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Symptomatic of the relief of being in unexpectedly comfortable Quetta, I slept, watched crappy straight to video American teen flics and then treated myself to the best restaurant in town. A quite flashy joint complete with set table of sparkling wine glasses and cloth napkins, it was like an oasis of respectability compared to the grubby pavement stalls and eateries, a Biryani and trappings still cost me under 2 quid. After a tour of the towns excitingly priced bookshops, I spotted the Pakistani Air Force overhead in their intriguing F-7 Airguards, a chinese copy of the MiG-21. Uniformly dressed tribesmen in their red turbans and shawls were noticeable amongst the very varied people on the streets, and then back at the hotel I bumped into Alex from Sweden.

Next day I took a walk out to the small Quetta Museum which was even smaller than expected, just a few small rooms off a central courtyard, it took all of 5 minutes to go around. There were pictures of very ancient cave art which existed in the area, first of the Gravettian Culture of the 22nd-18th century BC, then more pictures of ibex, lions, goats and hunting scenes in red ochre of the Magdalenian Culture of 18th-12th century BC. The oldest artifacts went all the way back to the Chalcolithic, seashell jewellry of circa 7000BC, also blades and stone axes. Pottery from Mergarh was dated to 4800BC with other finds from the same site being some 2 millennia younger. There were male and female figurines, with distinguishing beaked noses and hollowed eyes like hawks, also seals. Large jars from other related sites at Nindo Damb and Noushero were also from circa 2500BC.

Next door was an armoury of flintlock rifles and pistols, one marked Thomas K. Baker of London. There were also many curved swords of which one was presented in a special case. It was reputed to be still stained with the blood of some unfortunate colonial and so perhaps a point of commensurately local pride! A third room was an underwhelming collection of ancient Korans.

Next day was just a walkabout whereupon I had a chance to ponder the quite considerable list of contrasts from Iran, and most of them proved not to be in the positive. It had surprised me to learn that Pakistan can technically be considered a failed state, with only 1 per cent of the workforce reportedly paying income tax. The so called developing world was ever present to see now, with seemingly ownerless dogs and cats roaming the streets in search of meagre pickings. They scavenged the now massive swathes of litter, sometimes joined by desperate locals, trying to scrape a living together amid open sewers, cattle, water buffalo, donkeys and flies. The air was thick with dust, compounded by horrendous air pollution which could be seen most notably piling out from the back of the choking 2 stroke autorickshaws, they were the worst culprits in the sizeable noise pollution stakes too. In a nation of reputedly over 10 million unemployed, child labour was now the norm for the majority and people were more often than not at least only semi-literate.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Pakistan

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