Social Profile

FOOD AND DRINK : Pakistani cuisine is based on curry or masala (hot and spicy) sauces accompanying chicken, lamb, shrimps and a wide choice of vegetables. Specialities include brain masala, biryani (seasoned rice with mutton, chicken and yoghurt), pilao (similar but less spicy) and sag gosht (spinach and lamb curry). Lahore is the centre for Mogul-style cuisine known as moghlai. Specialities include chicken tandoori, shish kebabs (charcoal-grilled meat on skewers), shami-kebabs (patties of chopped meat fried in ghee or butter), tikka-kebabs (grilled lamb or beef seasoned and spiced) and chicken tikka (highly seasoned chicken quarters, charcoal-grilled). Desserts include pastries, shahi tukray (slices of fried bread cooked in milk or cream, sweetened with syrup and topped with nuts and saffron), halwa (sweetmeat made with eggs, carrots, maize cream, sooji and nuts) and firni (similar to vanilla custard). Western and Chinese foods are also widely available.

The national drink is tea, drunk strong with milk and often very sweet. Alcohol may be bought at major hotels by visitors who have been issued a Liquor Permit from the Excise and Taxation Office. Wine is expensive and only available in upscale restaurants. Pakistani-brewed beer is widely available, as are canned carbonated drinks. There are no bars since there are strict laws concerning alcohol, and it is illegal to drink in public. Waiter service is provided in the larger hotels and restaurants. Visitors should avoid drinking water from the tap; bottled water is available everywhere, but it is necessary to make sure it comes in properly sealed plastic bottles.

NIGHTLIFE : Top hotels have bars and dancing but there is little Western-style nightlife. Cinemas in the large cities show international as well as Pakistani films. There are plenty of cultural events featuring traditional music and dance organised by the Pakistani Arts Academy throughout the year. Festivals and annual celebrations are colourful and lively.

SHOPPING : Special purchases include carved wooden tables, trays, screens, silver trinkets, pottery, camel-skin lamps, bamboo decorations, brassware, cane items, conch-shell ornaments, glass bangles, gold ornaments, hand-embroidered shawls, rugs and carpets, silks, cashmere shawls and saleem shahi shoes with upturned toes. While some of the major towns have craft centres where handicrafts from different regions are sold, bazaars often provide the most interesting shopping. It is expected that the customer should bargain for goods. SHOPPING HOURS : Sat-Thurs 0930-1300 and 1500-1830. Bazaars stay open longer.

SPECIAL EVENTS : The following is a list of some of the special events taking place in Pakistan during 2003: Feb Sibi Festival (sport, handicrafts, folk music and dances), Sibi (Balochistan); Sindh Horse and Cattle Show, Jacobabad (Sindh). Mar Mela Chiraghan (Festival of Lamps), Lahore. May Joshi or Chilimjusht (spring welcoming), Chitral. Jul Utchal (harvest festival celebrated by the Kalash people), Chitral. Aug 14 Independence Day (processions and rallies), countrywide. Oct Lok Mela (folk festival), Islamabad. Nov National Horse and Cattle Show, Lahore.

Social Conventions: The right hand is used both for shaking hands (the usual form of greeting) and for passing or receiving thngs. Mutual hospitality and courtesy are of great importance at all levels, whatever the social standing of the host. Visitors must remember that most Pakistanis are Muslim and should respect their customs and beliefs. Smoking is prohibited in some public places and it is polite to ask permission before lighting a cigarette. It is common for visiting business people to be entertained in hotels and restaurants. If invited to a private home, a gift or national souvenir is welcome. Informal dress is acceptable for most occasions. Women should avoid wearing tight clothing and should ensure that their arms and legs are covered. Pakistani society is divided into classes and within each group there is a subtle social grading. The Koran is the law for Muslims and it influences every aspect of daily life. See the World of Islam appendix for more information. TIPPING : Most high-class hotels and restaurants add a ten per cent service charge. Other tipping is discretionary.

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Information provided by Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.


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