Waliya’s dream trip to Hunza and Fairy Meadows.

 

In this sizzling heat, let us enjoy a trip to the mountains!

Lets go along with Waliya Najib and her friend Amal Iqbal on their trip to the mountains this April, 2017. Yes, we are in this time machine now….

  

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“I’m standing at Eagle’s Nest from where you can see most peaks  in Hunza’
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View from Baltit Fort, Hunza.

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Yazd: An Incredible City in The Desert

Really admire and love the work of this blogger.

TRAVELLING THE WORLD SOLO

After spending four incredible days exploring Shiraz, I became a little bit worried that my Iranian adventure had started off too wonderful, and that everything following Shiraz would be a letdown.

Luckily, my next stop was Yazd, and it would turn out to be one of my favourite places in Iran.

yazd-travel-blog-iran-solo-backpack-guide Resident kitty at the Silk Road Hotel

Yazd city is the capital of the Yazd province and it is home to close to half a million people. Located a six hour bus ride North-East of Shiraz (and quite a pleasant one if you don’t find yourself having one of those days where you are constantly desperate to pee – there is a story there – but I will spare you all of the gory details) Yazd is an incredible example of an Iranian desert city, and one that should be on the bucket lists of anyone planning a visit to…

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Shah Allah Ditta near Islamabad

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It was such a great surprise, to discover a beautiful place so near my home! Just the type of place I love – with streams, caves, rocks and mountains. It had heard about it, but I wasn’t sure of the exact location. ( I’ve lived near this place for over eleven years! ) Finding out that it took twenty minutes to get there by car, was even a greater surprise.

Two weeks ago, on a Sunday, Uzma and Daniyal agreed to show us the way, so my two daughters and I went on an impromptu visit.

The weather and drive was lovely. The road kept getting worse as the view kept getting better.

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My first trail 5 trek with friends

Walking on the trails in foothills of the mighty Himalayan mountain range. 

Who wouldn’t want to touch the foothills of the great Himalayan mountain range? Margalla Hills in Islamabad, are part of the foothills. So, almost everyone in Islamabad, has to go for a to trek in one of its trails, in the Margalla Hills. ‘Trail 3’ was the steep one which has been very popular for years. Some years ago, my husband and I had been on the Trail 7 which starts behind the Faisal Mosque. Lately, Trail 5 was introduced. This one is less steep, longer, and along the way joins with the trail 3 route also.

You get glimpses of small water falls, streams and pools along the way. The hike is tough if you want to go all the way to the top. Many chicken-hearted people, just stroll in the lower tracks and get back – just as we did!

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As far as I know, the camp site has never been actually used – but that is just a conjecture. We Pakistanis are not the camping types usually. Plus it is uncomfortably close to the civilization. No proper bathroom there either, at the camp. However, a few good bathrooms are available near-by.

There is a ‘khokha’ or cabin offering tea and snacks at the car park. You will find the local staff around to watch over you, and even guards strolling around to see you have no problems.

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A pilgrimage journey from Islamabad to Makkah by land.

Last year, Niaz Husain, my gardener was missing and 16114818_1401299959903292_8141756753313980328_nI was furious……  as usual!

“This time I’m going to fire him.”  I said.

“I’ve been here for three years, you have been wanting to fire him every month!” Remarked my mother.

I was very upset.  So, I tried to call him on my mobile phone. By mistake I called an earlier number of his, realizing too late –  the phone was picked. So, I wished and asked if I could speak to Niaz. “I’m sorry Baji, I’m brother of Niaz, we are going for Umra by land.  We are at the Quetta border now.  “ I was very surprised. My anger vanished.  I remembered that for some time, someone else was coming in his place.

“When will he be back?” I asked.

“We don’t know, but he will join as soon as he gets back.”

After that, no news for many days which turned into months. Then one day the substitute mentioned that brother of Niaz has died, and he was going on leave too. So, he disappeared too.

