I left a pair of linen pants to be laundered before heading to breakfast with Tony. After the long flight they were misshapen and coated with flight funk and I wanted them fresh for my return. Laundry cost, €2.86 equivalent. A gal could get used to this.
The terrace doors of the breakfast room were open and a warmish breeze floated across; we left our phones and my shawl at a table equidistant from the breeze and the pistachio cake, and as if by magic a server appeared to ask if we might prefer coffee or tea. Tony flitted to the omelet station like the breakfast moth that he is while I surveyed the field. Mmm, the Channa Chaat looked wonderful and smelled heavenly—a small serving of that was added to the plate, next to the equally luscious Lamb Biryani, with plenty of room for a piece of the fresh Roti being brought out. Over to the salad table I twirled, where a healthy portion of Fattoush was captured in the salad servers, along with a side of “Housemade Fattoush Dressing.”
I must pause here to pay homage to the Housemade Fattoush Dressing. You would as well if you had tasted it.
The breakfast room.
Tony praised his boring omelet as delicious; and I did likewise my Pakistani Mezze. And then it was Pistachio Cake time, but you probably guessed that. Shortly thereafter Tony departed to do his part to make the world safe for democracy, while I waited (indoors) for Zulfiqar.
Valet with Fabulous Pugree had seen us in the hotel lobby and informed Tony that my driver’s name had been listed for the remainder of my stay so that I would not be delayed with Zulfiqar passing through security. A gal could get used to this.
Zulfiqar and I began this morning with a visit to Saidpur, a restored historic village tucked into the Margalla foothills of the Himalayas that surround Islamabad. Now it is a source of tourism, though some perspective is required: its major sights can be seen in one sweeping glance.
The old Hindu temple and Sikh Gurdwara recall a time long ago; the intricate arcade of the old Hindu guesthouse a treat for my eyes and my camera, thanks to Zulfiqar chatting with the guesthouse minder, who allowed me in. On the ground level was a series of before/after photographs detailing the restoration of the village. There are a few local artisans in the village; but again, perspective.
A group of school girls had been wandering the village on a break from the nearby school when I was spotted. I was swarmed and politely barraged with questions; with some girls taking notes while the others had their iPhone cameras clicking away at me. Group photos naturally followed.
As it was approaching the morning tea break, Zulfiqar suggested he ring his very best friend who lives in the village to ask if we might drop in for tea, so that I could experience real village life. I do not think this was planned; the timing just happened to be right.
We parked the car just as Friend met us (I have forgotten his name) and began our short walk to the house, Zulfiqar assuring me that all of the tigers are gone from the area (because they were eating the children who play in the streets), but that he and Friend would walk ahead to look for snakes. Not only was this dangerously thoughtful, it did help to explain why the small children were playing on the roofs of their homes and not on the road.
Quite literally every person working/playing outside their homes stopped to peek at me.
The entrance to Friend’s house was not through the gate (now the back of the chicken yard; but rather, through a narrow path on the side that hugged a cliff high enough to sprain an ankle if one slipped. I did not slip.)
Views from Saidpur looking toward Islamabad. The air was not polluted, it was just the morning fog; by noon the skies would become brilliant blue.
Friend’s Wife greeted me warmly; the children, though, were cautious at first. A table was set for me in the shade, and Friend’s Wife went about preparing tea and biscuits. The men disappeared for their own tea. Grandma emerged and nodded to me, then reclined on the outdoor bench to enjoy the warm sun. I broke the ice with the children when I offered them each a biscuit.
As I prepared to leave I asked if could take a photo. Grandma arose to readjust her headscarf and somehow I missed snapping her beautiful golden face, but she clasped my hands in hers, smiled and wished me well in Urdu. Zulifqar and Friend walked us back to where we had parked, the men on the lookout for snakes. The memories of this morning tea will always be fondest.