Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I enjoy a stroll around the mall by my house. It seems I am always running in to pick-up soccer shoes for the kids or a new pair of jeans. I am so accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells that I don't even notice them anymore.
Here in Islamabad every one of my senses is on full alert as I wander around the market. The shops line up next to one another in small rows winding around corners, up stairs and spilling into parking lots. The windows call me with their displays of jewelry, rugs and pashiminas.
We go into a pashimina shop that my husband likes. Scarves are stacked on shelves from the floor to the ceiling. No two scarves are alike. My fingers run over silk and wool and cotton. Patterns are woven into the fabric. Embroidery and dyes catch my eye. Silk coats with bright flowers embroidered on them are only $30.00. The shop keeper keeps pulling more and more pashiminas out, draping them on the counter.
In the jewelry shop we discover boxes of raw gems just waiting to be set into a custom design. Heavy jewelry for weddings lays under the counter. Blue lapis stones from Afghanistan are a favorite here.
The call to prayer rings over the loudspeaker. The voice is tinny and the song is sad.
The wood shop has trunks and tv trays beautifully polished with brass inlaid in intricate designs. Small and large brass vases with delicate designs chiseled in are stacked everywhere.
Outside the shops are carts selling food. We stop to get some french fries from a young man. He is peeling the potatoes, cutting them into strips then tossing them into a vat of hot oil. He skims out a fresh batch for us and asks if we want seasoning. He hands me a paper bag made out of old newspaper. I pop a steaming french fry in my mouth. I smile at him and say "These are so much better than McDonald's!" He smiles big and starts shoveling more fries into my little pouch.
At the women's shop I try on several shalwar kemeez. An old woman comes comes over taking my hands in hers she smiles at me. She does not speak English and I do not speak Urdu yet she shows me that she is happy that I am wearing her style clothing. A young woman comes up and chats telling me about her country. I leave with two new outfits.
Before leaving we grab some dinner to go. The gentleman rolls out two pads of dough and throws them on the grill. He puts on some grilled, spicy (in my opinion) chicken and cheese. I decline the spicy sauce. He wraps it up burrito style and I munch on it as I get in the car.

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