as low as Rs 2,000 (c. USD20).
  • Surgical instruments
  • Computer accessories
  • Chinese goods especially Electronics & Cameras which are re-exported from Pakistan and is cheaper than other parts of the world.
  • Carpets and rugs in Arabian, Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani varieties
  • Wood Carvings such as decorative wooden plates, bowls, artwork, furniture, and other miscellaneous items.
  • Jewellery such as necklaces, bracelets etc. are very inexpensive in Pakistan.
  • Gems and handicrafts: (Ajrak from Sindh, Blue pottery from Multan, Clay pottery from Karachi), glassware, brassware, marble products, crystal works and antiques Also buy pashmina, rugs, wool-shawls or wraps, which can cost anywhere between US$15 to as much as US$700. Remember to haggle.
  • Books
  • Souvenirs such as decorative items from Sea Shells.
  • Food stuffs local products, including Swat honey, biscuits and locally made chocolate are of good quality and inexpensive. Go to any super store like Dmart, Makro, Metro, Hyperstar.
  • Home accessories
  • Kitchen Utensils and Cutlery
  • Art lovers should get in touch with a local to take them around. There are so many art galleries in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad that are worth visiting and each will offer a completely different range of artwork, style and pricing. All should be visited if you are an art lover.

Buying Pakistani currency

It's usually best to get your foreign currency converted to Rupees before you buy stuff (of course that's only applicable if you're planning to buy with cash - not a credit card). A number of licensed currency exchange companies operate and a passport might be required as an identification document but this requirement is often ignored. Currency exchange shop can easily found in major shopping areas. Be sure to say the amount you wish to exchange and ask for the 'best quote' as rates displayed on the board are often negotiable, especially for larger amounts.

Most large department stores and souvenir shops, as well as all upmarket restaurants and hotels accept major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard and VISA cards. Some small shops will want to pass on their 2-3% merchant charge to you. In many cities and towns, credit cards are accepted at retail chain stores and other restaurants and stores. Small businesses and family-run stores almost never accept credit cards, so it is useful to keep a moderate amount of cash on hand.

Rates for exchanging rupees overseas are often poor, although places with significant Pakistani populations (e.g. Dubai,) can give decent rates. Try to get rid of any spare rupees before you leave the country.

Most ATMs will pay out up to 50,000 in each transaction. HBL, MCB Bank, National Bank of Pakistan and United Bank, all are the biggest bank in Pakistan and has the most ATMs. They accepts most of the international cards at a nominal charge. International banks like Standard Chartered have a significant presence in major Pakistan cities. It is always worthwhile to have bank cards or credit cards from at least two different providers to ensure that you have a backup available in case one card is suspended by your bank or simply does not work work at a particular ATM.

Shopping

In Pakistan, you are expected to negotiate the price with street hawkers but not in department stores and the like. If not, you risk overpaying many times, which can be okay if you think that it is cheaper than at home. In most of the big cities, retail chain stores are popping up where the shopping experience is essentially identical to similar stores in the West. Although you will pay a little more at these stores, you can be sure that what you are getting is not a cheap knockoff. The harder you bargain, the more you save money. A few tries later, you will realise that it is fun.

Often, the more time you spend in a store, the better deals you will get. It is worth spending time getting to know the owner, asking questions, and getting him to show you other products (if you are interested). Once the owner feels that he is making a sufficient profit from you, he will often give you additional goods at a rate close to his cost, rather than the common "foreigner rate". You will get better prices and service by buying many items in one store than by bargaining in multiple stores individually. If you see local people buying in a store, probably. you can get the real Pakistani prices. Ask someone around you quietly, "How much would you pay for this?"

In general shops are open 09:00-23:00 in the large cities. They open and close for business earlier in the smaller towns and rural areas.

Costs

Most visitors will find Pakistan quite cheap, although it is noticeably more expensive than neighbouring Afghanistan. Karachi is also generally more expensive than the rest of the country. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury hotels and air fares are comparatively affordable, with even the fanciest 5-star hotels costing less than Rs20,000/night.

