We got what you could call a taxi back to Islamabad. The car was barely road worthy, with no electronics and doors that jumped open throughout. In search of a pool we went to a Marriott and a Serena hotel but it was guests only. We sat in the foyer with our drinks in the poshest hotel I've ever been in (this was the Serena)
. Me and Will observed all the well to do Pakistanis and Westerners discussing business. The huge extent of the squalor in Rawalpindi compared to the three streets of excessive wealth found in Islamabad was striking. Something like 80-90% of the two cities wealth concentrated in such a small area. Horrible. The level of acceptance you get being a westerner in these hotels was something else I wasn't too keen on. Any Pakistani wearing what I was would be searched on entry and probably denied entry if looking for a swim but being white I automatically belonged with the wealthy - I'd rather be back in Rawalpindi.
A short drive to Lahore the following day and we arrived to the hottest heat wave in 20 years - 49 degrees!!!! Didn't stop me exploring though and I attacked Lahore more so than any other city this trip. Lahore was fantastic! So so busy. I couldn't have done this city straight from Britain; it would have been too overwhelming. The rickshaw rides were immense, so much fun through streets where sticking to one side of the road wasn't always obeyed.
After a walk through the red light district (Fully clothed women in pale make-up sat awkwardly in open rooms, touting men outside.) the next day I went to, amongst other things, a...religious concert I guess you could call it
. Men singing at the top of their lungs with accordion type instruments and drums sat on stage whilst rose water was sprayed over the seated crowd. Three different men from the crowd placed themselves in the 'dance floor' and 'danced'. Eventually they all had to be led away as their violent trance induced dancing was clearly not good for their bodies.
That night me, Lorna, Polly, Will and Ave went to a Sufism music night. A small courtyard of cross-legged men (mainly in their 20s) greeted us as we squeezed with difficulty in the 'foreigners section'. Spliffs were constantly being passed around as two drummers played skillful and repetitive drumbeats until 4am, apparently (we left 3 hours after it started at 1am). Sporadically the crowd would shout and chant. The atmosphere was intense. Men sat on the roof and in the courtyard bodies were everywhere. Dancing then began. The men span and shook their heads constantly for the 2 hours we were there, changing direction and rhythm with the music. Their eyes were rolled back and they, understandably, were soaking with sweat. What once must have been a shorter and religious induced night was now a long and drug induced one. The equivalent of a night out back home I guess. Needless to say not a singly female was present other than the tourists.
As the night went on two out-of-their-face men wanted to join the main dancers, and had to be forcefully restrained
. We were quite worried and so decided to leave but not before waiting for a slower rhythm to kick in and things to calm down for us to pass. Just outside they had catered for the munchies because cakes were in abundance. We stupidly agreed to have tea and cake with the man who took us to the 'rave'. Men had crowded round within a minute and I was kind of worried as the three girls we were with were the only females around. Drugged up Pakistani men and white western girls are not a good mix. You could feel the sexual tension and it accumulated in mob like scenes as we went for our rickshaw. Men were grabbing the girls all over as me, Will and our guide attempted a barricade. Eventually they got in the rickshaw and after scenes out of a movie, with hands coming in from all angles, the girls got away. Such a relief to see them go. Do the Pakistani men just have a horribly misconceived image of western women to think such behavior is acceptable? After another while of stressing for the girls safety we met them en-route back to the hotel. A night to take a lot from.
Islamabad was an annoyingly spaced out city where it took an age to walk anywhere. Good that taxis were dirt-cheap then. Me and Will headed to Islamabad's twin city Rawalpindi where we wandered around the mechanics bazaar and then across a filthy river to the truck decorations bazaar. Here we saw all the tat that is on every single truck in Pakistan being made - basically metal with stickers and card attached to them. The boy had to spend some time making just a small bit so compare that to a whole truck and it's a ridiculous amount of time. It really shows though.