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blue_100.jpg (4951 bytes) Introduction to Pakistan

PAKISTAN - THE LAND OF THE PURE

Pakistan is the land of the Indus River, which flows through the country for 1,600 miles from the Himalayan Mountains to the Arabian Sea. It is a land of snow covered peaks and burning deserts, of fertile mountain valleys and irrigated plains. Created in 1947 as a homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, it is inhabited by some 200 million people speaking over 20 different languages and wearing distinctive costumes, yet all united by the Islamic faith.

 

'The Land of the Pure' (as the Urdu name Pakistan translates into English) is strategically placed at the crossroads of Asia, where the silk roads from China to the Mediterranean meet the routes from India and Central Asia. For thousands of years this junction has been a melting pot of diverse cultures, attracting traders and adventurers, pilgrims and holy men, creating a deep and ancient cultural base.

 

For any visitor Pakistan has a wealth of attractions: its 4,500-year history is richly illustrated by archeological sites and imposing monuments scattered the length and breadth of the country. Brick cities from the Indus Civilization, which flourished around 2,000 BC and paralleled the achievements of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, stand beside Buddhist ruins contemporaneous with the birth of Christianity. The region has played host to history’s most famous: Alexander the Great brought the influence of the west; Chandragupta and Ashoka built vast Buddhist empires in the north; Genghis Khan made his mark; Mahmud of Gazni strengthened the role of Islam; and Tamerlane, Babar and Akbar brought the sophistication of Persia and Turkey into the region and produced the brilliant and exquisite Mughal Empire. Islam was introduced to the subcontinent on the shores of the Arabian Sea in the 8th century, and magnificent Muslim tombs from the 10 -12th centuries vie with the palaces, mosques and forts of the Mughal emperors of the 16 - 18th centuries. Most recently is the indelible stamp - architecture, rule of law and civil engineering projects - left by the British Raj.

 

The country’s main cities reflect these many influences, both historical and modern. Lahore, close to the Indian border, is the cultural center of the country, with an elegant core of Mughal architecture embellished by the flower of the Raj. Peshawar, on the Northwest frontier with Afghanistan, is a city straight out of Arabian Nights, with tribesman in turbans nonchalantly carrying rifles through colorful bazaars. lslamabad, the federal capital, is a modern garden city planned by Greek architects. Bustling, energetic Karachi, with its population of 18 million, is a huge industrial port and a sprawling industrial and financial center.

 

Best of all are Pakistan’s natural riches. The terrain includes five of the world’s seventeen highest mountains including the second highest in the world, K-2; the vast Thar desert is best explored on camel safari; five huge rivers flow south to the sea creating the largest irrigation network in the world; and on shores of the Arabian Sea are hundreds of miles of almost uninhabited beaches.

 

To the spirit hungry for exploration and adventure, Pakistan beckons.

 

(from Pakistan, At the Crossroads of Asia, by Isobel Shaw)

 

 

 

 

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