5 Places you can visit other than Murree this summer

Monday, May 08, 2017 Hiba Moeen 0 Comments

By Umana Khan

Every time we talk about spending vacations in Pakistan the immediate go-to response that comes in our minds is of Murree. Murree is perhaps the most popular tourist destination in the country that’s literally located on top of a mountain, and this accounts for its absolutely breathtaking views of unending forestry amongst enormous mountains. 

But the adverse effects of tourism have taken a toll on this beautiful hill station making it become increasingly commercial with time.  So for all those nature lovers who’re looking for an alternative holiday destination that still has its beauty preserved in its original form, we have 5 great spots for you:

Popularly referred to as the Switzerland of Pakistan, the Swat Valley is blessed with possibly the best gifts of nature. Running streams, dense forestry, fruit orchards, and huge mountains are all picturesque elements that this district is known for. 

What can I do in Swat?
     Visit the Malam Jabba Ski Resort (If you’re visiting in winter)
     Trek the Hindukush mountain range
     View the Jarogo Waterfall, Kandol lake, and Shahi Bagh
     Visit the Kalakot village, Gabral River, Bahrain and Alpurai town, and Kalam forest.


Abbottabad is located in the northern side of the country and is often treated as only a transit city that’s used to get tourists from one place to another without being fully explored. But even when it’s given just half a chance, this city never fails to disappointment. It is greatly appreciated for its pleasant weather, natural attractions, and historic monuments. 

What to do in Abbottabad?

     Offer prayers in the sacred Ilyasi Masjid
     Go on a chairlift ride above the hills
     Go Hiking in the Shimla hills
     Enjoy a daytime picnic at Thandiani

Naran - Kaghan Valley

The Naran valley and Kaghan valley are both located only a short distance away from each other, so are often discussed under the same heading. Even though this location is pretty well-known, most tourists make the mistake of not allocating enough time to it - The places and views of these valleys are so incredibly beautiful that you just won’t want to look away! 

What to do in Naran-Kaghan?

     Visit the angelic Saif-ul-Mulook Lake
     Make a trip to the Siri Paye Meadows
     Visit Shogran to enjoy the forestry, panoramic views, and pleasant weather
     Make your way to the Ansoo Jheel (tear shaped lake), the Malikai Parbat (Queen of mountains), Lalazar, and Noori Top for the best scenic attractions.

Located in the far north of the country, Skardu is scattered with hills, plains, and gigantic mountain peaks. The shifting landscape of this city makes it a remarkable place to visit! 

What can I do in Skardu?

     Visit the mesmerizingly beautiful Deosai National Park
     Explore the ancient Kharphocho fort and K2 Museum
     Travel to the breathtakingly beautiful upper Kachura Lake

When visiting the heavenly lands of Azad Kashmir, prepare yourself for the unbelievably enchanting sights. The scenery, mountains, and forestry of Azad Kashmir are all so surreal that pictures can never do justice!

What can I do in Azad Kashmir?

     Visit the Banjosa lake of Rawalakot
     Scroll the Gurez Valley
     Visit the Red Fort and Pir Chinasi in Muzaffarabad
     View the Nergola Waterfall

Source: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/christians-in-azad-kashmir/

Pakistan is blessed with so many amazing sights and attractions that you can never claim to cover them all. Every time you go out looking, you’ll find something more beautiful hidden in its mere innocence, amidst commercial chaos.

About the Author: 
Umana Khan is a writer and a travel blogger who interested in exploring the culture of Pakistan from an in-depth perspective.


Tommy the Caterpillar

Saturday, May 06, 2017 Hiba Moeen 1 Comments

If you happen to have Citrus plants (lemon plants in my case) then you would have had an experience with caterpillars, not to mention that this comes with mixed feelings since they eat away most of the leaves. AND, they eat a lot! But they evolve into butterflies so then we're even. Well,here I am, sharing what I had decided to do - document their life cycle from my garden of plant pots several feet above land.

