Off to Isloo!

Thursday, March 31, 2005 | 26 comments


Mehmi Sarfraz

photos courtesy

Farhan Zaidi

The plan to go to Islamabad was hatched on the spur of the moment when Zaheer announced that he is bored and therefore would like to go on a long drive (his idea of a long drive also included an overnight stay). The five of us – me, Romi, Zaheer, Farhan and Ali – left Lahore around 7:15pm on 21st March. We stopped to get the car tank full first and also get some stuff to eat as it was decided not to stop much along the motorway. Farhan took to the driving seat and we reached Islamabad in three hours time.
View of Islamabad from Daman-e-Koh

Upon reaching there we asked for directions to “Blue area” so we could have dinner at ‘Jehangirs’ which is a good desi-food restaurant. The dinner was scrumptious and everyone ate to their hearts content. After dinner we drove around “Blue area” to search for lodging. As you drive around, you come to Constitutional Avenue and can see the Presidency and the Parliament House along the way. These buildings are magnificently built and reek of the power that they hold.

After a little while we found a very nice guesthouse ‘Chateau Royal’. It was very cosily built and the rooms were spacious and welcoming.

The funny part was when the waiter took our luggage and went to place it in the girls & guy’s rooms accordingly – he thought the two large suitcases must belong to us girls while the handbag and the backpack must belong to the guys. It came as a jolt to him when he found out the medium-sized handbag was the female’s total luggage and Zaheer made some flippant comment about us being the only two females in the world who travelled so light.

A couple of hours were spent in playing cards and then we decided to call it quits for the night as it was decided we’d go to Murree (a hill-station near Islamabad) in the morning.

Rise & shine everyone

In the morning everyone got ready (though Ali was hopping around half-naked in the lobby and only when a female shrieked at the horrific sight did he put his shirt on) and then we had our breakfast in the breakfast room. The scenic beauty of Islamabad and the clear sky made the morning more beautiful and exquisite. Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan is located against the backdrop of Margalla Hills. It is one of the most peaceful places to be in and one of the most well planned cities. The roads are of high quality and well maintained; greenery and the hills compliment the serenity of the city.

On the Way to Murree

Journey to Murree

We set out for Murree, the most popular summer resort of Pakistan, around 11am. The traffic was light and the weather pleasant. Murree is an hours drive northeast of Islamabad but the drive is nerve wrecking especially for people like me who has a height phobia. The roads are narrow and the turnings are dangerous. Traffic is heavy on most days though this day was an exception but I still kept reciting various prayers even though Zaheer was driving with veritable ease. To add fuel to fire (for my phobia), Farhan narrated a thrilling story of his experience in Yosemite where his life was saved by sheer luck during one such drive. It was a very interesting story though it played havoc with my mind at that time and the speed of reciting the prayers considerably rose in my heart. There were green pine-covered slopes all around the road and made the whole view extremely breathtaking.


Poor Egg-seller Patanis at Kashmir Point

Finally we reached Murree and went via the “Mall” (which is a shopping area located at the center) to Kashmir Point, which is at the northeast end. As soon as we got out of the car, the chilly wind hit our faces and froze the limbs. Snow was still lounging in some corners but it was so dusty that it seemed more like a dirty stone than snow. Two Pathan kids asked us to do riding but we decided to walk on our own so that we could enjoy the scenic view at our own leisure. A street vendor offered to sell film rolls to us and also take our pictures but we didn’t need any of that since we had the magician photographer Farhan with us.

We passed by St. Denys Girls High School and the Murree Church on our way and kept walking towards the President house (formerly known as Governor House). A pine-covered forest is found on one side of the road while magnificent mountains can be seen on the other.

Icy Peaks from Kashmir Point

The reason we chose to visit Kashmir point instead of it’s counterpart Pindi point was because Kashmir point offers a much more fascinating view of the magnificent natural sights. At a near distance one can see lush green fertile valley and hills covered with snow. The panoramic view mesmerizes the viewer and one just keeps gazing at the icy peaks as if transfixed by the sheer beauty of nature. The beauty of the valley casts a spell on your senses and the sight that befalls bewitches the audience. When sunlight falls on the icy peaks, it dazzles the eyes as such it makes the mountain tops look so alluring and makes one wish that time would stop and they can enjoy the tranquility of such a place. The howling wind and the chirping of birds works as the perfect background music.

A View from Pir Sohawa

Our thrilling excursion was cut short at a point where a landslide had fallen recently so we had to turn back, and decided to go back to Islamabad. With a heavy heart at leaving the peace and tranquility of such a beautiful valley, we drove back to Islamabad. The song “Yeh haseen vaadiaan …” from “Roja” was on in the car and it fit the bill perfectly. I enjoyed the drive back to Islamabad as now we were going downhill.

