I’ve been hesitant to answer questions about what Lahore, Pakistan is like, mostly because I felt like I hadn’t seen it yet…and I was right. Last night was Lahores coming out party…or more likely, our coming out party in Lahore. Either way it was the first time we looked each other straight in the face, sized one another up and then tried each other one for size. I’m not too sure how I did in Lahores minds-eye, but speaking for myself, I am officially enamored.
This is a city that lives and breathes (and never sleeps!) on the sustenance of contradictions and extremes. We started off our night at ‘En Das’ (I’m not overly sure about the spelling but that is how it sounds phonetically), a rooftop restaurant that straddles the large downtown mosque and the red light district. It was stunning. A long, and slightly tedious, call to prayer was our dining music along with the horns and general chaos of the not so distant traffic. The servers were woman plucked from prostitution, a really rare thing for Lahore, as from what I’ve been told, woman here don’t do most service jobs. And then there was the food! 8 different dishes of meat and seafood with crunchy garlic nan bread, cool yoghurt raita and slivered almond ice cream. I decided not so long ago that moving to Lahore would mark the beginning of some pseudo-vegetarianism in my attempt to be more health conscious and more ethically/environmentally aware of the impact of eating meat. Well, there’s only been veggies at home, but the amount of meat I ate last night was probably equal to two weeks worth! Seriously. This is were the ‘pseudo’ part of pseudo-vegetarianism comes in. To me, moving to a new country means seeing it and experiencing it in it’s full. That is a multifaceted statement, but in regards to food it means you take what’s offered to you graciously. I will forever and very graciously be accepting and devouring Pakistani meat dishes! I should also mention that this restaurant has the most amazing birds-eye view of the old city from a roof top garden, where you can sit on pillows, on the grass and smoke hooka. I don’t really know if it gets much better.
After dinner we drove (5 tall men + me + very small car) through the jam-packed night bazaars of the old city to a high end and very secure residential area. For the old city, picture topless men giving massages on street mats, homeless families living on plastic sheets, endless carts selling sugared dates and the most insane of traffic. I can officially say that I have now seen 6 people fit on one normal two person motorbike (although I hear the max people have seen around Lahore is 7). We then partied until 4:00am with the wealthiest of the Pakistani elite and a handful of foreigners. This was the owners ‘party’ house, not their home house…just the house where they threw parties. For a dry country with no clubs/bars allowed, there managed to be copious amounts of booze and scantily clad woman. I so obviously stuck out as a new comer in my more modest and traditional dress…trying to be culturally sensitive I instead ended up being the only person not dressed like a Westerner! A little bit of unfortunate irony.
I was asked all night “What is the most surprising thing about Lahore?”, to which I could only answer “this”. This meaning the house party of the wealthy, where you would think you’re anywhere but Pakistan.