Butterflies in my experience come out of no where as lay their eggs and tiny, microscopic caterpillars appear, you won't realise they are there until you see your lemon plant being terrorised by them and leaves seem appear around the edges. They eat non-stop and expand in size quite rapidly. I decided to house them into a jar and cover it with breathable net, this is when I realised that a large caterpillar eats about two fully grown lemon leaves, given the gluttons they are. Here's a picture I snapped of one of the caterpillars. This particular plant is the Bishop's Weed Plant or the Carom plant as the caterpillar seemed to have lost its way from its lemon home and dropped on it. Surprisingly this is the image result of my phone camera, one of the reasons I love Samsung.
Below is a picture of the caterpillar on another plant, its vine that flourishes in summer and appears barren in winter:

This is when I decided to pick the caterpillar, let's call it Tommy. So I picked Tommy up and placed him in a jar until further notice (read: until it morphed into a pupa, its chrysalis stage and evolved into a butterfly). Everyday until its chrysalis stage it munched on leaves, like I said before; at least 2 leaves a day.This is what the chrysalis looked like:

And then it starts happening, the pupa takes about 8 to 9 days and turns black when finally it withers off and the butterfly wiggles its way out. And yesterday when I got up to go to work, my nephew told me that Tommy has finally grown into a handsome Lime Butterfly. Yes, he was a male butterfly as can be seen from some distinguishing features. There is an orange spot on the hind wing in both sexes; in case of a male butterfly, a blue lunule with a narrow intervening black gap caps this spot. In contract, a female butterfly has a large black spot in between the blue lunule and the orange spot

I let Tommy out of the jar and it flew outside the window into our mini garden that when I gently lowered my hand and it crawled its way on my skin. Here's a video, in fact ... two videos:

Tommy making friends with the orchid plants:


We then finally decided to take Tommy where he originally belonged ... the lemon plant where he was happy to discover the still preserved habitat considering its Karachi and rapid construction and uninterested provincial government entail chopping down of trees and a destruction of flora and fauna. In conclusion, Tommy seemed happy and that's it ...

So here was a happy ending, I don't know where Tommy went next. However, I know where I went next; I sweated my way to work to later accost my TGIF moment - weekend!

These caterpillars reminded of my third grade class mate, he used to have a lot of caterpillars and started selling them to peers at the rate of Rs. 10 each. What a business mind this little man used to have as at that tender age he started marketing and selling caterpillars, thus monetising the very presence of these insects. I still remember his name. Danish Barlas, where ever you are, I'm sure you have become a successful entrepreneur! :)

If you want caterpillars, grow Citrus plants, have lemon plants around you, see butterflies sway across and birds chirp as dawn lights up the land with its glow, grow trees and don't cut them down, PLEASE! Plant fruit trees and preserve the bird habitat. Have you noticed the growing population of crows, these are opportunistic birds and still survive but we want those parakeets and sun birds and what not again. So please preserve nature, play your part, and if you want caterpillars you can come to me as well. But grow your own lemon plants at the same time. :)


The Time Traveller's Wife - Book Review

Monday, May 01, 2017 Hiba Moeen 0 Comments

"Why is love intensified by absence?" - is one of the strongest dialogues from The Time Traveller's Wife. Can you think of an answer? Perhaps having some occasional distance and some me-time are paramount in reflecting upon oneself and to genuinely continue loving, and loving again. This love could be refer to any relationship for that matter.

Well ... How has the long weekend been for you so far? Are you loving yourself enough this loooong weekend? I've been binge watching The Blacklist, knitting (making peace with a project I left incomplete), painting, and God knows what more I will do with the remaining time in what seems to be too good to be considered a reality. May 1 is a much deserved holiday for us, slaves (pun intended), and what more could we have asked for than having it on a Monday?! *drum rolls, TGIF and what not*

I thought of sharing my review regarding an interesting novel I recently read and I must say the well thought out narrative structure has the capability of having you engrossed until you finally finish reading what you started. Considering it was the debut novel of the author, Audrey Niffenegger, it's rather impressive how she linked the series of events and past, present, and future phases in the lives of the main characters while presenting a literary success.

