Tourism in Pakistan: A French doctor takes 6,000-Mile ride

The “Foxy Shahzadi”, or Beetle Princess, is the most distinctive car from Lahore to Lyons. Its body is covered in a psychedelic array of flowers, waterfalls and the faces of famous Pakistanis. The idea by Dr. Vincent Loos behind this 6,000-mile trip is to promote the “soft side” of Pakistan. “We want to show the world it’s not just about terrorism,” says Loos. Travelling by Foxy, as Beetles are affectionately known in Pakistan, Loos is paying homage to a local motoring cult. Dozens of well-maintained Beetles ply the streets. (Mine, in a cool grey, is Betsy, a proud 1967 model.)Photograph: Tanveer Shahzad/Dawn newspaper
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FROM PAKISTAN TO PARIS, BY VW BEETLE

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by Declan Walsh

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Note for WoP readers: In spite of terrorism there are still many rays of hope for tourism in Pakistan. One of the kind now comes from a French doctor who got the novel idea of projecting a soft image of Pakistan. A foxy named Shahzadi (the princess) is the car which is on road again: Dr. Vincent Loos of the “Doctors without Frontiers” was in Pakistan for the last 3 years. He describes his VW beetle ride from Islamabad to Paris and his sojourn in Lahore in following words:-

IQBAL: THE POET OF THE EAST

I was in Lahore on 9th of November 2009, the 132nd birth anniversary of Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), the poet-philosopher who is ranked among the greatest literary and philosophical figures of the 20th century. Iqbal belongs to the illustrious line of poet-philosophers exemplified by Rumi, Hafiz, Jami and Khayyam in the Islamic tradition, and Milton, and Goethe in the European tradition. From all of these, however, he differs in one important respect. As a Western-educated Indian Muslim he was equally conversant with the philosophies of the East and the West.

Carrying a portrait of the Qaid, Allama Iqbal and the message “Maañ ki Dua, Jannat ki Hawa” proudly comes the “princess” to Lahore].

In the words of Hermann Hesse, the great German writer, he “belongs to three domains of the spirit or intellect, the sources of his tremendous work: the worlds of India, of Islam, and of Western thought.” As an eloquent writer and speaker, who was of academic distinction and equally at home with Urdu, Persian, Arabic and English, he well qualified to interpret the East to the West and vice versa. This is exemplified by one of his early books of Persian poetry, Payam-i Mashriq (Message of the East: 1923), subtitled: In reply to the German Philosopher, Goethe.

Thus it is that although Iqbal addresses his message first and foremost to the Muslims of the world, and particularly to his compatriots, he speaks to all of mankind. His distinguished Hindu fellow- poet Rabindranath Tagore, said on hearing of Iqbal’s death: “India, whose place in the world is too narrow, can ill afford to miss a poet whose poetry had such universal value.” Iqbal wrote his incomparably beautiful and moving poetry in both Urdu and Persian, and much of it is known by heart by millions of people in Pakistan, India, Iran and elsewhere.

His philosophical writings in prose are mostly in English, the foremost of which is entitled: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930), one of the truly outstanding books on the subject ever published, Iqbal Academy UK wrote at its website. There can be no better introduction of Iqbal than his poetry. Some of the Persian poems of Iqbal are the most sublime pieces of Persian poetry. In his mathnawi, Pas chibayad kard ay Aqwam-e- Sharq, he addresses himself to the Eastern nations and it indicates that his keen eyes had an all-inclusive view of the entire Muslim world.

Iqbal greatly identified with the Iranian nation — and one of his famous poems is dedicated to the people of Iran which begins with the following verse:

I am burning like a tulip’s lamp on your path, O youth of Iran, I swear by my own life and yours.

And he says:

The man is coming who shall break the chains of the slaves, I have seen him through the cracks in the walls of your prison.