Back in Islamabad

Luki in her usual bad mood near Daman-e-KohWe got back in Islamabad around 4pm and went to “Pir Sohawa”. On the way up you can find a lot of monkeys sitting on the road enjoying treats from the tourists. Pir Sohawa is on the way up from Margalla Hills and when the Indian cricket team toured Pakistan last year, they were taken on a trip there too. We stayed there for a few minutes and then decided to go down to “Daman-e-Koh” – a low hill overlooking Islamabad.


Daman-e-Koh is often described as a terraced garden in the heart of Margalla hills. One can enjoy a glorious panoramic view of Islamabad from up there and it boasts of a very nice restaurant so you can fill your tummy and enjoy the picturesque view alongside. The food was very delicious and wholesome.

Faisal Mosque from Daman-e-Koh
You can see a clear view of the whole city of Islamabad from up here. One can see The Shah Faisal Mosque at a distance, which was a gift from Saudi Arabia and is named after late King Shah Faisal. It is one of the largest mosques in Asia and its main prayer hall can accommodate 10,000 people at one time. The architecture of this white stoned mosque is a unique blend of old Arabian style and modern architecture.

Rawal dam can also be seen from up here, which is the main water reservoir for the residents of Rawalpindi/Islamabad.

Sunset from Daman-e-Koh

The panoramic view of Islamabad enchanted us and we stayed there till sunset. Watching the sun set from Daman-e-Koh was an enthralling experience. The change in light was so exquisite and the different colours in the sky captivated the viewer. The scene looked right out of the world’s most beautiful painting. It is at times like these that one really marvels at the universal beauty of nature. Time was short or else we would have loved to stay there for a lot longer.


Our next stop was “Hang-out” -- a sheesha-bar in Islamabad. Sheesha is a special sort of smoking pipe with flavoured juices inside it which makes the experience of smoking more pleasing. The ambience of the place came as a nice surprise to us. As you enter the bar, the pleasant aroma of scented smoke hits you and the superb décor is eye-pleasing - it is a delightful blend of western, Arabic & traditional designing. As we were all full, we decided to have light snacks instead of proper dinner. The little tidbits of food were nice; their mango ice cream is specially recommended while the soup wasn’t up to the standard. The good thing about this bar was that people of all ages could come and enjoy – apart from the usual teenagers hanging around, there were families enjoying the food and atmosphere.

Back to Lahore

Time flew and soon it was time to leave Islamabad. We left for Lahore at 11pm and this time Zaheer wanted to test Romi’s driving skills (she flew his test with flying colours and Zaheer is now a full-fledged fan of her driving).Cinderella's Broken Slipper Farhan regaled us with more thrilling stories of his life and at 2:30 am we were back in Lahore after a tremendously entertaining trip.

Our only loss on this trip was my broken shoe * sniff sniff*
Thursday, March 31, 2005 | permalink | 26 comments



mehmal- you shd have left the broken shoe behind ... a la Cinderella !!

By Blogger Sairam, at March 31, 2005 8:31 PM  

Cool. It sounds like such an awesome trip. By the way, my cousins and I did the absolute same thing right down to the same sheesha bar!

By Blogger Nickie`, at April 01, 2005 1:38 AM  

you sure sound like you had a wonderful time. the colours in these pictures look splendid.

By Anonymous divya, at April 01, 2005 8:08 AM  

It was a good read.
Btw, Your feet are b'ful too. ;)

By Blogger Cannabis Sativa-Bhatt, at April 01, 2005 11:15 AM  

if ur description and farhan's photography can make islamabad look awesome, i cant wait for u to come to Karachi.

seriously, great 'safarnama'! thumbs up!! :)

By Anonymous Furhan R. Hussain, at April 02, 2005 4:19 PM  

very nicely written mehmal. the pictures are very good too. you are so colorful in your writing. keep it up!! please send me link via ym next time you have a new blog. :D

By Anonymous pim little, at April 03, 2005 1:58 PM  

Thankyou everyone :)

why Sairam, so you could be my prince? *pffft*

yeah Nickie it was an awesome trip and i really loved that sheesha-bar ;)

thanx Divya, these pics were brilliant as Farhan is a magician with the camera. You will get to see more work of Farhan in the 'Aks' section real soon.

Cannabis i have the ugliest feet in the world :(

Furhan, my Karachi trip got cancelled but if i ever come there, then i will definitely write a travelogue for that. But i don't think Farhan is going to be with me on the trip so don't look forward to any good photographs :P

oh thanx a lot Pim, you're making me blush :D i'll let you know when i write something else *mwah*

By Anonymous mehmaL, at April 03, 2005 11:14 PM  

Magnificently written, Mehmal. Keep up the good work.

