Magazine voor de Porschefanaat • jaargang 14 • driemaandelijks • februari/maart 2018 • 53
NEW PORSCHE 911 CARRERA T PORSCHE IN PAKISTAN NGONI
PAKISTAN 'Where are you from?' asks a curious teenager. 'Belgium', we reply. The boy looks at us with unconcealed admiration. 'Do you like Pakistan?' Even though we have only just arrived in Lahore, we nod in agreement. 'Selfie?' he asks and immediately raises a hand holding a smartphone. With a broad smile we stand next to him and let ourselves be immortalised. In no time at all, we are surrounded by a whole group of young people who all want to take a picture with us. We seem to act like a magnet to them. And not only to them, but also to their parents, neighbours and friends. We are an oddity, and that is quite a strange experience. We had not considered that for many Pakistani, we might be the first foreigners they have seen for a long time. After 9/11, tourism in Pakistan completely collapsed. Many youngsters born after that fateful day have never before seen a Westerner. Time to change that.
text & photos: kathleen van bremdt - photos: sven hoyaux
Pakistan. To say that the country has a bad reputation in the West is like kicking in an open door. Suicide attacks in Karachi, terrorist violence in Islamabad, stronghold of the Taliban, bin Laden's hiding place for many years, not to mention the eternal border conflict with India, ... The country is invariably in the news in a negative way and there are a lot of reasons not to go there. But from friends who were there, we heard how overwhelmingly beautiful the country is and how amiable its population. We needed no more encouragement. Only a Porsche, of course, but one was quickly found thanks to the help of the Porsche Centre Pakistan in Lahore. Because if you thought that there are no Porsches in Pakistan, you would be wrong. Even better: we don’t just get to speak to one, but three Porsche owners. As not a single travel agency in Belgium offers Pakistan as a travel destination and no recent travel guides can be found, we call on the help of a local travel agent. Qasim Khan, of Adventure Travel Pakistan, is the perfect man. We immediately see eye to eye and he puts together a fantastic travel programme for us. On Friday the thirteenth, for heaven’s sake, we fly with Qatar Airways to the country of the Indus to check on the spot whether the many prejudices circulating about the country correspond to reality. Just before we take off, we receive a text message from Qasim asking what our clothing sizes are. Uhm, what does he need those for? Probably for bulletproof vests, is our first thought.
RELIGION AS DIVISION Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world that originated directly because of religion. When India had had enough of the British colonial yoke in 1947 and clamoured for independence, the Muslims took advantage of the freedom struggle to claim their own state. Hindus and Muslims had not been able to get along with each other for some time and the Muslims feared being dominated by the Hindu community in a sovereign India. The British used the difference in religion as a yardstick to divide the Indian subcontinent into a large secular India that consisted of the areas where the Hindus were in the majority, and a smaller state of Pakistan in which the Muslim areas were united. Thus, India's independence led to a rupture of the country, the so-called partition. The Muslims may have won their battle, but their new Islam state was geographically unhappily arranged. Most Muslims lived in Punjab, in the west of the former British Indies, but 1600 kilometres further east, there was another province with a large Muslim population: Bengal. This meant that Pakistan therefore consisted of two parts that were far apart and that - apart from Islam - had very little in common. Inevitably this spread out situation led to a new separation. In 1971, after a bloody civil war, East Pakistan broke away from West Pakistan and from that day forward referred to itself as Bangladesh
Central dome of the Shahi Hammam, Lahore
THE MANY TREASURES OF LAHORE Everything we see around us points to the fact that the metropolis Lahore is right on the border with India. The crowds, the explosion of smells and colours, the lively bazaar, the juicy English in which we are addressed ... We recognise it from previous journeys. In the wake of our guide Ahmad, we set off to visit two of the most beautiful buildings in the city: the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque. Both date back to the period when Pakistan was part of the great Mogul Empire. The Mogul dynasty reigned over almost the entire Indian subcontinent during its boom period in the 17th century. The Moguls may well have been notorious conquerors, but they also loved art. Behind the red exterior walls of the immense fort complex lies a magnificent world of grandeur, mysticism and refinement. We walk through breath-taking palaces with beautiful glass mosaics, wander through auditoriums clad in shiny white marble and climb stairs so wide that the ladies of the royal harem did not have to descend from their elephants when they were taken to their rooms which were decorated with artfully carved wooden screens. From under the arches of the Naulaka pavilion, we can see the Badshahi mosque. The harmonious minarets, domes and pillars of the mosque radiate in the evening sun. That is precisely what makes the Mogul architecture so beautiful: the amazing realisation of balance and symmetry.
