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First Impressions of Islamabad (Slammers, to you and me)

March 13, 2013

A word to the Pakistani tourist board: I’ve come up with a new strap line for you. I can see a whole advertising campaign based around the legend “Pakistan – It’s not as bad as you think it is”.  Catchy, eh?

 When we were first talking about moving to Islamabad I pictured a packed and crowded city full of donkeys, potentially the odd cow and maybe even an elephant or two, definitely a ton of dust and sand and much honking and hubbub.  And then there’d be the smells…

It turns out that Islamabad is actually very pleasant indeed.  It’s quite high up, but on a low enough latitude to get weather that, at the moment, is akin to a very good British summer.  You know the type, where everyone is enjoying the sun and the Daily Mail prints pictures of yellowing grass in Hyde Park with dramatic headlines about global warming.  Heaven.  There’s also a certain amount of schadenfreude with the UK being mostly under a foot of snow that is the cherry on the cake. 

 Then there are the roads.  The main arterial roads are wide, frequently 4 lanes wide and there really isn’t that much traffic so you’ve got plenty of room to dodge and weave as required.  There’s a very egalitarian approach to road usage here as well with a ‘There’s a road here and I’m going to use it’ mentality which means that you frequently see pedestrians strolling the wrong way down lane 2 of said 4 lane highway (as there’s a donkey carrying sticks in lane 1), just because they can.  I like that.  As a result, most car users drive pretty slowly which means that you can dodge most of the craziness and stop in time for the bits you can’t dodge.

 It’s also very green with little or no air pollution.  Before we left the UK, son 1 was on both a steroid and a normal inhaler for his asthma.  We haven’t had to use either yet since we arrived.  What’s most surprised me, however, is just how many brands you can get here which I recognize from the UK.  As a result of my instinct to overpack (see “Travels with Tots”) we’ve shipped out about 30 boxes of Aptamil formula for son 2 only to find that you can get it here, together with Heinz baby porridge and Johnsons’ baby wipes. 

 More excitingly, there are some fabulous coffee and tea shops too.  My favourite is Mocha, a little shop in F6 which has just started stocking macaroons.  They’re not cheap but are very, very nice.  I’ve had to give them up for Lent to wean myself off the pistachio ones.  Only two weeks to go….



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