You may be wondering, “what is Pakistan known for?” Well, Pakistan is known for its rich culture, ancient heritage, and diverse cuisine. It is famous for its mangoes and chai, the Karakoram Highway, Mohenjo Daro and K2 Mountain, and the famed Pakistani hospitality. Let’s not forget that it’s the birthplace of the famous Malala Yousefzai, the youngest Nobel Price Prize Winner.
If you plan to visit Pakistan, or if you simply want to learn more about this beautiful country, here are 20 things that Pakistan is known for.
1. Biryani, Nihari and Palau
Pakistan is famous for the diverse spices and flavors incorporated in each dish. Each region has a specialty, which often makes it difficult for one to pick a favorite.
Sindh takes pride in its glorious Biryani, a rice dish crossed with various spices but not limited to cardamom, bay leaves, red pepper, cloves, cumin, and finally topped with tender meat. Lahore’s Nihari is an honorable mention, and honestly, your trip is incomplete without it. Nihari is a stew of slow-cooked meat, prepared in either butter or local ghee. If you travel further above, you will find Pulau a favorite, particularly in the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). This is because the region is close to Afghanistan, where Pulau is a tradition. The rice dish goes lighter on the spices and instead focuses more on the chickpeas. While meat is an option in Pulau, it is a luxury, so most people opt for vegetables instead.
2. Pakistani Mangoes
Pakistan is famous for its mangoes. With over 24 options, Pakistan takes pride in its variety. During the summer, locals flock to the streets to receive the mango carts. In fact, mangoes aren’t solely consumed as fruits, it is transformed into pickles or mixed into lassi. Some of Pakistan’s most famous mangoes include Sindhri, Chaunsa, Anwar Ratool, Langra, and Dasehri. A mango’s characteristic is based on features such as size, color, and scent. This way, it’s easier to describe it rather than saying the fruit is sweet. Pakistan’s mangoes are globally appreciated, making it a vital exporter. People receive the boxes of mangoes decorated in shiny paper shavings.
3. Wagah Border
Pakistan is known for its rivalry with India. However, if you want to catch both parties at mutual, then Wagah Border should be your next stop. Once you enter, a strong wave of patriotic songs and national slogans will greet you. With India on the other side of the gate, Pakistanis will scream after the flag bearer to express their patriotism.
At sunset, the crowd quietens, and the official ceremony begins. Rangers dressed in a black kurta shalwar accompanied by a fan-shaped hat aggressively stomp forward, as do the Indian soldiers. Both sides then intimidate the other through a sword and stomping routine. Eventually, two soldiers from either end meet at the gate, and the flag starts to lower. Lastly, a handshake between the generals signifies the conclusion of the ceremony.
4. Football Production
Yes, you read that correctly, football. Pakistan is known for football, but not for the reason you think. Since the ’70s, Pakistan has been manufacturing 40% of the world’s footballs in a small city called Sialkot. These footballs have received global recognition. Pakistan has been the official football provider in the FIFA World Cups, of the years 2014, 2016, and 2018.
5. Nuclear Arms
Pakistan is famous for being the only Muslim country amongst nine nuclear-armed countries in the world. It is ranked 7th on the list, just above North Korea and Israel, with an estimate of 160 warheads. Pakistan has said to have developed nuclear weapons in the ’80s and the last test conducted was in 1998.
6. Pakistani Hospitality
If there is one thing you will fall in love with in Pakistan, it is the hospitality. Strangers will greet you on the streets, shake your hand, take a picture with you, and even pay for your meals! Most of the time, you will find yourself not having to pay for anything; instead, you will be given more than you anticipated. As a tourist, can you think of a time when you didn’t have to pay for anything? This practice originates from the teachings of Islam, which gives the guest a special status. So in Pakistan, this is simply our way of saying ‘thank you for coming to our home’.
7. Mohenjo Daro
Pakistan is famous for the ancient Indus civilization: Mohenjo Daro. Built in 2500 BC, the city is known to be the best-preserved ruins of the civilization available for viewing today. It was built close to the Indus River and is divided into two sections: the citadel and the lower class. Given its elaborate baths and intricate drainage system, the structured city’s architectures were well ahead of their time.
The question of how civilians in a 250-acre city vanished still lingers. There is no evidence of places of worship or government to suggest a civil war; however, as trade was a vital feature in Mohenjo Daro, archeologists presume that the city fell victim to invasions.
