Category Archives: Friday Phlogs

I went to Hingol Balochistan so you won’t have to!

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For all those suffering from social anxiety, (yes even the ones pretending to be strong), I have news! Last week, I took a step so bold that I surprised everyone, especially my bed! I got off it for a full day!

I had very recently left my safety net, my very comfortable job where I had been for the past four years. The move on my part was extremely nerve wrecking. Completely unaware about the future, I took a leap in the darkness hoping to land on my two feet (and I did, more on that later!) And here steps in the anxiety bit. For a while I was very concerned about being at home. What would my relatives say? What are you doing these days? Oh nothing. (The horror). The worry soon gave way to absolute happiness. I was doing nothing. I was not expected to be responsible for anything, I was answerable to no one (except maybe mum, over where all the food went). All was good. But you can’t hold on to a good thing can you? I got another offer, and well I accepted it (later!).

Being used to lazing around the house all day like a cat, I realized I had forgotten how to human. So when a friend suggested a day out of the city, exploring the wilderness, I thought hey why not. The easiest way to learn how to human was spending time observing them and so i convinced my mum to let me go (I never ask dad, I know he would say no. instead I let him find out once I have left. My poor poor mum, I love you so much!)

The day long trip was to Hingol National Park Balochistan. I told myself I needed to get out of the house, and with that I messaged my friend asking, what I needed to pack for the trip. Cash? Sunblock? An extra pair of clothes? She told me yes on the first two and on the third she asked me if I was planning to strip tease on the bus? (I swear she’s weird). So packed with a ginormous sun hat, tons of sunblock and a water bottle I headed out of the house at exactly 4;15AM. Yes. You read that right A freaking M! That is how early you need to get up to visit this place! The alley cats all hissed in surprise as I made my way to the car ready to be dropped at the bus waiting to take us out to the middle of nowhere.

The trip was one of those organized tours where different groups are forced to co-exist together for a few hours. My group consisted of six people namely me, my two friends, and three of their friends. There was this group of 40 something aunties which we secretly wished we were a part of because they were loaded with goodies, Snickers even! Then a huge family with annoying toddlers. And a couple more too insignificant to remember. When finally all the groups had arrived we began moving. I have trouble sleeping on moving vehicles. So all through the sunrise, till the time we stopped at a café for breakfast I was wide awake. Erm after that too. The café was again in the middle of nowhere and offered us hot parathas and omelettes with tea.

A gazillion minutes later, everyone boarded the bus and headed back on the road. Our first destination was the Hingol National Park, home to the very famous Princess of hope, a rock formation that over the years has been eroded by mother nature to resemble a lady wearing a Chinese hat. See for yourself.

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The route consisted many of a sandy deserts on both sides with a few stray bushes and clay mounds popping up here and there. Soon however the topography changed into something worth actually taking a picture.

Hills, lots of them! Tall short, zig zaggy, the hills had something new to offer. The view and the never ending stories of my friends about trips they had taken in the past, were my constant companions for the next 2 hours or so.

And finally the bus came to a stop. Standing atop an expanse of crumbly rocks was the Chinese lady, or the Princess of Hope. Getting up close meant hiking up 300ft of those crumbly hills. At first I noped my way back into the van, then the prospect of being in there with ladies entertaining toddlers, I decided falling and breaking my neck was a far better option. So up I marched behind my friends, shrieking on every step that I couldn’t, but managed to advance anyway. A lot of help from strangers and friends and I finally was at the top.

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The hike was scarier than it looks -_-

Selfies ensued of course, because pictures or it didn’t happen. A little further away from the hope lady was something that attracted me more, a desi version of the Egyptian Sphinx! Alas I couldn’t take a picture, so here’s one I found on the internet.

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Say hello to the Pakistani Sphinx!

The next stop was the Kund Malir Beach. I have a thing for the beach. Take me to the beach and leave me there (with all the items of my need of course) and I will happily spend my life. Unfortunately the beaches of Karachi are too full of humans and waste and human waste to enjoy much. But this beach, Lord Almighty wow. The clean sparkling blue water and the garbage free sand was a pleasant surprise. The beach was so clean even the sea shells were alive. We pranced around for a while. Yes, more selfies.

