Despite being oft overshadowed by the two bigger metropolises of the country, Islamabad still manages to be everyone’s favourite retreat.
With a single stroke of pen in 1960, General Ayub Khan rebranded a small piece of land north of Rawalpindi as the new capital of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan snatching away the title from the City of Lights.
Islamabad is famous for a lot of things and given below are just a few things this sexy city has to offer. Astaghfar. I take that back. ISLAMabad can be anything but sexy. Heavenly and spiritual to be precise.
The Walled City of Lahore might have the historic red-bricked Badshahi mosque and Karachi can boast all it wants of having the founding father’s mausoleum but Islamabad definitely takes the cake with its futuristic looking white mosque at the foot of Margalla Hills.
The very hub of all the nikkahs in the city, Faisal Mosque has in recent times become an even more exciting and sought-after destination in Islamabad. Looking at the tall, white pyramid of a structure, as you sheepishly imagine the triad of qabool-hai, the sound of shehnai resonates through the air making the opulence of the white giant all the more real.
Islamabad Ki Barish Aur Dilkash Mausam
If you’ve ever visited this little slice heaven you’d know that it’s pretty much always pouring in Islamabad. And when it’s not pouring, the city’s unmistakable cool breeze can be felt throughout the otherwise sweltering months of July and August.
The quintessential rain statuses on Facebook follow suit as soon as the first drop of rain touches the city’s soil.
Islamabad is not much larger than the size of Malik Riaz’s latest housing scheme in Karachi, but considering how closely knit that makes our social lives, it really feels like one big happy family (living in a sectored setup worse than Karl Marx’s biggest nightmare). Speaking of closely knit, anyone who’s ever belonged to Islamabad can vividly recall the Age of Rendezvous. You owe your social acceptance to this place and if you remember anything about A’levels apart from your high-school crush, it’s the Rendezvous Roundabout whose ambiance and air at one point was signature Islamabad.
Growing up, this is where you wanted to see yourself in the next 5 years; talking about big ideas, start-ups and all things intellectual – Kohsar has since forever been the nucleus of the city for its nobility (with a capital N). You can never be the perfect fit for Kohsar unless and until youre a)a bleach-blonde or b) born and bred in one of the F-sectors of Islamabad. And if you’re none of the aforementioned, you would always be a little too Lahori or a little too Lyari for Kohsar.
Master Ayub’s Open-Air School
Master Ayub and his open-air school are nearly as old as Islamabad itself. However, the cause came to light recently when the school was publicized on social and electronic media through independent visitors and people interested in knowing what all the benevolent Master Sahab was upto. It also gained popularity as it was coincidentally situated in the same sector as Kuch Khaas. Lucky for Master Ayub, the perfect locale of the school now attracts multitudes of volunteers for educating street kids. No cynicism intended here. All praise for Master Ayub and his noble cause.
The Margalla Hills
Karachi might have beaches (most of which have little if any water visible from the mounds of garbage spread along the side) and Lahore might have..well..the signature “Teri mehrbani” vocal chords, but neither of them has the majestic mountain range that stands towering over the Capital. The serenity one feels while driving through the city under the shadow of the magnificent Margalla Hills is without a doubt unparalleled.
Although devoid of a Dolmen-sized shopping arcade, the only major mall of the city is barely 2 years old yet it attracts a huge majority (read: all) of the population of the twin cities. The mall since its opening in 2013 has gone through quite a few changes, one of the most important ones being entry-barring tickets for people the mall’s administration deems inappropriate and socially undesirable.
Safa Gold Mall
Meet the younger wannabe cousin of Centaurus and the brainchild of Ms Talpur: Safa Gold Mall. Following in the footsteps of its older counterpart, Safa Gold Mall serves as a nice retreat from the standard mall experience. As you step inside you can hear crickets chirping and the sound of wind chimes accompanied by cloud formations inside the vacant hallways. It’s a soul searching experience as you look above and see 7 eerie floors sitting atop each other anticipating the traces of human life.
A Traffic Situation Where Cars Mind Their Lanes
Ever looked at those pretty white lines painted over the road? Or the multi-coloured lights installed at regular intervals that go red, yellow and green? Or the fat mustached guy standing in a uniform accepting small favors from car windows? Yeah well all of these serve a purpose which might be entirely beyond you provided you do not belong to Islamabad.
Islamabad’s Distinctive Fashion Sense
Islamabad’s signature fashion sense is rather demure, perfectly complementing the calm and serene vibe of the city which is why the Capital never wholeheartedly accepted the short-shirt with Patiala Shalwar disaster even when it was making waves (rather, a tsunami) ten years back.
Underground Shisha Joints
Regular restaurants for the cops and shisha bars for the city’s young crowd, the city is flooded with eateries doubling as shisha joints. Islamabad might be labeled as the city of the living dead but when it comes to serving the notorious hubble bubble the city is surprisingly gutsy as opposed to Zinda Dilaan-e-Lahore, where any public sighting of shisha-smoking might land you in jail for the next few days. Turns out the café owner in Islamabad like to live on the edge and continue to serve shisha despite the very public ban on serving it. Unannounced raids are commonplace at many of the city’s cafes which include installation of 1984-style communist cameras meant to capture any fishy activity that might involve a hookah pipe and a group of teenagers. On a completely irrelevant note, it’s absolutely okay to light up a cigarette under the same roof.
Some of us might hate to love it and despite often being dubbed as the Dead City, Islamabad is home, it’s that serene piece of green you can never let go off no matter where you travel or where you reside. If you were born to this masterpiece of Mother Nature or found home in it, it is pretty much impossible to grow out of it.