There was a large stone wall dividing the world of high-class Pakistanis and absolute poverty. Inside the walls was a fragile community; educated, English-speaking locals who lived in large homes and sported designer shalwar kameez, the typical outfit of choice consisting of loose trousers and a long tunic. Their children attended prestigious English-medium schools and were cared for by their maids. Life was as luxurious as it could get in a third world country.
However, outside the walls of the community was a whole other world. Entire families were living in huts made from garbage thrown out by the wealthy, and small children were knocking on cars begging for one bite of food. Men with leprosy waddled on stumps that used to be their legs, selling balloons on the side of the street to support their impoverished families.
The best way to immerse yourself in Pakistani culture is to visit their markets. They are located in the center of the cities and give you a true insight on how the people live. I went to Tariq Road, a large bazaar in Karachi, with my grandma.
During my trip, I visited a multitude of restaurants and tried local food, which is an important part of the culture there. The cuisine is known for it’s rich and spicy flavor, and is probably some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten. My favorite place to eat out was not an upscale restaurant, but a small food stall in Karachi. There I tasted tikka, grilled chicken, and daal chaawal, rice and lentils. The most interesting food I ate was goat brain, which my grandma tricked me into eating by saying it was ground beef.
The highlight of my trip was attending a traditional Pakistani wedding. It’s amazing to see the difference between weddings there and the ones in America. It lasted around two weeks, and consisted of numerous ceremonies.
The first part is the Mehndi. This is where the bride and her female relatives put on henna tattoos, and sweets are fed to the couple. There is a dance competition between the bride and groom’s side, and I learned traditional Pakistani dances with all my cousins.
A few days before the actual reception is the Dholki, where the Dholak, a two sided drum, is played all night at the bride’s house. It’s similar to a bachelorette night, with all of the bride’s friends singing and dancing together before she’s married.
Finally, there is the Shaadi. This is the official wedding ceremony, and the bride wears a heavily embroidered shalwar kameez. There is a stage filled with roses and lights where the couple sits, and everyone eats a buffet style dinner. Weddings are a truly beautiful part of Pakistan, full of age long traditions and customs.
My trip to Pakistan opened my eyes to the world around me. I learned about other people and the way they live, and learned that not everyone is blessed with the comfortable life I have in America. I hope to one day return to this beautiful country.
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