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The Kund Malir beach being away from population has very few huts, and most of them have only popped up in less than six months due to the recent increase in tourist trips. And so the particular hut we stopped at was shared by Lord knows how many road trip enjoying humans. We waited a good hour for lunch to be served. The space was limited, the families unwilling to vacate and a few squirmishes ensued. I didn’t mind them, the food was taking ages, might as well get some entertainment. Finally three huge bowls full of Chicken Karahi were propped down in front of with slabs of roti. All of us were too famished to wait for plates and started eating out of the bowl nearest to us. The time was something around 4pm.

 

Finally around 5;30 all of us were herded back onto the torture chamber and off we went to the next destination, the Nani Mandir, an ancient temple located high up in the hills in a cave. As much as I wanted to go home, I braved the situation (what choice did I have?) and arrived at the temple.  Mind you I hadn’t had much sleep all during this time. So while the crankiness in me tried to find a way to surface, I made use of my camera and took a walk along the path leading to the temple. Picturesque as it was I really wished I was home comfortably tucked in my bed. This was the longest I had been away from it in days! Anyway I followed the crowd up to the cave, met the Swami jee who shared the history of the temple and finally the trip was coming to an end. Not really, no.

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Now came the worst part. The hours long ride back to civilization. During the 4 hours maybe more, I tried sitting in hundreds of different positions hoping to find one comfy enough to let me sleep, but nope.

Hours later, full of sand in places I didn’t know were a part of my body, dirty, with a numb and sore behind and very hungry I reached Karachi. Never had I been so happy to be here.

I am an ungrateful, spoilt daddy’s little brat. So while I complained at every corner, and wished I was home all along, I secretly enjoyed every minute of it. Oh and it all cost Rs. 2,500/-!

Interested in taking the trip? Leave a comment and I’ll connect you with the organizing team.

Lots of love!

A Revival of Craft

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There is no shortage of talent in Pakistan. However, there is a serious dearth of recognition. The local artists and the handicrafts industry in the country suffers from the lack of care and genuine interest in the items. Talent, the skill to beautifully craft things is passed down from generations, often getting lost in the process when people are forced to resort to other means for survival.

Adorn – Artisans Development Online Retail Network, is one social enterprise ensuring a proper future for the local artists. The network came into being solely for the purpose of providing support to the artists and promoting their work through social media. This way, a genuine interest in their products is created and a proper channel to market those goods both nationally and internationally is formed. As a result most of earnings and benefits find their way to the pockets of the artists, not the middle dealers.

Adorn partners with various NGOs working in Pakistan particularly with women and children, teaching them valuable skills that can help them run their household. The list of products available by Adorn includes quilts, home accents, children’s bedding and other gift items.

Last week Adorn held an exhibition ‘A Revival of Craft’ featuring the work of the local artists. A number of NGOs participated and displayed their handicrafts. Organizations like Development In Literacy – DIL, SABAH Pakistan, Ra’ana Liaquat Craftsmen’s Colony – RLCC, Indus Resource Centre, Thardeep Rural Development Programme and Aik Hunar Aik Nagar – AHAN.

Once I entered the building, it was like stepping into a completely different world. The wide array of colours left me speechless. The beautiful bags, embroidered clothes, pouches, accessories made my wallet scream in protest. Stalls each bearing the name of the organization proudly exhibited their good and scores of starry eyed women made circles around each buying whatever they could.

My heart set on this gorgeous blue handbag by AHAN, which I unfortunately didn’t buy. But someone in front of me did, and I silently implored them to take care of it.

Creating a proper market for handmade goods which have a demand all over the world is a great way of connecting the artists with their buyers. This way not only do the artists reap maximum benefits for their hard work, the buyers too can be sure of the authenticity of the items they buy. This also is a great way of bringing to light the tremendous potential a country like Pakistan has and can offer if given half the chance.

People interested in viewing these products can either browse through their online store on Facebook page ADORN or visit their website www.adornonline.org.

