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Turning Tea Into Wine

November 26, 2013

There’s a sign in one of the big hotels in Islamabad marked “Photocopying Room”.  Push open the door and you find a dingy staircase leading to another door.  Push open THAT door, and you’ll find one of the wonders of Islamabad – a public bar.  It’s the only one I know of.   The decor is of the “cat fight in a red flock wallpaper factory” style and it smells deeply musty.  The gin and tonic I had was 60% gin.  Not being the Queen (who likes her drinks strong), that’s a bit strong for me. (A little aside here: the Queen Mother’s instructions for making a good G&T were ‘fill up with gin and wave the tonic over the glass’.  No wonder she lived until she was 101.)


It was a good night out with the girls  

[Photo attrib: Phault]

There was no lemon in the G&T and the tonic was substandard.  The nuts looked as if they’d been there for a couple of weeks and the drink cost around £10.  However it was worth it for the experience of having been served in the only public bar in Islamabad and, potentially, Pakistan.

Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol.  Not only that, but there is a sign over the private club I frequent which states that it is forbidden to even serve alcohol to muslims, robbing them of the opportunity of getting a round in.  They must be devastated.

You can, however, take a bottle to a restaurant – something I haven’t done since I was a student.  In some restaurants they will decant your wine into a teapot which then sits merrily on your table and you can fill your tea cups to your heart’s content.  Sadly, because I quite fancy drinking out of a teapot – very ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’, every time I’ve presented a waiter with a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc in a plastic bag (it’s a classy affair over here), they’ve promptly produced  an ice bucket and have opened the bottle with a flourish, thus revealing our table as the drink-soaked westerners (as if our fellow diners couldn’t already tell).

I recently went out for dinner to another of the large hotels here.  To get in you have to pass through two lots of bag and body scanners.  As my bag went through the second lot of scanners, the man with the screen leant forwards and, pointing to my conspicuously bottle-shaped plastic bag, said “Are you a muslim?”.

“No, I’m a Christian,” I replied.

And with that, me and my bottle of contraband were waved through.

Now, I have never been afraid to confess my faith. I am a Christian and that is what defines me.  There are many, many advantages to being a Christian – comfort in pain; confidence in death; peace in heart – but I never, for one moment, thought that they would include the right to smuggle contraband wine into Pakistani restaurants.   Hallelujah!

  1. There’s a book called “God’s Smuggler” which is the story of a man who smuggled Bibles into countries behind the Iron Curtain in the ’60s and ’70s. But I think you now fit the bill too!


  2. Well done you! I, of course am a good Methodist girl and don’t drink Gin…


  3. I can turn tea into wine. It happens smoothly at about 6 pm. I’m drinking tea and then suddenly I’m drinking wine.


    But next time I see you we will pour the wine out of the tea pot. Just because I like that idea too.


  4. It sounds all very cloak and dagger – kinda fun 🙂 Makes it a little more exciting I think. But I have a couple of questions. Do they take your word when you say your Christian? They don’t ask for ID or anything though I suppose what kind of ID would you have? In Dubai you have to apply (and pay for) a licence. A Licence to Drink – has a ring to it don’t you think?


    • They do take my word for it. I suppose being white and western helps. No ID required so far. I like the thought of having a Licence to Drink though – I could definitely go for that!


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