Art and architecture flourished under the Mogul dynasties.
Pakistan Rangers at the flag lowering ceremony
CHAUVINISTIC SPECTACLE OF THE HIGHEST ORDER The border post at Wagah - less than 30 kilometres from Lahore - is the only official border crossing between Pakistan and India. For five decades, the ceremonial lowering of flags has been taking place daily here, just before sundown, amid a lot of attention. This is accompanied by a military parade of both the Indian Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers. On weekdays an average of 4000 enthusiastic onlookers follow the spectacle, on Sundays this can rise as high as double that number. We walk through an arch of red brick and end up on a terrain along which stands are built on both sides. There is hardly any room left, but Ahmad has reserved seats for us. Right in front of the entrance gate are two black metal gates with a white stripe in-between that marks the border. Deafening music blares from the loudspeakers. As if it were necessary, cheerleaders encourage the crowd even further.
'Pa-kis-taaan!' they roar. 'Zindabad!' (long life) the crowd shouts back. 'Pa-kis-taaan!' 'Zindabad!'
This continues the whole time. An immeasurable energy is shimmering through the crowd and a sea of green-andwhite flags is being waved energetically backwards and forwards. Amid loud applause, the first Punjabi Ranger appears on stage in full regalia. His wide-open eyes are as dark as his black uniform and the starched fan on his turban is reminiscent of a cockscomb. With a fierce look and raised arm he heads straight to the gate. He swings his leg repeatedly high into the air so that his knee nearly touches his nose. Behind him, more Rangers follow. They too march with a great deal of bravado; stamping, lifting up their legs, fists clenched. The audience goes completely crazy. We hear that the same spectacle is happening on the Indian side. After fifteen minutes of unadulterated macho behaviour, the gate slowly opens. There they face each other - the Pakistani and the Indian - with only a vacuum to separate them. Once enemies, now neighbours, but still a long way from being friends. A curt handshake is all that they can manage. The ceremony ends with the simultaneous lowering and the precisely executed folding of the flags, after which the fences are closed again until the next day.
A HOTEL UNDER SIEGE The Pearl Continental Hotel in Lahore is teeming with soldiers. Air force officers of various nationalities circulate in battle uniforms through the lobby and corridors and occupy almost all the seats in the restaurant. We are amazed. Of course, we want to know what is going on. We try to find out from the two Europeans who we notice are part of the group - a Brit and a German. We only get an extremely vague answer. One Nigerian colleague, however, talks more freely. ‘Together with colleagues from 25 other countries, I am following a course at the International University of Defence in Islamabad', he says. ‘The Pakistani army has, after all, a lot of experience with the fight against terrorism. We receive lectures and training at various locations in Pakistan’. See, those examples of constructive collaborations are not written about in our newspapers. Whether we are safer with all those soldiers around us or not, is anyone’s guess. On the king size bed in our hotel room, we discover two goodie bags with nice gifts from Porsche and the travel agency. They include a T-shirt with the inscription 'Welcome to Pakistan'. That's why Qasim needed our measurements, of course. We look at each other and burst out laughing. Bulletproof vests, indeed ...
THE MOTORWAY TO PROSPERITY We drive to Islamabad. But getting out of Lahore is not that easy. Angry farmers have placed blockades on all major through roads. They are striking because they are not satisfied with the agricultural policy. Maybe you would not have immediately thought so but striking is a right in Pakistan. A good thing no doubt at the social level but a complete disaster for the morning rush hour. Long lines of honking cars, buses, mopeds and rickshaws form. An unflappable man with a horse and cart also demands a space in the queue. The traffic police can only watch on, and everyone just does what they think best. Miraculously, our driver manages to extricate us from the traffic chaos and we find ourselves on a perfect motorway. All the frenzy has evaporated and before us stretches a wide, first class motorway with 6 lanes, 3 in each direction. Every Porsche driver must surely breathe a sigh of relief once he has reached this point. The M2 - Prime Minister Sharif nicknamed it the 'Motorway to Prosperity' - was opened in 1996 and links Lahore with Islamabad across a distance of 367 kilometres. As far as that prosperity is concerned, the country still has a long way to go, but it must be said that the toll road drives as smoothly as the Route du Soleil. Even though we are still in Pakistan and not in France and our driver has to take into account slow-moving cows and donkeys camping in the middle of the road. We pass numerous trucks that are full of unbelievably exuberant decorations. It is all so over the top that it becomes beautiful again. Or shows how a truck can be elevated to a cultural object. In four hours, we reach the capital of Pakistan.