The Time Traveller's Wife is about Henry de Tamble who time travels, a condition that later gets to be termed as the Chrono Displacement Disorder and is triggered when he is under stress. The odd part about his life is that he meets the childhood version of his wife when she is 6 and he, 36 as he involuntarily travels back in time. Or put in a different perspective, his wife, Clare Abshire meets him for the first time when she is only 6 not knowing that he would be her future husband, though in real time, Henry is only 8 years her senior. I don't know what the writer must have gone through while doing all the Math while keeping time travelling intact. Written mostly in first person narrative in Clare's and Henry's words, the author has the ability of making you feel as if you are time travelling with Henry as he keeps going back in forth in time, although he mostly keeps going to the past.

When Clare meets him for the first time, Henry is 28 and has no idea who she is yet Clare knows him very well, however, an older version of him. She has been one of the only few people since her childhood he can confide in as anyone could deem this time travelling condition as outright ridiculous. At the same time he has to be vigilant so as not to reveal to Clare regarding what the future holds since he has no control over the events that take place and he can't possibly alter them if travelling to the same time again; his mother's fatal accident being one of them as at age 5 that is the first time he travels a few days back in time. The car which he happens to be in with his mother faces a devastating impact and the stress causes him to vanish into another time zone, thereby saving his life.

Clare often nags him about the future and is curious about quite a lot that is yet to happen. She is often observed being anxious post Henry's atrociously long disappearances, at one occasion, Henry says, "Don't you think it's better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay your whole life?"

As he grows older and starts time travelling often, he has to resort to becoming a self-taught con artist in order to survive because when he becomes prey to his Chrono Displacement Disorder and travels in such a manner, he is unable to carry anything with him, not even his clothes. Sometimes, he has to steal clothes to guard his modesty while giving up on his moral values while the rest, people's wallets; he even teaches these tricks to the younger version of himself.

Clare is seen to have a decent level of maturity from her childhood days as she protects Henry and keeps him a secret. 

The novel gets a bit too stretched post these two characters' marriage, however, all in all, it's a good read and I was a bit surprised after going through some negative comments on Good Reads. The rather strange side is the fact that Clare becomes so obsessed with Henry and is sure that she would end up marrying him someday that she does not consider any alternative at all despite this being an uncertain notion. And the ending is something the author should have reconsidered, also Clare would once again wait for Henry for ages as she becomes old. Where would he disappear in all this time and would this condition be passed on to the coming generation? What approach would his child/children take towards tackling this condition? Read up ... for May 1 hasn't ended yet. :) 

And I'm going to end this on a phenomenal line said by a character, Raymond Reddington in The Blacklist (the crime show I have been drinking up these days), "You can't judge a book by its cover but you can by its first few chapters and you can most certainly by its last ..."

You've got to admire Jon Bokenkemp for this thought and having said that, I don't entirely want to judge this book by it's last chapter though I'm the person who read the last page of every book first. I know, I have my own set of disorders :)


March 23 and Karachi

Thursday, March 30, 2017 Hiba Moeen 2 Comments

On March 23, last week, we made an impromptu plan in a nick of time. We decided to go be part of the Air Show presented by the Pakistan Airforce and though it was evident that we would end up being late, it turned out to be completely worth it.

What we ended up watching was the last 10 minutes of the show but it was worth time and presence. The way the planes came flying and people would start clapping to watch them pull off their stunts was simply amazing. Among a crowd comprising of hundreds of people and decent people, the patriotic environment created added value to the venue. Watching it all on TV wouldn't have been as exciting as this element would have been missed out.

Below are some pictures of the PAF planes that I froze in time with my camera. Until next time when I would be punctual and pounce on the best spot for photography, let's have peace with what I have got now.

Here's a glimpse of the show


And then knowing that the day wasn't over for us, we, the trio comprising of myself, my nephew and my mother went ahead at the beach, not to mention that the stench was horrid but that's how Sea View is unfortunately. At least the camels and the horses were clean and colourful. Below is one such picture of a handsome camel that I captured through my bestie, my camera.

