Saturday, November 9, 2013

What do I buy in Pakistan?

I can't believe it took me so long to post this. Usually I like to get the superficial posts out of the way first, but somehow this one got lost in these shuffle.

Anyway, Pakistan is a shopper's paradise. At every market, mall, and bazaar there is a treasure trove of things to be discovered.

I was fortunate enough to be traveling (and shopping) with locals, who took me to the best malls and markets, and did all the dirty haggling for me.

From what I've been told, Pakistan is not as cheap as India, but I found prices to be very reasonable...which meant that I didn't make a good haggler. However, in the end I spent more than I had budgeted, and had to take out money...Woops!

1. Jewelry

Jewelry of various quality is omnipresent at every market and mall in Pakistan. Of course, gold is preferred over all else, but I didn't have that much money on hand, so I bought some local costume jewelry from a few vendors.

The large neckalce on top was purchased in Islamabad. It is made by hand from antique metal and glass. 

The dangling strange below it are tikas. They are worn on the head by pinning them to the hair in the center of the forehead, so the jewel hangs down just above the eyes. 

I also bought these blinging bracelets. It was difficult to find ones that fit my large hand. 

2. Scarves

Scarves are also a hot purchase to make at markets, and again, the quality ranges from dirt cheap to the price of a plane ticket. I bought the scarf below at a store called Nishat Linen in a mall in Islamabad. It was around $20 USD. 

3. Parandas

Parandas are one of my favorite finds from Pakistan. These are long tassels that are braided into the hair. Traditionally worn by village women, parandas where once only black, to give the appearance of longer hair. Now they can be found in a variety of colors. Parandas only cost between $1-2 USD. Although I did not see any women wearing them on the street, some women did wear them at the wedding I attended. It is especially classy when you match your paranda with your dress. And speaking of classy, check out these pictures of me in a paranda and slutty dress at a gay bar. Yep, I know how to keep things culturally appropriate. 

4. Shoes

I was told by a woman in Dubai that shoes are her number one purchase when she goes to Pakistan. Unfortunately for me, my feet are too large for regular shoes, so I was forced to dig through the Liberty Market in Lahore for a size 12 pair of kolhapuri chappal, which are the traditional shoe made in Lahore. These cost around $5 USD. 

5. Clothes

My final and most treasured purchase was clothing. Fortuantely I'm not too fat for Pakistan, so I fully enjoyed all the delights of boutique shopping. Mostly, I bought modern versions of the shalwar kameez.  This is a traditional outfit consisting of a tunic, pants, and a long scarf, called a dupatta. Many local designers come up with new, modern versions of the shalwar kameez every year. 

My favorite places to shop were Generation, Beech Tree, Daaman, and Nishat Linen. These are all local brands that provide ready-to-wear sets of tunics, pants, and dupatta. A set can cost as little as $30-40 USD. However, many Pakistani women have their clothing custom made for them. They will go to the boutique, pick the fabric and trims, get measures, choose a design, and the tailor will have it ready within a week. A custom shalwar kameez set can cost around $80 USD.  

Check out some photos of me in this tunic from Nishat Linen. 


I couldn't mention all the wonderful things about Pakistan without talking about the generous gifts I was given. 

The wooden container is hand-carved, and was given to me by a lovely family in Lahore. My host in Islamabad also bought me many DVDs on Pakistan, as well as this rare book on Pakistani folk tales. Try finding that on  Amazon! 

Also, although I don't have a picture of this, my host family in Karachi kindly bought me a gold ring on my first day in the city. 
Pakistanis are so wonderfully generous, and all I had for them was a box of melted chocolates from the U.S.. 

Tip: If you go to Pakistan, don't go empty handed! And don'y bring things that melt!

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