On Monday, I did the royal tour of Islamabad. There isn't really a lot to see since the city was only created in the 1960s. It's a pretty beautiful city however--broad, green, empty avenues, but I must say that does make it pretty unexciting! It almost has a bit of a provincial feeling... it's certainly small and unlike other Pakistani cities! The shops remind me a bit of Kuwait in their small town-ness!
We started the day searching everywhere to find a money changer that would be open, and after that, Iqbal drove me around past the forbidden places (the ones I'm not supposed to go to because they're so dangerous!), the Red (now very white) Mosque (unremarkable building, really) and Melody Market. Sure, lots of people in the streets, but otherwise, nothing unusual. I didn't get out of the car, however...
I did some shopping as well, buying way too many bed spreads and other things I really don't need!
I went to the Heritage Museum pretty early on. What fun! We had a power cut while I was inside, and too bad about the rest, because it was pitch black in there, and it was all I could do to find my way to the exit. Too bad about the 200% foreigner price that I paid--it's gone, and you have to pay for the toilet too! It was pretty interesting though... enormous halls filled with rather scary looking papermache dummies, and the random odd squirrel thrown in to ensure the taxidermists had something to do! There was an interesting Azerbaijan section in the middle of central asia... obviously the Azeri embassy here felt it necessary to promote themselves with a donation of tourism books, although the carpets were a nice touch!
We then drove up to the new Pakistan Monument. Reminded me a lot of the Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan, although I'm sure they'd be horrified at the similarity! A large, rather ostentatious white and red marble monument to the creation of Pakistan and their provinces. It did have a lovely view over the city however!
I tried to find the Beni Imam shrine, but of course the entire area is around where the Marriot blast was, so it is completely blocked off with police checkpoints and blockages.
We drove past the huge Faisal Mosque (which I was amused to read had spurred several rumors of the CIA checking out the bomb-shaped minarets in case they were real bombs!). I didn't feel like going in, but I was astonished to discover that women were walking in with bare arms although they hadn't covered up their heads at that point either, but didn't have anything that could possibly cover their arms either!
We drove into the Mullah hills for a quick dinner of Chicken Tikka and lovely sunset views. What an amazing road!!