The drive to Muzafarabad was great. There is a rough patch yet to be completed, but mostly in good shape. On the way we saw lovely views, driving along the Jehlum River. Water falls, streams and pine trees, the bushes along the winding roads, bursting with pink flowers, daisies, and lovely wild flowers. Crisp clean air – Especially, with air conditioner working inside the van! 😉
Muzaffarabad’s sad past:
The name of Muzaffarabad brings with it memories of the earthquake on October 8th 2005, at 8.30 am there was a horrific earthquake with 7.8 richter scale. The city of Muzaffarabad was completely destroyed. So, what we see today is a completely new city.
Every family in this region has been affected by loss of family members and property. The entire world starting with Turkish Government, came to help in every way they could. C 1302 arrived from different countries, and experts and equipment came from USA and teams of volunteers from all parts of the country, went over to help.
It just shows, we are one humanity. We do care!
(I wish we would stay that way, normally too.)
Why do we have to have an earthquake to shake us into the best version of ourselves?
The adorable and funny group:
Though arranged through Mr. Zahid at ASG, Nigar Nazar was the main protagonist. Almost all group members were her relatives and friends. Her being a cartoonist of Gogi fame, her husband Nazar Abbas’s cousin Shahnaz being a doctor and writer of humeros poems. Then Nigar’s son Nomair an animation cartoonist. So, you can imagine the ‘entertainment’ and remarks at all locations and levels. Yes, it was bound to be fun.
When my friend Naila couldn’t go along, so I asked her daughter Sahar, and she agreed. So, it was great for me to have her with me, also to share my room with. I really love my friend’s daughters too. They all are amazing, and Sahar and I managed to get to know each other better. May I say it was a great honor and pleasure?
Of course, staying at Pearl Continental with its spectacular building and services, would have been great. But, we found staying at the Continental Hotel, quite near PC, was good too. Frankly, a tourist needs clean and comfortable living arrangements, within a comfortable budget. The food was delicious and they happily added local delicacies.
The décor could do better, but it was fine.
The four hundred years old history of this region was a real surprise for me. Mughal King Akber had camped here once, and decided to develop it further. Then there was Mr. Muzaffar, who lived, built and fought for this land. The past is interesting. Yes, if I belonged to this region I’d certainly fight for it. It is so beautiful. Its people are basically peaceful people battling the challenges of cold winters on a regular basis.
They have become experts in preserving their culture of warm clothing, embroideries, and amazing food. The best cooks belong to this region. (Abdul Rahim, who was with me for twenty years, and passed away this March, also belonged to a nearby village.) His cooking was out of this world.
The highest point in this area 9500 feet – equal to Nathiagali is truly beautiful with spectacular views at Pir Chinasi. The old airplane Fokker used to fly at this height. So you know how it looked. In fact, my first flight as a college girl in Lahore, was in a Fokker, from Rawalpindi to Lahore. The best thing about it was that it had much larger windows than the present ones in planes these days. So, I loved it. I believe, I’ve even seen a landing from the cockpit while landing in Lahore airport. (Of course I did. In fact, both pilots had wanted to do it, while only one can – so finally seniority prevailed. They even demonstrated to me how it can be done in fog, by putting a paper over the windscreen…. But they removed it near touch down!)
Back to my trip!
We are in Pir Chinasi, I’m not on that plane! So here we are after going on that winding road, where several passengers felt giddy. Thank goodness I’m fine. I really loved the spectacular views.
I just looked at some videos of Pir Chinasi trips and realized that it has improved a lot. Also, our guide was saying that there was no ‘shrine’ here, six years ago. (He has been a tour guide for many years!) However, Wikipedia says, there was a Pir named Pir Sayed Hussain Shah Bukhari
Here is my daughter Nadiya Najib’s blog post on her trip there:
You can visit her website here: see her trip to Muzaffarabad.
Hydro-electric power plant:
The Korean Government built this Hydro Electric power plant here. It looks great. I’ve heard this region is not only self-sufficient in electricity, but has enough to provide rest of the country also. Usual red-tape is the hindrance. This is what I heard being said by a few people there.
The cooking of Abdul Rahim which we have enjoyed for last twenty years or so, is enough evidence. In fact, most good cooks in Pakistan belong to Kashmir. Mr. Zahid told me that the expenses on any other element for a wedding in the home isn’t as much as the amount spent on food. Almost the total concentration is on the food. No doubt their food is wholesome, nourishing and delicious. What’s more, it isn’t hot or full of chilies. It is mild and tasty. So, we got to have three dishes:
Gushtaba which was made in two ways, I loved the one cooked in yogurt. Then there were Kashmiri Bakarkhani which was like a paratha, but I hear the preparation of it begins a night earlier, it is had at breakfast. Yes, delicious. Then there is the spinach, which is cut and friend almost directly. Even the Maash ki daal was among the tastiest I’ve ever had.
Entertaining poetry by Shahnaz:
The food was taken with a ‘tarka’ of humeros\us poetry by Shahnaz which really entertained us. I’m always intrigued by how the poets remember every verse so well! It was truly hilarious. Especially the one on the process of saying prayers, when everything distracts us. Somehow its recording got messed up. L
Then there was the one on ‘Green card ka ishq’, and ‘After getting the Green Card!’ (then you start missing your country all over again)… So many different topics, highly entertaining.
The fun part of traveling:
Let me sum it up like this:
- Meeting people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.
- Seeing places you never saw before. Realizing how big this earth is, all full of people, cultures, mindsets, and what not. Surprise surprise!
- Realizing how well you can live without all those ‘necessities’ back home!
- Finding pleasant surprises of handicrafts, dresses, styles of people who are different from you.
- Having the time to have those in-depth talks which never happen at home as you rush around.
- You love the break. My mother said, ‘I loved the break too!’ My daughter and she had a ball, breaking all my rules of having meals at the table! – (I didn’t ask the staff, I’m sure they also must have enjoyed themselves.) So, we all need the break.
- Yes, it was definitely worth it.
Must do more of it and stay more blessed. 🙂