Tipping is considered a good practice in Pakistan. Hotel porters, taxi drivers, delivery men will appreciate a small tip if you have been provided with exemplary service.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Pakistan on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Pakistan

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Noisy, bustling and multicultural Karachi is a sprawling modern metropolis and truly a global mega-city. Pakistan's largest city, it lies on the eastern coast of the Arabian Sea and is the original capital of the nation. It is the commercial, transport and political hub, as well as the largest port of ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Mazar-e-Quaid
  • MCB Tower
  • Bhanbore Fort
  • National Museum of Pakistan
  • Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mausoleum
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Islamabad has been the capital of Pakistan since 1960 when capital city was forwarded from Karachi and the ninth largest city in the country but together with its neighbouring twin city of Rawalpindi, the greater Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area is the third largest conurbation in Pakistan with a ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Faisal Mosque
  • Rawal Lake
  • National Monument
  • Daman-e-Koh
  • Allama Iqbal Open University
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Lahore is Pakistan's second largest city after Karachi, and the capital of the north-eastern Punjab province. It is widely considered the country's cultural capital. The heart of Lahore is the Walled or Inner City, a very densely populated area of about one square kilometre. Founded in legendary times, and a ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Sheesh Mahal
  • Badshahi Mosque
  • Lahore Fort
  • Minar-e-Pakistan
  • National College of Arts
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Quetta is the capital of Balochistan province in Pakistan. If you are taking the overland route from Istanbul, Turkey to New Delhi, India without going through Afghanistan you will have to pass through Quetta. Quetta is an excellent base for exploration of Balochistan. Kan Mehtarzai (2224 meters), the ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • University of Balochistan
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The Swat Valley is an area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.

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Gilgit is a mountain town in the Gilgit-Baltistan egion. Travelers exploring the Pakistani Himalayas or en route to or from China are almost definitely going to spend at least one night here. This makes it a great base to further research your trip, meet up with potential travel partners, or simply take a ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Nanga Parbat
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Bahawalpur is a city in Punjab, Pakistan.

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Interesting places:

  • Deosai National Park
  • K2
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Faisalabad is the third largest city of Pakistan.

Interesting places:

  • Faisalabad Clock Tower
  • Jinnah Garden
  • Gumit Water Fountain
  • Qaisery Gate
  • Iqbal Stadium
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Multan is the sixth largest city of Pakistan. It is in the South of Punjab in Pakistan. It is sometimes referred to as The City of Saints.

Interesting places:

  • Shah Ruk-ne-Alam Shrine
  • Multan Stadium
  • Bahauddin Zakariya University
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Rawalpindi is in Pakistan. It is a bustling town strategically located between the Punjab and Azad Kashmir. It has a strong colonial influence and possesses a large military cantonment with the headquarters of the Pakistan Army. It is the sister city of Islamabad, and is essentially the older sister of ... (read more)

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Peshawar is a relatively prosperous frontier town in Pakistan near the Khyber Pass, which gives it a distinct Afghan flavor.

Interesting places:

  • Mahabat Khan Mosque
  • Bala Hisar Fort
  • Chowk Yadgar
  • University of Peshawar
  • Peshawar Museum
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Karimabad is the capital of Hunza Valley in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Interesting places:

  • Khunjerab National Park
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Points of Interest in Pakistan

The country's attraction range from the ruin of civilisation such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Taxila, to the Himalayan hill stations, which attract those interested in winter sports. Pakistan is home to several mountain peaks over 7000 m, which attracts adventurers and mountaineers from around the world, especially K2. The north part of Pakistan has many old fortresses, ancient architecture and the Hunza and Chitral valley, home to small pre-Islamic Animist Kalasha community claiming descent from Alexander the Great. The romance of the historic Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is timeless and legendary, Punjab province has the site of Alexander's battle on the Jhelum River and the historic city Lahore, Pakistan's cultural capital, with many examples of Mughal architecture such as Badshahi Masjid, Shalimar Gardens, Tomb of Jahangir and the Lahore Fort. The cultural and physical diversity of Pakistan has developed the country into a tourist hot spot for foreign travellers as well as adventurers.

Post-independence Pakistan retained its heritage by constructing various sites to commemorate its independence by blending various styles and influences from the past.

World Heritage Sites

Currently Pakistan has six major cultural sites that are categorised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include:

  • Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro of the Indus Valley Civilization.
  • 1st Century Buddhist Ruins at Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol.
  • The ruins of Taxila from the Gandhara Civilization
  • The Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.
  • Historic Monuments of the ancient city of Thatta.
  • The ancient fort of Rohtas.

