|Back to the Regale Inn at Lahore, my favourite city in Pakistan, to sit out the week long wait for my Indian visa. I like Lahore because its one of Pakistan's more outward looking cities; its OK to walk around in jeans and a T-shirt here, and then there's food street and ice-cream street both of which I couldn't stay away from.
Malik, being the well connected person that he is, has managed to obtain some complimentary tickets to an international music fesitval being held in Lahore. Its not as international as its billed as most performers are Pakistani, but its another free nights entertainment so everyone at the Regale is easily persuaded to attend. Its not a bad night, some of the acts are embarassingly bad, whilst the sufi drummers steal the show (no surprise there), and a Czech band go down well.
On Thursday afternoon Malik arranges a visit to hear some Islamic religious singing called qawwali at the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri, so I decide to take a visit along with 6 or so others from the Regale. Throughout the afternoon various groups take it in turn to perform, and by all accounts performing here is a big deal in Pakistan. Small change is collected from the audience, which is then showered over the performers as they play, but here's the thing: the performers don't collect the money as that is not considered good, the money is picked up later and distributed to the poor. Its a way of the performers saying they play the music for the love of Allah and not the money.
Tues 06/12/2007 - Its good news, the Indian embassy has given me the 6 month visa I was looking for, so its over the border on Thursday to Amritsar. And as this is the last I'm going to see of Pakistan for some time, here are some final thoughts:
1. Without doubt the friendliest people I've met on my trip so far. You'll be frequently approached by Pakistani's wanting to know where you're from, what you think of the country and its people.
2. The north has some fantastic mountain scenery and super-hospitable people; I never thought my photos ever did the area justice.
3. Its dirt cheap, the cheapest country so far on this trip.
4. The food is better than I expected, and a welcome change after China.
1. There are some security issues in Western Pakistan along the Afghanistan and Iranian borders - keep abreast of the situation.
To sum up, a surprisingly great destinaton and I wouldn't be surprised if one day I return. As ever, its the people that make all the difference and Pakistan is definately the best country I've visited on my travels so far - 9/10.