By Anonymous Ashish Awasthi, at April 06, 2005 12:28 AM  

Great writing! Made me think of Islamabad and Murree in a new way, especially the pictures...awesome shots!
Lookin forward to reading more of your 'long drives':)

By Anonymous Mahvesh, at April 06, 2005 1:30 PM  

awesome, I am particularly intrigued by sheesha... wonder what it would be like to smoke that contraption in a place like muree ... jannat :).

By Anonymous abhishek, at April 07, 2005 8:35 PM  

Mehmal, I so love your quirky writing style; it's amazing how you can make something as boring as a 'safar nama' into a fun read. :)

Oh and yes, I totally agree- Jahangir's has the yummiest food!

By Anonymous Amna, at April 07, 2005 9:14 PM  

sahi hai mehmala.... bahut aish hui lagta hai....

By Blogger Ardy, at April 09, 2005 4:02 PM  

Pictures are awesome.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 10, 2005 12:26 PM  

Thanks, Mehmal. I found this an entertaining insight into tourism in modern Pakistan. I wish it was safe for a European to visit as I would be interested to see your country for myself.

By Anonymous Richard, at April 13, 2005 7:28 PM  

I was one member of that trip
and it actually was an awesome trip..
We had a blast..njoyed to the hilt
and mehmal very beautifully has described it
though she didnt mention the bowling part
that UNITED bakery stuff

By Anonymous chris, at April 14, 2005 12:41 PM  

wow cool trip meh
makes me feel like wanting to move to pakistan almost lol

no idea how you make such nice web pages ,amazing stuff and photography --u gotta teach me how

p.s. greetings from india

By Anonymous vikitaru(vikram), at April 15, 2005 5:24 AM  

Lovely Meh! I enjoyed reading and viewing the pics. That was one awesome trip. Now I only wonder, what was in the bags of the guys? :-p
Huggles Meh hope to chat with you soon!

By Anonymous Rosey, at April 16, 2005 7:39 AM  

hey mehmal i must say very impressive coz i guess its quite difficult to put in words those moments as beatiful as they were n u did a pretty good job keep it up:)

By Anonymous beni, at April 16, 2005 8:16 AM  

good work mehmal
but next time you come dont forget to go to "shadra" its behind department of psychology - quaid e azam, the place is awesome, big mountanis towering above you. and the valley down belwo with the curving road anf you in the middle. one can spot cliff hangers, rock climberes as well.
aprt from that, never miss out of talhaar,,,,,,,,nothign compares to the beauty. enroute to pir suhawa after daman e koh a road turns left going down covering the back rear side of margallahs. the wind and again a deep deep valley lush green,,,, all meadowed just like a golf green, a football field, acricket ground, albeit lush green. and the man makes excellent pizzas.
on a archealogical note. the ruins of julian and mohra muradu are breath taking.
i enevr thought i could see a perfectly dreserved monastery of gandhara era.
fabulous stone carvings of buddha on stone on mountains.
explore something more than just blue area.
we have all clored areas,, blue area , red area,
but the natural area is what is the land mark of islamabad
the best thing about the place is,, 15 minutes drive and you have a completely changed landscape.
i hope it remains as uninhabited as it is bow

By Blogger bilkul, at April 21, 2005 10:27 PM  

farhan the new muree hill project is a perfect recipe fpr m,argallah hills and islamabads ecological disaster.
cuting down of trees will bring in huge amount of silt in rawal dam... silting it completely.
and no forests mean lesser rain in catchment area, leading to heat, lesser snow, lesser water and migration of flora and fauna.
now few years down the line, who would even remember there existed a beautiful city - islamabad.
but mehmal you will probably have many shops to buy new shoes from somewhere on every hill and summits on the lesser himalyas, the serene margallahs.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 25, 2005 4:49 PM  

farhan again

the site is at best as dead as they come
bad work modrators !!!!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 26, 2005 2:58 PM  

oh, ok well I am not the same farhan as the one above.... :P... I was on the trip, so I won't say anything about the pix... but I'd say that mehmal you wrote it beautifully and I want to thank you for preserving the memories of that trip in such a nice manner. Very nicely done!!!

By Anonymous Farhan, at April 30, 2005 7:59 PM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Saeen, at July 13, 2005 3:01 AM  

*sigh* Iam nostalgic now. :(

By Blogger Saeen, at July 13, 2005 3:02 AM  

Hey nice info you posted.
I just browsing through some blogs and came across yours!

Excellent blog, good to see someone actually uses em for quality posts.

Your site kept me on for a few minutes unlike the rest :)

Keep up the good work!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 19, 2005 4:11 AM  

i studied at the school for 7 years,beautiful place.hoping to go back soon.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 25, 2006 10:38 AM  

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