Lux Style Awards 2012

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Being a blogger sure has it perks. I recently enjoyed some of them after being invited to the Lux Style Awards 2012. I was of course the ‘social media’. Such a cool ring the term has to it.

Held at Expo centre Karachi on July 10th 2012, the star studded gala was everything you can think it to be. Over the top, glitzy, glamorous and numerous other adjectives ran through my mind. Being one of the few nerdy bloggers in the sea of ‘cool’ people, yes I thought of adjectives to describe the night later in my blog.

The trophy

While others posed and ‘cheesed’ for pictures, the nerd (me) was busy tweeting about how people posed and ‘cheesed’ for pictures. The Ponds waiting area, a perfect substitute to the play area at other venues kept the guests occupied as hour after hour passed by with no signs of the event starting. People took turns to ‘cheese’ yet again with two golden Ponds women, for whom one couldn’t help but feel sorry after a while.

The Golden Girls

Once the show started everything was forgotten. Ahmad Ali Butt was the host of the show, and pulled off quite a number of well maila jokes at other people’s expense. But of course it’s always funny when it’s about other people so I laughed away. (Did I mention I secretly love him now?)

The awards for the best film, actor and actress without doubt all went to the movie Bol. But that might have to do with the fact that Bol was the only movie made and nominated. End of story.

Recognizing the gems of the industry for the work they dedicated their life to is always heart warming. And the tribute paid to Ahmad Rushdie was no less. After being given the award for lifetime achievement, numerous celebrities grooved onstage to his beats. One of them was Faisal Qureshi. All those times I complained about him being the judge of a dance competition, I take that back. The guy can shake it indeed.

The performance

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was also presented with a Special Appreciation Award, which she said meant more to her than the Emmy, since her work for the first time was appreciated at home.

The show had its share of highs and lows. My favourite moment was of course Ahmad Butt ramping it up on stage. The not so favourite moment included Sadia Imam trying to act cute while announcing the winner’s name.

The most awaited moment of the night came when Ali Zafar paid a tribute to the late Mehndi Hassan. His performance of the ever green hit ‘Mujhay Tum Nazr Say Girah Tou Rahay Ho’ will be remembered for a long time to come.

And the award goes to:

Best Film Bol by Shoaib Mansoor
Best Film Actor  Manzar Sehbai for Bol
Best Film Actress Humaima Malik for Bol
Lifetime Achievement Award Ahmed Rushdie
Special Appreciation Award Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Best TV Actress  (Terrestrial) Sanam Baloch for ‘Sehra Teri Pyaas’
Best TV Actor (Terrestrial) Noman Ejaz for ‘Aao Kahani Buntay Hain’
Best TV Serial (Terrestrial Tera Pyar Nahi Bhoolay
Best TV Actor (Satellite) Faisal Qureshi for ‘Rog’
Best TV Actress (Satellite) Savera Nadeem for “Qaid-e-Tanhai’
Best TV Serial (Satellite) Mera Saeen
Best TV Writer Sameera Fazal for ‘Mera Naseeb’
Best TV Director Sarmad Khoosat for ‘Paani Jaisa Pyar’
Best Song of the Year ‘Woh Humsafar Tha’ by Quratul Ain Baloch
Best Original Soundtrack Woh Humsafar Tha
Best Music Video Director Adnan Malik for ‘Mera Bichra Yaar’
Best Music Album ‘Jhoom’ by Ali Zafar
Best Emerging Talent Bambu Sauce
Best Emerging Talent in Fashion Zaheer Abbas
Best Fashion Photographer Rizwanul Haq
Best Hair and Make-up Artist Nabila at N-Pro
Achievement in Fashion Design-Pret Kamiar Rokni
Achievement in Fashion Design-Luxury Pret Sania Maskatiya
Achievement in Fashion Design-Lawn Sana Safinaz
Best High Street Brand Khaadi
Best Menswear Designer Omar Farooq @ Republic
Lifetime Achievement Award Faiza Samee
Model of the Year (Female) Cybil Chowdhry
Model of the Year (Male) Abbas Jafri
Best Dressed Red Carpet Male Umair Tabani
Best Dressed Red Carpet Female Sanam Chaudhry

Online Shopping – Confession of an addict!