And so it happened; I spoke to the camel rider for my nephew, however, the little one who is not so little (he is 7) was scared for a ride alone which made me join in. Although it was an exciting few moments, my legs decided that they wanted to abandon my body after a while, especially when the camel, let's call it Sheeda ... when Sheeda started hopping. Surprisingly, I don't recall the last time when I went for a camel ride, it seems to be decades ever since. And the next three days weren't too good for my tendons and muscles, I felt like a drug addict facing withdrawal symptoms, or that's perhaps how it is, not that I have ever tried abusive drugs. The only drug I often use is coffee.

Sheeda was clad in radiantly arranged pompons and was all smiles for the camera. Camels are natural posers and they seem to smile most of the time if you haven't noticed it before, now is the time to do so.

Below is my favourite shot of the day, hopping about was Sheeda amongst the serenity of the sand and strong gusts of wind, not knowing what tomorrow would bring! 

Turns out that the camel rider was a good photographer, I handed him my phone is this is what he snapped, a lovely picture! Samsung is pure love!


KFC goes an Extra Mile

Thursday, March 30, 2017 Hiba Moeen 2 Comments

Zindagi Trust school children having a great time at KFC
Pakistan is one of the most philanthropic nations in the world, this is evident from the many giving hands all across the country. Pakistan Observer states that according to the study by Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy, individual philanthropy was calculated at Rs. 240 billion in 2015.

KFC quite recently is becoming famous for its Mitao Bhook campaign which has revealed a very generous and socially responsive side of the organisation. This campaign revolves around education and donation specific donation; KFC donates Rs. 50 to the underprivileged strata of the society on the sale of every fried chicken bucket. In the past, they have collaborated with the Deaf Reach school. 

This time, KFC executed a CSR activity, thus inviting children of Zindagi Trust for a treat while celebrating Pakistan Resolution Day together. The fast food chain has been able to raise Rs. 70 million for the trust and this time decided to go an extra mile and venture into running two of it's schools. 
On March 23, KFC therefore invited a school from Zindagi Trust that it has been jointly running for the under privileged children. The Khayaban-e-Itthad outlet thus highlighted the collaborative effort and agenda for the day with respect to the achievements attained so far. Education and literacy are now the point of focus for KFC in terms of giving the nation back from its existing profits and emerging as a socially responsive brand. The school children made the most of the moment and sang national songs to add to the patriotic feel.

KFC's CEO, Raza Pirbhai encouraged these children to think ahead and complete their education because it's now possible to reach great heights, thanks to special trusts and organisations like these.

Quite a number of celebrities and people from the blogosphere joined in to have fun with these kids and enjoy the delicious chicken because it's 'finger lickin good!'



Shahid Jalal's Flower Carpets of Lahore

Monday, March 27, 2017 Hiba Moeen 0 Comments

Artist, Shahid Jalal with his favourite painting!
A highly educated person, an immensely creative soul, and a down-to-earth personality! You will find all these qualities and perhaps even more in the Lahore based artist, Shahid Jalal. He is a treat to meet and learn from the moment you start talking to him. 

I happened to have visited Shahid Jalal's solo art exhibition at Artscene Art Galleries and was able to witness some of his finest work displaying the vivid colours of nature, immaculately preserved through his brush strokes. 

After retiring from Tetra at the age of 50, he had happily dedicated his life to art, 17 years back. Although, creating such master pieces wasn't new to him as he had been pursuing this mind relaxant called Art over weekends along with his regular job, post retirement painting has its own exuberant characteristic altogether. 

Jalal completed his CA from ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Whales) from the UK and returned to Pakistan in the 70s after which he served at Attock Oil for a considerable time period. By the time he left the company, he was working as Chief Accountant. He then completed a 1 year course from the National College of Arts (NCA) in the late 70s knowing that the artistic spark in him needed exploration. Jalal concluded this side of his career with a memorable chunk of his life at Tetra Pak then full time Art happened, and the rest is history. His present is as vibrant as his paintings. 

Music for him plays an important role in his energising activity as he likes to be all ears to Begum Akhtar while fully engrossed in his work.
Contrary to what people believe about those associated with the the field of Finance thus likening them to a dry demenour, Shahid Jalal has a very lively and colourful personality that makes him utterly creative. See it for yourself!

Artists gather for networking