Posted by vmsalama on March 14, 2012
I have days when I really, REALLY miss living in Lahore, Pakistan. The energy that city possessed was unlike any other (and having lived in Cairo, I KNOW energetic cities). People were always out, and there was always something happening in the city center. There were streets that smelled of spices and little outdoor shops that served a dozen different kinds of tea. (My recommendation: Kashmiri tea. It’s very unique and very delicious!) There was also the amazing Lahore fish market (near Taka Takk) which featured an endless strip of outdoor dining restaurants serving fresh fish just the way you like it! On winter nights when it rained, the air was so crisp. My housemate and I used to ride around town on his little motorcycle/scooter. I used to cover most of my body and tuck my hair under a hood – not because I was trying to be modest, but I was always trying to conceal the fact that I am a woman since, in Pakistan, women side-saddle motorcycles and bashfully hold on to the male driver. (I, on the other hand, would straddle the motorcycle and hold onto my male friend for dear life. But I digress….)
The memory that came to me today was that of Coco’s Den, a brothel-turned-restaurant in the historic old city, overlooking Lahore Fort. The restaurant, which serves traditional Pakistani food, is run by Iqbal Hussain, whose mother was a madame at the brothel. Iqbal, also a artist, painted many controversial images of women in the brothel, often looking out over Lahore Fort at the adjacent mosque. The paintings are displayed throughout the restaurant. It was one of my favorite places in Lahore, and one of the country’s many pleasant surprises. It’s amazing that for all the country’s problems with extremism, places like that (and others) are acknowledged and untouched. People accept that it’s part of their history. I hope to visit again very soon.