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ISLAMABAD: A SMOOTH FIFTY-YEAR-OLD Islamabad did not exist at the beginning of Pakistan’s independence in 1947 when Karachi was the capital of the country. Mohammed Ayub Khan, who became president in 1958, changed that. He felt that the port city was situated too far away from the centre of the country and ordered the construction of a brand-new city in the Indus Valley. That the place he chose for the city was close to the garrison town of Rawalpindi, where the military headquarters of the Pakistani army was (and still is) located, was of course no coincidence. The atmosphere of the capital is at odds with that of Lahore. While Lahore is a hectic city that has grown through the centuries around the fort, Islamabad is a modern, formal metropolis that was first carefully drawn out on graph paper. We drive through broad, orderly lanes that are located in numbered sectors. All the important buildings are situated here. Along the avenues are the palace of the president, the ministries, the courthouses, the universities and so on. There are no street names. In the diplomatic enclave we also find the Belgian embassy. For those interested: House 14, Street 17, F7 / 2, a typical address in Islamabad.
Against all expectations, the capital of Pakistan is a modern, well organised metropolis.
The most eye-catching building in the city is the Faisal Mosque. This too is brand new. It is one of the largest mosques in the world and a gift from King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the best of friends. Before we step onto holy ground, we take off our shoes and deposit them in the trays provided for the purpose. It is very warm outside, and it is nice to walk barefoot on the cool marble that shines like a mirror. The design of the mosque is, to say the least, unconventional. The Turkish architect was inspired by the shape of a Bedouin tent. To us, it looks more like a spaceship and the four metres-high pencil-shaped minarets could just as well represent rockets but mentioning that out loud would definitely be sacrilegious. What cannot be argued about is the scale of this house of prayer. Here 100,000 believers can bow their heads to Allah in sync. The mosque is also a tourist attraction for many Pakistani people. We are again addressed several times and have some nice conversations. In the meantime, we have got used to the selfies.
Faisal Mosque, Islamabad
Our base is the Serena hotel, which looks more like a fortified castle. We have to pass two security posts and go through a lock before we can enter the hotel grounds. A high wall closes the hotel completely. That heavy surveillance leaves us in two minds. On the one hand, we find it reassuring that so much attention is paid to safety, but on the other hand we get the impression that staying in the city is not without danger. Whatever the case, the hotel itself is beautiful and has a real palace feel about it. We notice that straight away when we enter the majestic entrance hall, where we are immediately offered a welcome drink. Flight crews from various foreign airlines walk through the corridors and illustrate the international character of the hotel. The interior makes grateful use of Pakistani craftsmanship with rich fabrics, furniture with artistic inlay details and traditional decorative pieces.
Breathtaking landscape in Gilgit-Baltistan
A VIEW OF THE NANGA PARBAT WITHOUT AN OXYGEN MASK The flight from Islamabad to Skardu in the north is phenomenal! It only takes half an hour but guarantees 30 minutes of pure enjoyment of an unparalleled view of mighty mountain peaks. We fly over an area where three mountain ranges - the Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindukush - meet each other. Pakistan has eight of the fourteen so-called “eight thousand”, the highest mountains in the world. This includes the notorious K2, the second highest mountain in the world after Mount Everest, with a height of 8611 metres. For seasoned alpinists, the K2 is almost the Holy Grail because it is known as the most difficult mountain on earth to climb. A characteristic from which it derives its nickname 'killer mountain'. We are wonderfully blessed with clear weather which means we can see the snow-white top of the Nanga Parbat (8126 metres high and number 9 in the rankings) shine against a steely blue sky. The pilot treats us to a second loop. So much solid beauty takes your breath away
THE BEAUTIFUL EXTREME NORTH OF PAKISTAN The people in Skardu have those typical faces of a mountain people, with tinted skin and a permanent blush on their cheeks. We are at 2,500 metres here and notice the altitude by the popping in our ears. We take deep breaths of the pure mountain air. Afzel, our local guide, is waiting for us. We immediately leave for Khaplu, a town 100 km distant from Skardu. The dusty road meanders through a beautiful landscape with deeply cut valleys, desolate plains and dramatic mountain peaks. Summer has dried out the area, but the yellow colour of the tree leaves already heralds the arrival of autumn. In at most two months from now, the region will be covered again in a thick layer of snow. The grey-green Indus that flows through the valley like a silver garland will also change along with the seasons. Currently, its water is at a low level and numerous sandbanks are exposed, but in the spring when the melting glacier waters flow downwards, the river will swell and fill its bed from bank to bank. We pass a checkpoint. It doesn’t amount to more than a table, but the soldier scrupulously notes the data from our passports in a bedraggled logbook. We are currently in the controversial Gilgit-Baltistan area. The region has an autonomous status within Pakistan, which is not recognised by India, however, because Gilgit-Baltistan lies in the territorially and politically heavily disputed Kashmir region. The border conflict has been dragging on for decades and for the time being there is no solution in sight.
