INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

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The Apian [sic] Way — طريق النحل

International fliers are expected at the Islamabad airport three hours early. In 2007, a botched suicide bombing attempt was foiled by security guards; in 2001, a ticking time bomb was discovered and taken to an airport parking lot to explode impotently. Security is tight, and we were three hours away. In the end, I’d arrive at the first pat-down only 75 minutes before the flight, but plop down in the massage chair of the business class lounge (entry: $8) with an hour to spare. See, thirty kilometers from Abbottabad in the wrong direction, there was something even more beautiful than two extra hours with airport security.

The famous Karakoram Highway (the KKH) connects Pakistan and China at the 15,397-foot-high Khunjerab Pass, earning its title as “the highest paved road in the world”. It begins in Abbottabad and ends 800 miles later in Kashgar, a Uyghur city in China’s Xianjang region. The road wound up into the ridge and looked down on Abbottabad in the valley, where less than six week earlier, a couple American helicopters had dropped by to kill the world’s most wanted terrorist.

We branched off just outside of town and climbed up into the foothills towards Thandiani, the first hill station — a rest stop and camping site for vacationing locals to eat and hang out. It was June, and Lahore was 110 degrees with hardly any trees for protection. Over the Salt Range and up onto the Potohar Plateau, Islamabad was no better. At 4,000-feet, Abbottabad was already a glorious 92, but the best was yet to come. Thandiani, in the local Hindko, means “cold wind.”[1]
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