Nestled at the foot of the Margalla hills, the capital city of Islamabad is neatly if not logically divided into eight zones: administrative, diplomatic, residential, educational, industrial, commercial, rural and green areas. I remember a cleaner, calmer, less traffic-snarl-ridden city but these days the population is up, the pollution is rampant, and the tension is high. "Islamabad, the Beautiful" but not everyone thinks so. This is not to say that the whole town has gone to the dogs . . . those maddening, barking, insane dogs. Each sector has its own shopping area, some pretty public parks, and beautiful mosques.
My grandfather lives in the elite neighborhood of Sector E-7, home to the opulent, jaw-dropping, incredible Faisal Mosque which holds the title of the largest mosque in the world (Baghdad started one up, but, well, you know how things are going on there these days). My father, sister, and I took a long, early morning stroll around E-7, passing by several palatial residences - including one Abdul Qadeer Khan whose house was the only one with flowers growing across the street near the guard's hut - on our way to Faisal Mosque.
Completed in 1986, King Faisal Mosque (named after Saudi Arabia's King Faisal) features a large prayer hall, a small mausoleum for Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and four sky-scraping minarets (which, if memory serves me correctly, sports real gold crescents on each minaret). We turned the corner and saw a sheep grazing on a grassy slope. We turned another corner and saw an enormous banyan tree that had been sorely abused and burnt up by some ignorant youths - look closely and you can see my father and sister on the left.
We had a pleasant walk and followed it up with a pleasant trip to my aunt's beauty salon DePilex. My sister and I were treated to soothing, cleansing facials and when we were glowing and refreshed, my cousin picked us up and took us shopping. Eight khussas, three chappals, and one antique collection of tiles later, we came home and relaxed. In fact, we relaxed so much that some of us fell asleep while I was recounting the storyline of The House of Sand and Fog. The rest of us eventually followed suit and we all napped the remainder of the afternoon away. We rounded off the evening with Abez and Owl at the hip, funky "CJ's" (short for Civil Junction) in Sector F-7, sipping cappuccinos, savoring ice creams, and snickering over their humorous menu entries.