THE MYSTERIOUS WORLD OF PARDAH
Exclusive Women’s Tour (June – October)
“What is Islam? What is the role and status of the woman in an Islamic society?
What is the meaning of Pardah? Mysteries and misconceptions exist along with the veil that adorns the women of this faith.”
This special tour, exclusively for women, penetrates the world of their Pakistani counterparts. Participants are asked to come with small gifts for children, small mementoes from their country, photos of their loved ones to make the experience a true cross-cultural exchange. On arrival, our foreign female guests will go shopping – a delightful necessity – to become suitably adorned in the Shalwar Kameez, the Pakistani woman’s traditional dress, which will case acceptance into this special world. These outfits are also comfortable to wear.
Yes, the journey through Pakistan will be rewarding with visits to culturally rich cities and time-stopped villages. The tour, however, emphasizes the cross-cultural woman-to-woman exchange made possible by our knowledgeable female guide. In cities, our guide will arrange meetings for tour participants with high achievers from lawyers to educators and media personalities. Pre-trip communication will help us determine particular interests. In rural areas, our guide will provide access into the sheltered world of the tribal woman and more traditional families.
Our female guests should expect to try their hand at cooking, expect to try on a Burqa, expect to have lots of children shake their hand and stare and stare. Tour participants will also visit women-run co-operatives that promote self-empowerment by selling their own handmade products. Finally, meetings will be arranged on request with organizations that work for the rights of women and the girl child.
This is an exceptional tour that offers a unique opportunity to understand Islam as it is practiced in Pakistan. It is appropriately titled Exclusive Women’s Tour with each trip customized to suit the interest of the participants. And, of course, each tour provides a wonderful opportunity to discover the beauty and diversity of Pakistan.
Spirit of the Tour
- Area: Punjab, North Western Frontier & Northern Area.
- Duration: 18 Days
- Period: June-October
- Climate: Minimum 10 C in Northern Area – Maximum 45 C in Punjab
- Category: Cross Cultural Exchange Tour
- Accommodation: Deluxe hotels in main towns and best available in the Northern Area.
- Transport: A/C Coach for long drives and 4×4 soft top jeeps in the valleys
- Cultures: Punajbi, Pathan, Swati, Kailash, Hunzakut
- Monuments: Mughal, British Raj, Buddhist, Ancient Kingdoms of remote valleys.
- Passes: Malakand, Lowari, Shangla, Nelyshang
- Shopping: Embroidery, hand-knotted carpets, semiprecious stones, wood carving, tribal jewellery, dry fruit, Hunza tea, handicrafts
Day 01: Arrival Lahore
Warm welcome reception and transfer to hotel in Lahore, the present cultural center of Pakistan and the former capital of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Our first mission is to shop for our own Shalwar Kameez, which is the national woman’s dress. Our shopping adventure takes us through the traditional Anarkali Bazaar, modern Liberty Market, and to a boutique run by a famous designer whose fashions adorn the catwalk. We also visit a women’s vocational training center. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 02: Lahore Visit
We visit the enormous 16th and 17th century Lahore Fort, a stunning interplay of sandstone and marble created by four Moghul Emperors; the 17th century Badshahi Masjid (Royal Mosque) — the world’s largest. We also visit the historic Wazir Khan Mosque in the Delhi Gate Bazaar built in 1634. This is Pakistan’s only mosque that is completely Persian in style with a fresco and glazed tile-work exterior. After lunch we see the Lahore Museum that houses arte facts from the Indus Valley, miniature paintings from the Moghul period, and sculptures from the Gandhara period including the world famous ‘Fasting Buddha.’ We also visit the three-tiered Shalimar Gardens spread across 42 acres with its network of water channels and over 400 fountains. A gala dinner in a typical Punjabi restaurant where we meet the members of different associations, such as the All Pakistan Women’s Association, the International Women’s Club, Women Lawyer’s Association and the Women Rights Association. Overnight at hotel.
Day 03: Lahore Peshawar
Upon arrival transfer to hotel. The capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Peshawar is a frontier town steeped in legends and the culture of the Pathan tribes who live by an unbreakable code of conduct – Badla’ (revenge) and ‘Melmastia’ (hospitality)–and the law of the gun. We tour through the city’s network of markets and bazaars, including Qissa Khawani Bazaar (Street of Storytellers) where raconteurs once fascinated crowds with lurid tales. Today dentists have replaced the storytellers and rows of teeth vie for our attention. We wander down side-streets past donkeys, goats, Sheep, camels, men smoking hookahs’ or sipping tea and explore market after market selling dazzling copper- and brass-ware, old carpets and kilims, spectacular tribal jewelry. Dinner in a typical Pathan restaurant where we will sit comfortably on floor. Overnight at hotel.
Day 04: Excursion Khyber Pass (subject to permission) (120 km, 4/5 hrs)
While In Peshawar, we also make the historic Journey up the Khyber Pass. The drama begins the Jamrud Fort built by the Sikhs in 1823 when they attempted to control the uncontrollable Pathons. The road snakes through rocky mountains. Nearly every peak is crowned with a British fort that looks down at the impenetrable Pathan clay fortresses where guns would poke through turrets. This is tribal territory, and guns settle dispute. Our Journey ends at Landi Kotal, a popular smuggler’s town. Afternoon visit to an non-government organization (NGO) and meet women working to improve the lifestyle of tribal women and Afghan refugees by supporting them in different self help projects. We will try to visit a local Pathan family in their extremely guarded Pardah atmosphere in a Haveli. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 05: Peshawar – Chitral (405 km, 12/12 hrs)
Morning flight to Chitral (subject to weather). Transfer to hotel upon arrival. Afternoon tour of the town. Overnight at hotel. In case the flight does not operate, we’ll drive to Chitral. Overnight at hotel.
