Thousands of kite lovers celebrate the famous and traditional Bassant Festival in Lahore by flying kites, battling kites in the skies for air superiority, wearing colorful clothes, arranging parties and musical shows.
Public parks and rooftops get crowded with revellers. Hundreds of thousands of kites make it to the air and people use their expertise with threads and moves to cut others' strings. Each time a kite is cut, the winners' party goes wild.
The bassant marks the beginning of the month long Jashan-e-Baharan (Spring Festival) in Lahore that includes Horse and Cattle show, cultural shows, sports events, fruites and flowers exhibitions, music shows and lots of related entertainment.
Thousands of visitors from within the country and abroad reach Lahore to celebrate the function.
In the pictures, young Pakistani women dance to the beat of a drum during the colourful spring festival locally known as 'bassant' in Lahore (courtesy: Arif Ali, AFP) and the colorful kites await customers (courtesy: Arif Ali, AFP).
Islamic countries vary with their rules for who can and cant enter a mosque, if in doubt ask a local person. Remove your shoes before entering mosques(common sense) and tip the local shoe keeper 5 rupees when you leave the mosque. Loud and intrusive behavior is not tolerated as is smoking, displays of affection, walking in front of a person praying or joking around. One final guidline is DONT photograph anyone you want in Pakistan as it is incredibly offensive and in some areas may lead to a major confrontation.
Pakistanis are known for their hospitality towards visitors and your appreciation will be registered if you respect local customs. While you are not expected to get everything right common sense and courtesy will get you a long way. If you are unsure of how to act in certain settings ie mosques or bazaars, ask someone or watch what the locals do. Do not pertake in public displays of affection as this is not condoned by society in any Islamic country other than Lebanon. You may see Pakistani men holding hands with each other but his is accepted as a non sexual relationship/friendship.
If you are a woman and in Pakistan during Ramadan and Eid, you must - at the end of Ramadan - get your hands hennared. Its so much fun and a very traditional thing to do. Buy new clothes, shoes, and henna. The girls who apply this henna are so experienced and very artistic. I must say tho' I did not like one of my hand designs. Next time i will be more vocal, but for a first time experience it was fun. BE WARNED - HAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO SPARE. They told me it would only take 10 mins. The 10 mins was to apply the design. THEN it takes about 30 -40 mins to dry before the remove the residue. I had mine done in one of the markets in Islamabad, but you will find the stalls everywhere just prior to EID.
As general rule : respect the local culture/traditions.
For ladies, wear loose clothes while in Pakistan.
Summer is very hot so wear cotton cloths...but it is pleasant in mountain areas.
The people are very generous, friendly and always ready to help the foreigners. (don`t believe American media...). They often invite you at tea (and if it is meal time then they do invite for lunch or dinner).
Urdu is national language, but english is also understood widely (espacially in cities), in rural areas very few people can understand english...but at least one or two person in every village know english.
When visiting Mosques you must remove your shoes. Dont worry, you will get them back. The minders have amazing systems to know who's shoes belong to who. When I collected my shoes after visiting the mosque in Lahore, the minders had my shoes to me in less than a minute - amidst hundreds of pairs.
I don't think I saw a single truck in the whole of Pakistan that wasn't decorated to some extent. Most of them are gorgeously painted in a variety of eye-searing colours, and often have huge overhanging canopies over the cab, which must add lots of weight not to mention drag - and then there's the vast quantities of scrap metal, formed into chains of decorative symbols, dangling from the rear bumper; these create a cacophany of jangling, and not infrequently set off sparks from the friction with the road! Look closer and you'll see that the doors of the cab are actually elaborately carved wood as well.
The vehicles are frequently the old English Bedford-style truck, and are a real icon of Pakistan's roads.
Unlike the Gulf, where non-Muslims are discouraged from visiting mosques, it's perfectly all right to enter one in Pakistan. There are some rules to follow -- which apply to any mosque anywhere actually: no one may wear shoes or enter with bare arms or legs. Women must cover their hair. It's also considered impolite to enter a mosque during any of the five daily prayer times. Otherwise, you will have no problems. Photographs are allowed, though I wouldn't ever use flash inside. Fast film is a better option here. Finally, one should always be circumspect when shooting women. I'm very discreet and usually use a long lens for the purpose (An 80-210 auto-focus zoom is very useful.).
Its customary to gift money in marriage ceremonies. Go to a bank or money exchange and have the US D cashed in PK Rupees. I would say the proper amount to give would be about 1,000 to 3,000 Rs. as a gift. But it would be best for you to gift 1,000 Rs. to the bride and groom at the actual ceremony day. Then give 500 or 1,000 Rs. to the woman or man of the house which you are staying you can give it to them when you are sitting together talking as is proper. Throughout the stay, offer to buy them a dinner outside, ice cream, or some refreshments. And before leaving you may again give the bride or groom another 1,000 Rs. under the table as a blessing to their marriage. Its very customary and very proper to give this way.