Natural attractions

Pakistan is profound blend of landscapes varying from plains to deserts, forests, hills, and plateaus ranging from the coastal areas of the Arabian Sea in the south to the mountains of the Karakoram range in the north. Pakistan's northern areas especially Gilgit-Baltistan are full of natural beauty and include parts of the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram Range, and the Himalayas. This area has some of the world's highest mountain includes such famous peaks as K2 (Mount Godwin Austen, at 8,611 meters the second highest mountain peak in the world). Five peaks over 8,000 meters, many over 7,000, and the largest glaciers outside the polar region. More than one-half of the summits are over 4,500 meters, and more than fifty peaks reach above 6,500 meters. Pakistan's administered Azad Kashmir is rich in natural beauty. Its snow-covered peaks, forests, rivers, streams, valleys, velvet green plateaus and climate varying from arctic to tropical, join together to make it an excellent tourist attraction. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is known as the tourist hotspot for adventurers and explorers. The province has a varied landscape ranging from rugged mountains, valleys, hills and dense agricultural farms. Pakistan has some 29 national parks.

Cultural and historical attractions

Monuments and architecture

Popular monuments in Pakistan are:

  • Pakistan Monument
  • Minar-e-Pakistan
  • Quaid-e-Azam Residency
  • Tomb of Muhammad Iqbal
  • Mazar-e-Quaid

Museums and galleries

In Pakistan, there's a museum from archaeological and historical to biographical, from Heritage to Military, from Natural history to transport—nearly every big city in the country has a museum worth visiting. The highest concentrations of these museums are found in the largest cities, of course, but none compare to Lahore, home to Lahore Museum. Karachi also has an outstanding array of some good museums, including the National Museum of Pakistan, PAF Museum and Pakistan Maritime Museum. For those looking out for a transport museum, Pakistan Railways Heritage Museum in Islamabad is a major attraction for tourists and locals alike and is becoming a major attraction for railway enthusiasts.

Here's a small fraction of the other great museums you'd be missing:

Archaeological and historical museums:

  • Bahawalpur Museum, Bahawalpur
  • Chakdara Museum, Chakdara
  • Archaeological Museum, Harappa, Sahiwal
  • Lahore Museum, Lahore
  • Lyallpur Museum, Faisalabad
  • Moenjodaro Museum, Larkana
  • Multan Museum, Multan
  • National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi
  • Peshawar Museum, Peshawar
  • Saidu Sharif Museum, Swat
  • Sindh Museum, Hyderabad
  • Taxila Museum, near Rawalpindi
  • Mardan Museum, Mardan

Archives

  • National Archives of Pakistan, Islamabad

Art galleries:

  • Abasin Arts Council, Peshawar
  • Alhamra Arts Council, Lahore
  • Faisalabad Arts Council, Faisalabad
  • Fakir Khana, Lahore
  • Vogue Art Gallery, Lahore
  • Mohatta Palace, Karachi
  • Multan Arts Council, Multan
  • National Art Gallery, Islamabad
  • Pakistan Arts Council, Karachi
  • Rawalpindi Arts Council, Rawalpindi

Biographical museums:

  • Iqbal Manzil, Sialkot
  • Allama Iqbal Museum, Lahore
  • Wazir Mansion, Karachi

Heritage museums:

  • Lok Virsa Museum, Islamabad
  • Shakir Ali Museum, Lahore
  • Chughtai Museum, Lahore
  • National Museum of Science & Technology, Lahore

Sheesh Mahal - Lahore

Faisal Mosque - Islamabad

Mazar-e-Quaid - Karachi

Rohtas Fort - Rohtas

Shah Ruk-ne-Alam Shrine - Multan

Mahabat Khan Mosque - Peshawar

Faisalabad Clock Tower - Faisalabad

University of Sindh - Hyderabad

University of Balochistan - Quetta

Deosai National Park - Shigar

Harappa - Sahiwal

Taxila Museum - Taxila

Khunjerab National Park - Karimabad

Nanga Parbat - Gilgit

Khyber Pass - Landi Kotal

Machiara National Park - Muzaffarabad

Badshahi Mosque - Lahore

Lahore Fort - Lahore

Minar-e-Pakistan - Lahore

National College of Arts - Lahore

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