Finally, a few weeks later I found Niaz busy in my lawn. (I had been giving his pay to the substitute, and it wasn’t payday yet.) I dashed outside to ask what had happened. Well, he did have a successful Umra trip. But his other brother who was living in the village in Pakistan, died suddenly. So, this was the news he received on return from such an exhilarating trip.

Continue reading “A pilgrimage journey from Islamabad to Makkah by land.”

Went to Rawalpindi – the twin city of Islamabad.

 Avoiding visits to Rawalpindi is my forte. Even though it is my birth place,   I think it’s the birthplace of all humanity. If you pick up a stone – a human being comes crawling out from under it – in fact you will find one sitting on top of the stone also! All of them are on the roads, and trying to cross the roads, as you drive.

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Well, then why did I go? I had to go for my dad’s medications at AFIC (Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology,) and look around for some stuff for him… since he is spending more time in bed these days. For example, a hospital bed, which can make the patient sit up and lie down easily. Also, it has safety rods on the sides, so the patient doesn’t fall off the bed.

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Pakish hospitality abroad

 

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Travelling from the most beautiful city in Pakistan, to the most beautiful city in America, has been an awesome experience. My heart is full of the joys I’ve experienced in Seattle. During my two months, the most remarkable feeling perhaps has been of enjoying Pakish hospitality; (the term ‘Pakish’ is introduced by Danish Rahi.  I wrote this, in my post on the launching of his book:  The Pakish Identity. )

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Letter of Chief Seattle to the US General in 1852

 

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As my trip to the US is coming to a close, I want to wrap up my trip with significant moments spent here.  So, there shall be a series of short posts on different aspects of life here in Seattle. It has to be admitted that the objective of my trip was to get some sanity back into my own life. It has been taking some roller coaster rides during last few years. But then, whose life hasn’t? Life in this world during our times, is like that, or ….  hasn’t it  always been that way?

Coming to Seattle and living  with my daughter Nataliya who is a photographer and my son-in-law Bilal is always a pleasure. When coming, I look forward to my conversations with Bilal. His thoughts are original and unique. Not to be wavered by any Western or Eastern winds. His library is another attraction for me, not to say about the libraries of Seattle itself.

Sometimes, this place reminds me of the Islamic times in Spain when Cordoba had seventy libraries. How could that be? I always wondered. Well, seeing this place, I can well imagine how that could be.

This time, being my fourth trip to Seattle, I’ve been through most of the ‘tourist’ attractions already with the visit to the Space Needle, the Flight Museum and the Boeing factory.  We’ve seen the Snoqualmie water falls, and revisited them this time. The lakes Washington and Sammamish were also revisited. I was pleasantly surprised by the colors of Fall.

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So, Nataliya drove me to the Alki beach driving me along the coast which is quite spectacular. There, I photographed a plaque embedded on the footpath. There was a ‘Sealth’ mentioned there…. 20160916_110700It intrigued me. We also went to search for the place where the farm house was supposed to be here on 64th street. However, we didn’t find it. We just drove along the beach and walked along some parts of it  too. It was beautiful with the view of Seattle city. On one of my last visits we had seen Seattle’s night scene when we had come here with my husband and daughters. The kaleidoscope of city lights reflected in the water was quite spectacular at night.

Now, it was day time, and we saw another kind of beauty.

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On return, Bilal mentioned the famous letter by Chief Sealth. I was quite intrigued. So, here it is for you. Suddenly, I felt everything very deeply for Chief Seattle. I knew exactly how it feels to have land which is yours be taken away from you. Because very recently it has happened to me. How it feels to have to hand over acres of land – whether it was a bargain, ‘sold’ or not. It was taken from Chief Sealth. He had to agree to it, due to whatever pressure. The fact remained that the value of the land was not in cash for him. It meant more to him than anyone else could imagine. There is another kind of ‘value’ to land which only a few can truly feel or empathize with.