8. Largest Volunteer Ambulance Service
Pakistan is known for having the world’s largest volunteer ambulance service. This operation was set up by the richest poor man, otherwise known as Abdul Sattar Edhi. Edhi began a volunteer service at the age of 20, recruiting medical students and collecting donations to organize a support system. Today, the Edhi Foundation operates over 1800 ambulance services that run across Pakistan. Additionally, he established hospitals, child care facilities, nursing homes, and conducted burial services. In particular, Edhi lauded for placing cradles in various areas of Pakistan to save neglected babies. Since then, over 20,000 infants have been taken under his care. In short, the Edhi Foundation has been the pride of Pakistan.
Pakistan is known for Chai. To create the gold mixture, the milk-based drink cooks the loose tea, cardamom, and an unhealthy amount of sugar. Chai provides energy, so you will find people drinking it at all times of the day, after every meal. In particular, it’s a necessity while driving. In fact, Chai has had a powerful influence on other regions. Today, the Middle East considers Karak Chai (Karak meaning strong) its signature drink.
10. Wedding Festivities
Pakistan’s wedding festivities are like no other. In many parts of the world, the wedding planning lasts weeks, and the event itself takes a day. In Pakistan however, it’s a year-long planning for a month of celebration.
A total of five events are set to occur: Mayon, Mehendi, Baraat, Nikaah, and Valima, each with a cultural twist. Singing and dancing are an exceptional part of the ceremonies and it can last up to 2am. In particular, the cousins of the couple might put on a surprise choreographed performance, which you definitely don’t want to miss out on. Another famous custom is finding ways for the groom to open up his wallet, whether it’s paying for his stolen shoes or gaining entry to the venue.
A quick tip though, Pakistanis are oblivious to punctuality, so if the wedding card says to arrive at seven, just translate it to 10.
11. K2 Mountain
Pakistan is famous for having five of the 14 tallest mountains in the world. In particular, Pakistan is known for the second tallest mountain, K2.
Unlike Mountain Everest, K2’s climb is not anticipated by many. To begin with, it has a higher fatality rate than Everest, due to its fine triangle shape, resulting in a steep and intense climb. In addition, the snow-capped mountain poses several threats, including avalanches, risk of pneumonia, and lack of accessibility for help. There is also no clear pathway such as on Everest, which makes trekking in the glacial ice far more dangerous.
Unless you’re an avid mountaineer, it’s best if you stay clear of K2 as there isn’t much to do for a tourist. But if you really want to see a mountain range in Pakistan, then you should head to Fairy Meadows to get a view of Nanga Parbat (ninth tallest mountain).
Pakistan is widely known for cricket. The sport has played a pivotal role in the country ever since Pakistan won its first ICC World Cup in 1992. Since then, the team has worked to produce legends, world records, and a name in cricket. Pakistan fame comes from the production of the mass amount of fast bowlers, such as the likes of Imran Khan (now Prime Minister), Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, and many more. Bowlers like the Rawalpindi Express and the Sultan of Swing were known to instill fear in batsmen.
The team itself has been given various names throughout the decades, The Shaheens, men in green, but Pakistan is notoriously known as ‘the most unpredictable team in the world’. No other team can create a more unpredictable result, whether it’s turning a losing match into a victory, or experiencing a devastating loss despite the odds working in their favor.
13. Karakoram Highway
Pakistan is known for the highest paved highway in the world, the Karakoram Highway.
This highway was initially part of the silk trade route. Today, it is also referred to as the China Pakistan Friendship Highway as it connects both countries. Although the 1300km highway sounds overwhelming, it definitely won’t be boring. You will come across various cities, ethnic groups, and some of the most gorgeous sceneries in the world. Besides, you don’t want to miss out on the mountain range, which includes the Himalayas, Hindu Kush, and of course, the Karakoram.
If China is on your itinerary, then not only will you be driving on the highest highway in the world, but also crossing the highest border, the Khunjerab Pass. So if you’re staying in Pakistan for some time, you should definitely make this trip, but be sure to read up on the weather, visas, and transportation system.
14. Khewra Salt Mines
Pakistan is home to the second-largest salt mine in the world, the Khewra Salt Mine. Hidden at the base of the Himalayan mountains, the salt mine was said to have been discovered by Alexandar the Great, well, his horses.
Today, it is a famous tourist attraction and a prize possession. Health officials believe that the pink salt has healing properties, while others admire it for its aesthetic. Nonetheless, the Khewra salt mine is a must on a trip to Pakistan. The mine composes of various layers, hence, its entry requires a ride on the railway. Once inside, you’ll notice that everything consists of pink, red, and white salt, including the mosque, where the miners go to pray.