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Ever since I learnt about it, online shopping has become the bane of my existence!  The ease with which one can buy things online is unmatchable. While many people believed that online shopping in Pakistan cannot flourish, the numerous website operating within the country have proven them wrong.

I myself fell a victim to online last month, when a friend introduced me to a website selling high quality branded cosmetics. Going by the name ‘Just4Girls’ http://www.just4girls.pk/ this site is cosmetic heaven.. especially for people like me.

It took some serious effort on my part to make myself push the place order button, but once I did, there was no stopping me. I would add items to cart, fill in the details, but when the time came to place the final order, I always chickened out. But then I saw these gorgeous nail polishes from Beauty UK, being sold by Just4Girls at a discount, and instantly I was onboard.

Wild Child, Matte Top coat by Beauty UK from Just4Girls

I have since purchased four Color Studio Professional nail polishes from them, along with a matte top coat also from Beauty UK. I have also been eyeing the Sally Hansen cuticle remover which they are out of but I signed up to be notified as soon as it’s back in. (Yes you can do that).

Color Studio Professional from Just4Girls

The thing you gotta love most about online shopping is the facility of the things being delivered to your doorstop. You select things you want when you log onto the computer ‘pour passé le temps’. And soon enough they are arrive. The service by Just4Girls was highly satisfying. Providing cash on delivery services, my orders arrived within two days of my placing them.

A regular online shopper Atiya Abbas who hooked me to online shopping thinks online shopping is a great way to get your hands on brands it’s not possible to find in Pakistan. ‘I remember watching videos where people showed products and I thought I would have to make do with cheap and possibly dangerous substitutes available here. Not anymore.’ Here is a snapshot of Atiya’s haul from various online websites. Atiya is a frequent visitor of webpages like Splurge, International Makeup in Pakistan, Beauty Unleashed and Just4Girls.

Owl pendants from Splurge, China Glaze nailpolishes from International Make up in Pakistan, lipsticks from Just4Girls, blush from Beauty Unleashed.

Another customer new on the online shopping scene, Ayesha Ahmad swears by the snake ring she just bought online. A home based enterprise operating on Facebook ‘Dhanak’ sells various female products, from skin care items to jewellery. Branded products like body shop, Nyx, Avon etc are available from the page.

Snake Ring from Dhanak

Numerous pages such as Dhanak operate through Facebook. Pictures of things available through them are uploaded and interested customers can browse through these albums and place orders for what they like. I too purchased this beautiful pendant from Dhanak. However these pages do not offer cash on delivery services and payment has to be deposited in an account number provided by the owners before the products are delivered.

Pendant from Dhanak

I also chanced upon another webpage selling jewellery. Going by the name HAYA, this page is run by another woman entrepreneur. I preordered two necklaces I absolutely fell in with the minute I saw the pictures. Even though I suffer from some weird condition where wearing metal causes my skin to break out with crazy hives and rashes, I was still undeterred from buying these babies!

Necklace from HAYA

Necklace from HAYA

Where so many advantages of online shopping exist, there are also some disadvantages. As Ayesha recounts, she ordered a clutch from one such webpage online. The order was finalised and she deposited the money in the account. However when she received the clutch, she found out the color was brown and not black as she previously thought.

Issues like these will bug you no doubt, but look on the bright side. The birthday of my nephew was around the corner. Everybody gave him toys. I wanted to do something extra. I had recently come across a webpage selling custom made cushions with personalized messages and images. And viola, the idea for the perfect present. I got these lovely cushions made for my niece and nephew. Courtesy RTW Creations. They arrived within a week.

Personalized cushions from RTW Creation

This blog on online shopping cannot be complete without me mentioning my most prized possessions purchased online. Books. Yes. I admit I am a book worm. I have been looking for these everywhere but couldn’t find them. One visit to Liberty Books and delivered to my doorstep!