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I hope you never have to undergo such an experience as Chief Seattle went through. Do watch the video and feel his words written over a hundred years ago. May justice reign supreme in this beautiful world of ours. Ameen. Giving with prayers and wishes of prosperity is a good way to give. Today, this land is truly prosperous and those who live here, are benefiting the entire world.

Stay blessed, my dear Reader  🙂

 

 

 

Fall in Seattle and the pumpkins

 

14708208_10157580117670034_2043180947880482550_nMost of my life in Pakistan,  autumn has been a sensitive topic. My Mom would come up with: 

“You call this autumn? You haven’t seen anything!”  telling me about the autumn in her school in Darjeeling, India. The way she kept on talking about those autumn trees, she made me feel as if it was my fault that I’ve not seen a decent autumn. Then she’d say, “I’d love you to paint it.” Now, how can I paint something that I haven’t seen?  I kept wondering, how can autumn be that good? Perhaps, with time, one’s memory can get a bit exaggerated.

Now, I’ve found out, it doesn’t.

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I did see some interesting autumns in bits and pieces in Islamabad. How could leaves get so bright, as mentioned by my mother?

When I reached Duvall, near Seattle in , on  November 14th, l2007l, all I heard was “you missed the fall!” I kept thinking: “So what?”14606330_1297729003593722_8386900702386094786_n

This time I found out, it is absolutely awesome here.  I’ve never seen an autumn like this in my life. Seattle is in any case a beautiful place. I’ve seen its amazing spring which is out of this world. Now, I’ve seen its autumn, and found out how truly beautiful these changing colors of leaves can be.

Coming in early September this year, I’ve seen the whole process. There are more reds, oranges and maroons here than anywhere else, that I’ve seen. Of course the bright yellows of the maple trees, and then the reds also of another type of maple trees give one a touch of the unreal. The bushes which are a deep green turn into bright crimson, it is all quite breathtaking. These flaming colors contrasting with the bright green grass and deep green pine trees make an amazing color scheme. Then, the bright blue skies, and the deep blue of the lakes and ocean nearby highlighted with the dazzling sunlight, it is all quite magical.

 

 

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Words cannot say it all. So, I’ll leave you to Nataliya’s photographic skills. Just sit and forget everything to look at these pictures. Do note, that the first picture of this article with the rainbow is taken by Ahmad Bilal.

Now, coming to the end of this season, as the Halloween is getting near, the bright and multi-colored pumpkins are everywhere. In all my life, I’ve never seen bright orange colored pumpkins growing in fields as I’ve seen here. So awesome – they look fake! Combined with this are the pumpkin dishes found in every store, yesterday I saw bottles of ‘pumpkin butter’, a few days ago I had pumpkin patties, last time I made pumpkin bread. In Pakistan, pumpkins are a pale yellow hue from which I’ve had tasty ‘pethay ka halwa’ made in Pindi Gheb area. I’ve often made the ‘halva’ or sweet dish myself. But that is all. Here it’s a whole range of foods and types of pumpkins to behold and have.14680765_1301659849867304_5771327558244839540_n

It feels as if Halloween is just an excuse to celebrate this colorful season to be enjoyed while it still lasts.

 

The Seattle Storm that Wasn’t

Facing special danger alerts in one’s region.

 

About ten days ago, there was a storm warning in Seattle, Washington State. – A very serious one. There were live inputs on television in and around Seattle on the ‘worst storm of the century’ and ‘the worst storm in fifty years’. Specially the funny one on Alki beach, Seattle where the ‘waves’ were just the usual sea waves seen in the Arabian Sea in June and July. There were power outages expected on a vast scale so people were hoarding up on grocery items and investing in batteries and generators for their homes. Foods, and water was bought and first aid kits replenished. Trees which were appearing to be weak were cut down, and branches which seemed risky were also cut off. Places were cleared of debris lying around, which would be moving around in the ‘high winds expected of over 60 -70 miles per hour’ (over 110 km an hour). Organizations postponed the functions that were to take place on the weekend. There were films shown of the last threatening storms which took place in 2012 when there were power breakdowns of up to six days in places. This time around 11000 homes had power breakdowns. Portland, nearby did have a bit of flooding on roads. The rest were just expecting it. Everyone was anticipating a lot.