Day 06: Excursion Kafiristan
Chitral is also the gateway to Kafiristan – remote valleys (Bomburet, Rambur and Birir) with tiers of wooden homes built into the mountains. Kafiristan is the home to the attractive Kafir Kailash ‘Wearers of the Black Robe’. Kalash means Black, and the handsome women wear long black dresses with red and green embroidered trim and elaborate headpieces that quality as art—much of it ‘found art’ created from cowry shells, bits of metal, watchbands, plastic flowers, tiny buttons. Unlike Muslims, the Kailash women don’t observe purdah and are open and friendly. We will make a full day excursion to their villages of Bomburet and Rambur and meet the Kafir Kailash women. We will have an opportunity to exchange views and discover a civilization that has made nominal changes over the last two thousand years. We will also enjoy performances of their unusual music and ethnic dances. Dinner and overnight at Chitral hotel.
Day 07: Chitral – Dir – Swat (275 km, 9/10 hrs)
An exciting jeep journey over Lowari Pass (12,500 ft. and 3,734 m) takes us to Dir. After lunch we continue the drive by coach to the lush Swat Valley. Buddhists called Swat Udyana (garden). Yet this idyllic fertile valley in the North West Frontier Province became a bloody battleground in wars waged by the Greeks, Afghans, Mughals, and the British. Landmarks span centuries ancient graveyards, desolate forts, empty monasteries and abandoned Stupas. The Swat culture, however, remains vibrant, especially its traditions and handicrafts, such as fine hand embroidery work and tribal costumes, wood carvings, and intricate silver jewellery. Overnight at hotel.
Day 08: Excursion Upper Swat Valley
We visit the Swat Museum with its superb collection of Gandhara art, then visit the Buddhist archaeological remains at Butkara, a site that dates from 2nd century BC to 10th century AD and is associated with the Buddha. Excursion to upper Swat Valley and the village of Bahrain, locally known as the land of many waters. Here the roaring waters of the Swat and Darel rivers meet and merge. Stone-cut steps lead to twisting lances and alleys of the Bahrain bazaar, which offers great Swat bargains. Return to Saidu Sharif. In the course of the day, we will attempt to meet the local Kohistani women. We will also have an open air cooking class and enjoy a special dinner accompanied by folk music. Overnight at hotel.
Day 09: Swat – Chilas (335 km, 8/9 hrs)
We cross the Shangla Pass (6,500 ft or 2,000 m) and leave Swat and head to Besham. From here onward we are on the Karakoram Highway, a marvel of science and engineering, pierced through the gigantic Hindukush, Himalayas, and Karakoram mountains. Near chilas, we see ancient rock carvings that primarily date back to the Buddhist period. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 10: Chilas – Hunza (250 km, 7/8 hrs)
We drive through a panorama of barren mountains, frequent oases, waterfalls, brooks, rivers, glaciers, and awe inspiring views of peaks in the Hunza Valley. We have a picnic lunch in the shadows of Mt. Rakaposhi (25,445 ft. or 7,788 m.). Dinner and overnight at hotel in Karimabad, the capital of the former kingdom of Hunza.
Day 11: Hunza Valley
In Karimabad (8,200 ft or 2,500 m.). we visit the ancient palace fortresses of Altit and Baltit. We stroll through the small but interesting bazaar. The entire population of Hunza are Ismailis who are followers of His Highness Agha Khan. The women in this region are usually educated and do not observe purdah. Many of them are also actively involved in projects run by the Agha Khan Foundation throughout the Northern Areas of Pakistan. If the school is in session, we will visit the Agha Khan Academy, which is a girls high school, and meet with the students and teachers. In the evening we will try to arrange an appointment, subject to availability, with the Rani (queen) of the former state of Hunza. We can also drive to Upper Hunza valley to meet a local family and enjoy the splendid views of Passu Glacier. Hunza cultural show and special dinner. Overnight at hotel.
Day 12: Excursion Nagar Valley
A half-day jeep excursion to the neighboring Nagar Valley, the site of the Rakaposhi Peak, is a stunning jeep drive through apricot and apple orchards, and terraced fields. Views of Hopper Glacier, surrounded by snow-covered peaks, are sublime. People in Nagar are all Shia Muslims, the most conservative Muslims, and the Shia women strictly observe Purdah. Overnigh at Karimabad hotel.
Day 13: Karimabad – Gilgit (110 km, 3/4 hrs)
We return to the Karakoram Highway and drive to Gilgit, the former capital of the Gilgit Kingdom. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 14: Gilgit
Visit Gilgit bazaar and the Kargah rock-cut Buddha. At Kargah we will visit a local family. We will have dinner with a family and compare the differences in our lifestyles with the women of Gilgit. Overnight at hotel.
Day 15: Gilfit – Besham (335 km, 8/9 hrs)
Morning departure to Besham. We follow the Indus River and stop at Thalechi with its excellent views of Nanga Parbat (8125 m) the killer mountain. Proceed to Besham. Overnight at motel.
Day 16: Besham – Islamabad (265 km, 7/8 hrs)
We say farewell to the river Indus and drive through the scenic Hazara Valley to Islamabad. Overnight at hotel.
Day 17: Islamabad – Taxila – Islamabad
After a brief tour of Islamabad. We proceed to Taxila, the ancient capital of Gandhara with Buddhist ruins from 600 BC to 600 AD scattered throughout an open valley. We visit the ancient site, and also see the remains of the Julian monastery and the old town of Sirkup, and visit the museum. Lunch at Taxila. Return to Islamabad. Afternoon visit to a centre run by the United Nations for battered women where donations are welcome. Special Farewell Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 18: Departure
Transfer to airport for your homeward flight.