Well, Dr. Vincent should still be on his way to Paris. He has already described his foxy journey from Pakistan to Iran, Turkey and then finally when he enters Europe on way to his homeland, I am pretty sure we will have more updates from him till he reaches Lyons.

Back home in Pakistan we witness a rapid decline in our tourism activity, so is the hotel and hospitality business which bears the maximum brunt of this decline. All sorts of catering and lodging, be they the road side stalls or five star hotels, small rental rooms or elite guest houses, all segments are having a strong pull on their resources. Owners of different tourism related businesses in the country feel that it will be a long long time till the industry can get back to normal. People are scared, they say and are reluctant to come to Pakistan.

But thanks to people like John Bradley, Bernadette Speet and now Dr. Vincent Loos who love this country and its potential for tourism; they visit this war ravaged land taking all risks we Pakistanis are used to take in these testing times. (John was already here in Lahore and we put up an interview in our August 2008 issue. Another of this series from Bernadette Speet, a Dutch lady cyclist will be put up on these pages sometime during next month).

And now the news item that appeared in daily Dawn, Karachi and some other local and foreign newspapers. This one is courtesy Guardian of London, UK.

Note: You can also follow Loos’s trip on artonwheelstour.canalblog.com [Nayyar]

Low-key is good in Islamabad these days, where the threat of Taliban suicide bombings has filled Pakistan‘s capital with checkposts, blast walls and a queasy air of anxiety. But one proudly conspicuous car rolled through the streets last week – a 25-year-old Volkswagen Beetle, painted in an explosion of trippy colours. At the wheel was a defiant doctor, Vincent Loos, headed for Paris.

“My dream was to return by road,” says the 39-year-old Frenchman, who has just finished three years’ work at a local hospital. Doctors without borders indeed – or perhaps doctors without sense. Only six months ago his ride was a dust-smeared wreck, collapsed at the bottom of an Islamabad street waiting for a final trip to the scrapyard. Loos, an intensive care specialist, restored the car to full health, then hired an artist to paint in the local style known as “truck art”.

Now the “Foxy Shahzadi”, or Beetle Princess, is the most distinctive car from Lahore to Lyons. The body is covered in a psychedelic array of flowers, waterfalls and the faces of famous Pakistanis. The idea behind the 6,000-mile trip is to promote the “soft side” of Pakistan. “We want to show the world it’s not just about terrorism,” says Loos.

Travelling by Foxy, as Beetles are affectionately known in Pakistan, Loos is paying homage to a local motoring cult. Dozens of well-maintained Beetles ply the streets. (Mine, in a cool grey, is Betsy, a proud 1967 model.)

The Beetle came to Pakistan in the 1950s with army officers and bureaucrats returning from postings abroad. The appeal has endured – Mubashir Hasan, a finance minister from the 1970s, still drives his around Lahore. Romano Karim of Islamabad’s VW club estimates about 500 “Foxies” travel Pakistan’s roads. “Cute, quirky, cheap spare parts – it’s the ideal car,” he says.

The French doctor’s Foxy should reach Paris sometime this week. His team is equipped with an ample stock of spare parts and a line of Urdu poetry inscribed on the bonnet: “Every mother’s prayer is a breeze from paradise.”

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. A very interesting blog.I particularly enjoyed the 6000Kms journey.

  2. haha, nice post, here is my take on tourism and Pakistan

    http://alphaza.blogspot.com/2010/01/pakistan-tourism-policy-2010.html

  3. Example set for others. Nothing is impossble

    • Right you are Ehsan! Nothing is impossible, if it were not for the babus of tourism ministries at the centre as well as in the provinces and this includes their bosses too, the politicos who are all busy milking the cow called tourism in Pakistan. You and me can very well imagine what is possible and what is (im) possible in the corridors of tourism ministries and their ancillary set ups in different parts of the country.

  4. ART IS LIFE LIFE IS ART

  5. This is a very good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.

    Simple but very precise info… Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read article!


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