JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH HANIA SHAHID FROM ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN!
Hania is a graduate in electronics engineering and currently works in multiple fields of writing, designing, tutoring, and social services. Among all this, her constant love for food led her to start her own food blog where she explores her city in search of food inspirations. She reviews food places within Rawalpindi and Islamabad and shares her food creations. Her blog, Decadence by Hania is all about bringing people belonging to various backgrounds together to share a common love i.e. love for food.
Special thanks to photographer The Lost Soul for letting us use a few his pictures of the city of Islamabad !
Islamabad and Rawalpindi share social and economic links which is why they are known as the twin cities of Pakistan. They can be understood as two siblings that are a total opposite of each other. Islamabad being the capital city of Pakistan is more developed and well-kept with a fancy outlook in terms of its people and destinations. On the other hand, Rawalpindi is the unkempt version of the city which is more famous for its street food. The twin cities reside in the province of Punjab and are of equal importance to its residents.
How safe is Pakistan for tourists?
Pakistan is a safe country to travel. The people here are so hospitable and welcoming regardless of the prevailing differences in ethnicity, culture, nationality, and religion. They do not hesitate in serving their guests with the best. In addition, Pakistanis are so entertaining you wouldn’t get bored of them. And besides, the security conditions aren’t ideal anywhere in the world. Pakistan is just like any other country in these terms. You only need necessary precautions and a good guide to make your experience memorable. The land is rich with history and nature. It stretches high across mountain ranges to the depths of coastal regions. The northern areas of Pakistan are breathtaking so you’ve got all the more reasons to visit this country.
How easy it is to get a Pakistani Visa? Which countries are forbidden a visa to Pakistan and why?
It’s easy to obtain a Pakistani Visa. The visa cost is comparatively lower than other countries and the processing takes about a month. There are tourist facilities in Pakistan and Pakistani embassies in foreign countries that can help you with it.
As far as my knowledge is concerned, there is no Pakistani embassy in Israel. However, Israeli citizens are not forbidden to travel Pakistan and may have to apply from a third country provided that they are legal residents in that country.
What is the best time to visit Islamabad ?
The best time to visit Islamabad is between September and April because the weather is fairly pleasant. In the month of January you can experience hailing within the city whereas the mountain regions are completely snowcapped. Various festivities within the city are also active during this time.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Islamabad?
There are several modes of transport within Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The two cities are connected by Metro bus stations which is a public mode of transport used by general public. Other than that, Careem and Uber are widely used transportation networks that operate within the twin cities. Common modes of personal transport also include cars, motorbikes, bicycles, scooties and taxis. For more information on getting around Islamabad click here.
Rawalpindi is more concentrated with vehicles like Qingqi and Rickshaw which lead to a bumpy ride if you’re more of an adventurous type. It’s really about convenience and availability to choose a ride. From Islamabad international airport, Careem and Uber car rides are usually preferred.
What are the top three must visit places in Islamabad ?
Margalla Hills : The Margalla track is enclosed in a forest that leads up to the Himalaya Mountains. These mountains engulf Islamabad providing a scenic view. This hilly terrain is perfect for trekking and hiking activities. Amidst this forest-covered track, you may come across exotic wildlife. Daman-e-Koh is a particular viewpoint in the Margalla Hills that provides a clear panoramic cityscape of Islamabad with Faisal Mosque sitting spectacularly in the view. The Margalla hills flow down to Rawal Lake which is another key destination of the twin cities. In the abyss of Margalla hills, lies Saidpur village which is known for its historic importance, ancient artwork, lit bazaars, and traditional Pakistani cuisine. One of the biggest hotels in Islamabad, Islamabad Marriott Hotel is also located at the footsteps of Margalla Hills. Click here to know why you must visit Margalla Hills on your visit to Islamabad.
Pindi Food Street : (Rawal) Pindi Food Street near Rawalpindi Cricket stadium is underrated when it comes to pointing out must-visit locations within the twin cities. This place needs to be visited at least once to decipher how happening life in this city can be, especially after evening. The aroma of delicious Pakistani cuisine is infused in the surrounding air and the dazzling lights make the stay even more worth it. The most loved Pulao Rice of this city, Savour Foods is also present in the food street which have persisted over the years with their benchmark flavors in pulao rice.
Pakistan Monument and Lok Virsa Museum : Situated in Imslamabad, the Pakistan Monument holds a national importance with its marbled structure that provides a picturesque view of the capital city. The structures possess engraved historical evidences that depict Pakistan’s achievements and endeavors, including its independence. A wax statue exhibit is also present within the national monument to display patriotic reminders to its citizens. A few miles from the monument, Lok Virsa museum preserves Pakistani history and heritage. It is known for its antique display of art and music.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Islamabad?
Islamabad is known as the Green City of Pakistan due to its abundance in natural beauty and greenery. For daytime trips, it’s better to head for scenic attractions like Rawal Lake, Saidpur Village, etc or architectural masterpieces like Faisal Mosque and various Jamia Masjid within Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Daman-e-Koh Park, Lake View Park, Bird Park, F9 Park, Chattar, Shakarparian, and many other parks are available for a day time stroll.
Which is the most celebrated holiday/events of the year in Islamabad?
Probably 14th August, this is the Independence Day of Pakistan. You’ll find green and white (the colors of Pakistani flag) everywhere on this day. Right around 12 am, there are colorful explosions of fireworks in the sky and every house has a Pakistani flag swaying high on the rooftops.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Islamabad?
Islamabadis love anything with loads of spices in it. They add aromatics and spices to any cuisine and make it their own. Biryani (spiced rice) is loved by the people here and they are hard critics when it comes to making a good Biryani. Other than this, Afghani Burger is quite popular throughout Islamabad. It is a wrap consisting of sausages, french fries, mint chutney, and other condiments.
We prefer traditional Pakistani sweets Jalebi, Halwa, Gulab Jamun, Rabri, Kulfa Falooda, etc. Halwa (semolina cooked down with milk along with nuts and made out of desired fruits or vegetables) has to be the star since it’s a part of our weekend’s breakfast and celebrations as well. Other than that the people of my city desperately love Karak Chai (strong tea).
Are there any popular markets in Islamabad which tourists must visit?
There are a few large shopping malls in the twin cities namely Centaurus, Giga Mall, Safa Gold Mall, and Olympus Mall. These malls vendor local handicrafts and traditional wear as well.
Weekend and flea markets include Itwar Bazar, Jinnah Super, and Raja Bazaar. There are plenty of local markets and small shops that are up and running within the twin cities. To know more about the top shopping malls and market places in Islamabad, click here.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
The Monal Restaurant on Pir Sohawa has gained maximum tourist attraction due to its eye-catching view. Located on the top of Margalla Hills, Pir Sohawa is seventeen kilometres away from Islamabad. It is probably one of the best places to get an entire picturesque view of the capital.
Would you suggest any shows in Islamabad to sports, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in Islamabad?
A two-day annual tent pegging festival is organised in Islamabad to portray cultural heritage. Tent pegging is a cavalry sport of ancient origin and is quite popular in Pakistan.
Culture lovers can taste Pakistan’s best cuisine and music at the Food & Music Festival held in Islamabad. The festival witnesses home-based chefs sharing their secret recipes and a stellar line up of live music with other fun-filled activities.
Street art is quite rare in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. However, the only forms of art we get to experience on the streets are decorated trucks and rickshaws. Fully painted in vibrant colours these vehicles look no less than brides on the road.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Islamabad?