2003.10.11 Peshawar, Pakistan

The last few days in Lahore were great. Got out around the city a bit; saw all the parts that should be seen. The Lahore Fort has some quirky corners, including a secret tunnel to Delhi, which I presume has long since been sealed up. I spent quite awhile trying to dissect the geometry of the carved stonework around the fort. Much of it used fairly basic shapes: triangles, six-pointed stars, hexagons, and dodecagons but cleverly positioned to make for beautiful patterns.

Thursday night, the 9th, we went to a dhol. I'm still not quite sure exactly what a dhol is, but it evidently is some sort of late-night quasi-religious ceremony. Perhaps four-hundred men were packed around a small courtyard, with a handful of women hiding in the back. Most everybody was smoking hashish. Around midnight an old man with long hair, beard, and wearing baggy robes began beating a drum. A younger man accompanied with his own drum, then someone joined in with a bugle a bit later.

Old men in flowing robes, with long hair started spinning and kicking around. I don't know how they kept from bumping into each other, getting dizzy and nauseous, or tearing up their bare feet on the bricks. My favorite was a bald old man with a long beard, wearing a sash across his blue and white shalwar-qamiz. The whole situation seemed medieval enough, but he especially seemed out of a fairly tale.

We arrived late last night in Peshawar. I've got to thank the Daewoo company of Korea for bringing comfortable bus service to Pakistan. It helps that there are now motorways linking some of the bigger cities, but I'm amazed that it's actually possible to travel on time, let alone with a stewardess serving snacks. I suppose it'll be back to the bingity-bangity buses once we hit the Karakoram Highway.

We've been asking around town; it seems wholly possible to take a side trip to Kabul. Everything will be closed tomorrow (Sunday) but if we stick around Peshawar long enough we should be able to go. We'll have to sort out re-entry to Pakistan, an Afghani visa, and permission to travel on the road to the Khyber Pass.

Hanging around here for awhile shouldn't be a problem. For all its reputation as a wild-west frontier town full of smugglers, guns, and tribal tough guys, everybody here seems fairly laid-back, polite, and relaxed. Even when the taxi we took to the Afghani consulate was bumped into by another one there were a few loud words exchanged and then we each went our ways. I'd have imagined some sort of tribal feud erupting, based on descriptions I'd heard of the Pathan code of honor.