Books from Liberty Books

One of the coolest t-shirt brands to hit the country, Azad is already making a name for itself. Launched very recently quite a number of people have purchased their shirts. So when I had to buy my brother a present, guess where I headed? Online of course!

Azad T-shirt from IAmAzad

I also managed to get my hands on this Kajal by Rivaj from Eye Love Makeup So dark it is it makes me look like a raccoon! I still love it even though at times it seems I have been punched.

Kajal by Rivaj, Eye love Make up

Most of these pages do charge an additional fee for delivery. However Azad tees delivered through Blue Ex carried no extra charges, with cash on delivery! The is an entire online store available on the webpage with products ranging from tees, to branded lawn from Deepak Perwani all delivered to your house, with no shipping charges. Pay cash once your order is delivered.

All this I purchased in the month of May! Thank God I just got my paycheck. June watch out!

Bear with the poor quality photographs. I am a writer not a photographer!

Shopped anything online? Tell me.

Be an Etihad Guest!

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There are some people who love to travel. And there are some people others wish would travel. I luckily fall in both categories.

The world being full of beautiful places to visit, breathtaking sites to see, nobody can claim to live a full life without seeing it in all its majesty.

If you are a globetrotter, and wish to travel in style, you are in for a surprise. Visiting new places is a thrilling adventure. However the actual travelling part kills the joy. One has to suffer horribly bland food, screaming babies kicking your seats and above all the jetlag! But nothing matters once you touch concrete right? Wrong. If travelling drains you of all your energy what are you left with for the more important things? Zilch, nothing, nada!

Fear not, Etihad airways is here to make sure that doesn’t happen. Already the world’s leading award winner for 2011, Etihad airways continues striving to make the travelling bit of you globetrotters for business and pleasure, as comfortable as possible. And not just that, Etihad awards you with its exclusive guest points for doing what you love immensely. (Travelling in case I got too vague).

The Etihad Guest loyalty programme now in partnership with Avari Hotel International makes sure that you don’t just fly in comfort, but spend every hour having the time of your life! Etihad guests choosing to stay at Avari earn 1 mile for every USD that they spend. Furthermore they can enjoy innumerable facilities reserved for them under the agreement.

Pakistan is rapidly becoming one of the top ten countries Etihad airways cater to, running 23 flights per week from Abu Dhabi to Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar.

I recently visited the Etihad properties in Avari Hotels Karachi, and let me tell you I was rendered speechless. Doing the talking for me are these pictures below.  See for yourself what exactly you can expect if you choose to fly Etihad and be an esteemed guest at their Avari property.

One of the luxurious rooms exclusively for you women of the hour! With an all female staff looking after their every needs, women can comfortably lay back in between their excursions. No man can ruin this for you!

While you relax, check out the amazing view from the rooms! Not enough stamina to venture out? Just sit back at enjoy the skyline of this amazing city that never sleeps! I strongly advise no jumping into the pool no matter how refreshing it looks from up here. We’ll get to it in just a bit.

The Asia Live dinning area where you can treat yourself to exotic food hot off the oven. It is open 24 hours a day, so don’t hesitate to pay a visit if those pesky midnight cravings bother you.

Ahhh the pool. Knock yourselves out. Excluded from the world between shady green trees, the pool will provide you the much needed relief from the sweltering heat of Karachi.

The fully equipped Gym where you can burn off those calories you picked up at the Asia Live dinning area. The food being irresistible, you can fill up to your heart’s content and simply work off here.

After a tiring day, pay a visit to the spa! Waiting to refresh you is this Jacuzzi. Take dip, and let your worries bubble away.

And if the Jacuzzi doesn’t do the trick, have a massage to calm down those frenzied nerves of yours. Forget meetings, schedules, live in the moment.

Have to meet someone? Head down to the Cinnamon Lounge! Treat yourself to a cup of coffee, or a Cinnamon iced tea (my recommendation) to get an instant boost of energy.

The Cinnamon Iced tea is a must try!

Do you still need more convincing? How’s this? Guests who fly Etihad and stay at Avari in UAE or Pakistan before June 30th earn double guest miles. So get packing!