I took a roadtrip from Karachi to Muzaffarabad and discovered real Pakistan

Published: October 25, 2015

PHOTO: Darbar Mahal

Pakistan is a land of plains, plateausmountains and a rich cultural heritage. It also has an abundance of fruits and vegetables; an abundance which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. If marketed appropriately, Pakistan’s treasures can attract a multitude of tourists.

This summer, I had the opportunity of taking a road trip from Karachi to Islamabad and then Muzaffarabad, allowing me to be stunned by Pakistan’s beauty first hand.

Guava Cart at Phool Nagar, near Multan.

Road trips are fun but can be extremely exhausting and require a lot of planning. Drivers must be well rested, your car should be checked by a mechanic thoroughly, the tyres should be in good condition and should be sturdy enough to pass the rigours of bumpy roads and a spare fan belt and tyre should be carried. Also, you must always carry lots of spare change as the entrance to every city has a toll plaza.

The distance from Islamabad to Karachi is 1500 kilometres (km) but since the distance was too long for us to cover in one stretch, we made a pit-stop in Bahawalpur for the night. The idea behind doing this is to cross the interior parts of Sindh during the day time, preferably before sunset because some parts, particularly Obaro, are known for their dacoits, and just like any other country in the world, smart travelling ensures full security too.

We started our journey to unveil the beauty of Pakistan, on July 20 at 6:15 am.

Our first destination was Moro, a town in Naushahro Feroze, Sindh, where we stopped for breakfast. Moro is 320 km away from Karachi and it took us approximately five hours to get there.

Full family having break fast at Moro.

Before reaching Moro, we drove by HalaHyderabad, and many other small towns in Sindh. Whilst driving by Hala, we came across small stalls, strewn alongside the road, selling various handicrafts, embellished bed sheets, pillow covers, and other handmade items. What was interesting to note here, however, was that when we stopped at any of the highway restaurants, we were charged for roti on a per head basis and not per piece, unlike how it is in Karachi.

Candid ‘naanwala’ at the highway ‘dhaba’.

After freshening up at Moro, we started our journey with new found excitement. On the way, we saw farms of khaji (raw dates), banana trees, mango orchards and bought fresh fruits from the vendors on the sidewalks. Our journey met with a hiccup around Ghotki town when some protestors blocked the road to protest the death of their buffaloes because electricity wires fell on them. Unexpected road blockages by locals are common in parts of Sindh and one should keep time provisions for them when travelling by road.

Fresh ‘khajis’.

We reached Bahawalpur at around 8:30pm. In Bahawalpur, we visited the historic Darbar Mahal (palace), built by Nawab Sadiq IV, in 1907. The interesting fact about this palace was that the construction material used for it was brought from Multan and in order to save time, a line of labourers was formed from Multan to Bahawalpur. Darbar Mahal is a piece of art but, unfortunately, is closed to the public as it is being used by the army. ‘Noor Mahal’ is another such place in Bahawalpur which I intend on visiting the next time I visit.

Darbar Mahal

Darbal Mahal

Another click while at Darbar Mahal.

We resumed our journey the next morning, driving towards Islamabad and were able to reach Rawalpindi by night.

On our return journey, we stayed at Rahim Yar Khan instead of Bahawalpur. We had the pleasure of looking around khaji farms, which we had passed earlier. I also had the good fortune of closely observing technique of processing khajies into dates; for those interested in knowing how it is done, they are put into a large clay oven full of water, a fire is lit under this oven and after a few hours, these khajies are taken out and laid out on large mats in the open for drying and voila!

A beautiful morning in Rahim Yar Khan.

My interaction with date farmers made me realise the shortage they faced when it came to basic resources and tools. I am sure that if this industry is developed to its full potential, Pakistan can start exporting dates and earn revenue in order to boost its economy.

Drying dates at a farm in Gambat, Sindh.

A ‘khaji’ farmer.

Various towns I came across were either completely unheard of or were only ever mentioned during election season; towns such as Meharbpur, Daulatpur, Miranpur, Uchsharif, Peermahal, Hasilpur, Bhaipeeru, Khanqah Dogran,Tala gang, Phool nagar, Jandial, Bucha, Kalan,Kallar Syedan and many others.

Travelling by road is a unique experience. It gives you the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of a country and to discover the customs practiced in remote areas. If I had not made this journey, I would have been deprived what real Pakistan truly is.

Of course, it requires patience, but I advise all my readers to try it at least once in their lives in order to explore the hidden treasures of Pakistan.

All Photos: Khurrum Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (twitter.com/KhurramZiaKhan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Adil

    That was NOT a Roadtrip in the true sense of the word. That was a drive from Karachi to Muzzufarghar, which many a truck driver would do regularly. How much can you see and experience in an overnight drive. Seeing towns and villages fly by on either side of the window is not the same as soaking in the atmosphere and culture of places and people a thousand miles apart. If evolution was to to travel at that speed around the world, there would be no different races, languages, cultures and beliefs! Having said all of that, your effort to see the land of your birth in its length, if not breadth, is commendable and courageous. You’re perhaps less than one percent of the population to do so – hence you can rightly feel proud of yourself and your family. Recommend

  • J

    He went from Karachi to Muzzaffarabad, in Azad Kashmir.
    NOT Muzzaffargarh [wherever that is]. People get one week,
    two weeks, maybe 10 days of vacation time. So, you do the
    best you can, see as much, soak in the culture, cities, people,
    sights etc. in this allotted time. Wish EVERYONE could get
    a month off to wander and peruse every nook and cranny and
    watering hole. The author did great, considering he had the
    family along….not an easy thing to do in ANY country.
    By the way, evolution, [Lucy’s descendants] took millions of years
    just to emerge out of Africa..the birthplace of humans. So far,
    in total, about 4.5 million years, to spread all over the world.
    Agricultural society, just started only 12,000 years ago, in the
    Fertile Crescent, area stretching from Iraq, Syria, Palestine,
    to Egypt. And it took about 150,000 years for Man to reach Australia,
    from India. [They have stone age sites all over Sindh and Balochistan]
    All in all, the author of the blog did great. Account of a nice vacation.Recommend

  • Milind A

    How is Muzzaffarabad part of Kashmir?? What happened to the self-determination rights of Kashmiris who don’t want Kashmir to be part of Pakistan?Recommend

  • Bibloo

    How about you read the Hindustan Times? Bombay Daily Gazette?
    BJP Town Crier? Maharashtra Hate Times? The Hindu? Nagpur News?
    Maybe that will quench your hate.Recommend

  • Hiba Moeen

    A trip explained beautifully! I would love to visit Darbar Mahal someday. It looks so magnificent!Recommend

  • Milind A

    No… I want to stick to regressive Urdu dailies from madrassas… LoL!!Recommend

  • Neutral

    …Darbar Mahal is a piece of art but, unfortunately, is closed to the public as it is being used by the army….

    How fitting that once ruling Nawab of Bahawalpur’s residence is occupied by the current ruler of the land..i.e. army.Recommend

  • Syed Muhammad Antiq

    Muzaffarabad is one of the most beautiful cities in Pakistan. You will instantly fall in love with it. The Muzaffarabad view from the PC Muzaffarabad lobby will drop your jaw.Recommend

  • Mehfooz

    Very well written and well describe.Recommend

  • Ahmed Ali

    can someone guide for the best roadtrip exeperience in pakistan????Recommend