To get an idea of how glorified pink salt is, there’s a hospital inside for asthma patients. Each site in Pakistan is unique, and the Khewra salt mine is definitely no exception.
15. Field Hockey
Pakistan’s national sport is field hockey. Yes, field hockey, not cricket.
Unfortunately, the team has not seen much success in the game in recent years. However, Pakistan is known for being the most successful national field hockey team in the world, having won four Hockey World Cup championships. In addition, it has made proud appearances in the Asian Games (a total of eight gold medals, the highest earned), the Champions Trophy, and of course, the Olympics (three gold medals). Field Hockey has been the pride of Pakistan, having set world records and obtaining elite titles.
16. Mosques and Shrines
Given that Pakistan is the first country formed based on the ideology of religion, it has an abundance of mosques and shrines.
Faisal Mosque, located in Islamabad, is the fifth-largest in the world, with a capacity of 10,000 worshippers. What is particularly unique about this mosque is that it is shaped like a tent and has no domes. The Badshahi Mosque is also an iconic figure in Pakistan, given its fort-like structure with three large domes. Moreover, the intricate carvings of the red sandstones signify the influence of the Mughal era. Other mosques include the Jamia Mosque, Eid Ghah, and Masjid-e-Tooba.
In addition to mosques, shrines equally hold a value. As Islam was flourishing in all corners of Pakistan, Sufis and saints were a significant part of the religion’s expansion. You will find several shrines and burial areas of notable figures all over Pakistan, such as the shrine of Baba Farid.
Pakistan is known for Malala Yousefzai, the youngest Nobel Price Prize Winner. Malala was an advocate for girls’ education in her hometown Swat Valley, which was under Taliban occupation. However, a fatal gunshot to the head temporarily suspended her advocacy and instead took her to the UK for treatment. Despite the attack, Malala did not stop her fight. Her efforts eventually lead her to win the Nobel Peace Prize as well as achieve admission to Oxford University. Although she hasn’t returned to Pakistan since the attack, her motives to improve girls’ access to education isn’t complete. She has since established a non-profit organization called Malala Fund, which aims to fight for girls’ education globally.
18. Truck Art
For most people, trucks don’t hold any personal significance. If you ask a person to describe one, they’ll probably go along the lines of large and loud, not much of a description.
In Pakistan, however, trucks are possibly the most striking vehicle. Colorful trucks conquer the streets with their clanking chains and musical horns. They aren’t just vehicles; they’re storytellers, and their drivers take pride in it. They passionately decorate the large vehicle with detailed paintings, religious expressions, jokes, calligraphy, and metallic chains. Some even go the extra mile by adding dramatic poetry. In recent years, this form of art has become widely recognized in Pakistan. Today, truck art has inspired shoes, clothes, home decor, and more.
19. Geopolitical Tensions
Pakistan is famous for its dispute with India. Despite the conclusion of the war in 1947, the neighbors continue to find themselves in a rivalry. While there has been no progress towards peace, the most recent focus has been Kashmir. However, Pakistan borders its closest friend up north. The country has received immense support from China in various aspects including infrastructure, development, military, trade, and aid. It’s safe to say that whenever geopolitical tensions rise, China leaps to Pakistan’s defense.
20. Pakistan’s traditional Clothes
Pakistan is famous for the Shalwar Kameez, the traditional clothing worn all over Pakistan. It is a full-sleeved shirt that reaches the knees, accompanied by wide pants tied together with an elastic. This attire is gender-neutral but can be differentiated based on the embroidery, color, and length of the kurta, and tightness of the shalwar. Additionally, women wear a matching Dupatta with the outfit as a form of decency.
Despite the standard design, each province offers its cultural touch to the garment. In Sindh, you will commonly find block printing on the clothes, known as Ajrak. In Balochistan, women wear a more flared Kurti, more like a frock. Heavy metallic jewelry is also a prominent accessory on the women. Peshawar on the other hand is notorious for its Peshawari chappals. Each district distinct style can be found on everything including shoes, shawls, and fabrics.
Pakistan’s portrayal in the media is unlike what it truly is. It is a country with natural beauty, scenic landscapes, diverse cultures, and a passion for food. As a local and tourist, I can assure you that you will have some of the best travel experiences in Pakistan.
Do you know other things that Pakistan is known for? Share it in the comment box below!