I kept on after Nataliya to please cancel the shoot she was to go on, but she stuck to it, the most they did was to push the party an hour earlier to the expected storm. It was expected at 4 pm on Saturday. By the time the birthday party was to start, the time was pushed to 9 pm. So, Nataliya was back by 4.30 pm when I heaved a sigh of relief. When she asked Bilal to get the groceries please, he refused…. You know why? Yes, because of the storm. Meanwhile the ‘client’-cum- friend arrived to make payment for the shoot. Talat came and sat along with her sister Sana. Both were their usual selves with lots of chit chat. I kept looking out of the window, at the mildly swaying trees in the ‘breeze’ and light shower. Finally I said “Why don’t you go home before the storm?” They immediately got up while Talat was saying “Oh yes, we have to go, we are going for a dinner party to Seattle now! Nadia is coming from Duvall too.”

I was shocked. “What?”

They both shrugged their shoulders, saying, “We’ve seen these storm warnings, usually its nothing much.” (Yes, I’d seen one some years ago too) I wonder what would happen, if they got the ‘normal’ bash up which happens in Islamabad, as a routine rain storm. So, I said “fine…” But I was concerned, as I knew, that Nadia had a long drive coming and going back to Duvall which is a bit far,  comparatively. Brave girls, I thought. So, these young girls were all set to have a great evening. “Can’t you have this dinner on next weekend?”

“Oh no,” said Sana, “Nadia has to leave for Pakistan, and its difficult finding time between our jobs.” I nodded. Knowing that Sana lives alone in Seattle, she has worked many years in Microsoft. Tallat, a doctor is working in a hospital here. Nadia is studying to be a nurse and works part time at a rehab place for special and elder people. So, these gorgeous and competent young girls are all very busy. So, the two sisters drove off. Leaving me praying for the storm to not come and for their safety …. “Inna lilla he wa inna illaihe rajiun.” This is the prayer that a Muslim reads during tough times. Aur jab wo museebat mein hotay hein, to wo parhtay hein….“Inna lilla he wa inna illaihe rajiun.”

So, anyhow, I kept looking out. We had our usual tasty dinner made by Nataliya, and had our usual evening enjoying music and chatter.

You can’t have a storm warning and no storm, can you? Well, it was an insipid ‘storm’ and now has become a joke. I had been in a very bad storm once in Karachi, when the city was on red alert.

Why was I in that storm in Karachi? Well, that’s another blog.

I wrote about it, with the title “One Stormy Night” (how else could it have been named????)  😉 It was published in the Women’s Own magazine.

So, anyhow this one was quite funny.

On a serious note, was it the praying that averted the storm? I’m sure many people prayed. Or was it co-incidence? With so much hi-tech systems available, to be so wrong was okay? Yes, it was. If nothing happened, that was good. At least the weather guys did their job and shared whatever information they received. If things came out better in the end, that was good for all. We should be happy for it.

But.

Now, I understand, why when St. Helens’ had a volcanic eruption in May 1980, 57 people died in it. They had  refused to move away. There was mass evacuation done, but these people refused to leave their homes, they didn’t believe anything would actually happen. So, when it did happen, it was too late to run. The volcanic eruption which came was so bad that the entire peak of the mountain was actually blown off in a cloud of mass debris. The trees came down like toothpicks.  In the following pictures you see Mt. Helens the way it looked in 1968. Naturally, no one thought the peak  would just blow off in a volcanic eruption?

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This time, since the ‘storm that wasn’t’ didn’t happen, there was blissfully no damage at all. The only damage that happened was of the credibility of the meteorological departments here in Seattle. It has been badly damaged now. The next storm warning won’t be taken seriously at all now.  

This is why, happy endings of storm warnings should just be cherished and future warnings need to be taken very seriously once again.

Stay blessed and protected, my dear reader. 🙂