Khaplu Palace, Khaplu
RESIDING AS RAJAHS IN KHAPLU PALACE At dusk, our car stops in a very narrow alley. We have no idea where we have ended up. We pass under a low gateway and arrive on a small patio. When we walk through this, the Serena Khaplu Palace looms up before us. The building is an architectural gem and its beauty is astonishing. The palace dates from 1840 and was the royal residence of the then Rajah of Khaplu. It is without doubt the best preserved historic building in the region. We actually get allocated the 'imperial suite'. Stepping into the palace is like stepping back in time. The bedding may be white and fluffy and there are modern sanitary provisions, but the small windows, the white plastered walls and the low, wooden ceiling with decorative carpentry provide echoes of the past. After a blissful night’s sleep, we have breakfast in the garden between gnarled apple trees and slender poplars. As soon as the sun pops up from behind the mountain wall, the temperature rises to a comfortable 20 degrees. The silence is absolute, and we find ourselves in a complete zen atmosphere.
The empire of the Rajahs is revived in the forts and palaces in the north of Pakistan.
PICTURESQUE KHAPLU We walk through the peaceful village where the simple everyday life goes its normal way. Men open the shutters of their small shops, children walk to school in colourful uniforms and women do the laundry in the clear water of the Shyok, a branch of the Indus that flows through the town. Everywhere we appear, people look up in amazement. It is clear that they don’t immediately know how to respond to our presence. But when Afzel provides a few words of explanation, their faces immediately light up. Foreign visitors are welcome. A short chat or posing for a photo is no longer a problem. With their tawny faces and typical costumes consisting of a shalwar (wide pants) and a kameez (long shirt) the Balti’s are very photogenic. A boy with crystal green eyes gazes straight into our camera lens.
The Katpana or 'Cold Desert' in Skardu
SHIGAR: A SIZEABLE SURPRISE Just when we think we have seen everything worth seeing, we enter the Shigar region. A first piece of genuine natural art is Upper Kachura Lake. The sun is situated at a perfect angle so that the trees with their golden yellow leaves are reflected in perfect symmetry in the emerald green waters. Afzel knows that the apotheosis is approaching and motions to us with conspiratorial gestures to follow him. We pass robust olive trees and navigate along the edge of a fen between variegated grasses. We climb a dune hill. At the top, we come to a halt, completely perplexed. In front of us shimmers the white sandy carpet of a gigantic desert. It is the Katpana, the highest desert in the world. The wind has created regular structures in the sand so that the upper layer of the cold desert looks like a giant meringue. Again, Pakistan leaves us astounded. Four totally different ecosystems coming together just like this: a mountain lake, a Mediterranean forest, a cold desert and a high mountain range. Can you think of anything more crazy? We sink into the soft sand and let the beauty create its magic. It is a completely unreal, but very beautiful panorama.
School girl in Skardu
Enchanting colours of the Upper Kachura Lake
TRAVELPORSCHIST SLEEPING UNDER THE ANCIENT BEAMS IN THE SHIGAR FORT
Serena Shigar Fort
Hospitality is an inseparable part of Pakistani culture.
To round off our trip, we spend the night at the Serena Shigar Fort, which lies on the legendary route to the top of the K2. The original name of the fort is Fong-Khar, which means 'palace on the rock'. The building dates back to the 17th century and was the residence of the 20th leader of the Amacha dynasty. Although that does not mean much to us either, it does underline the historic value of the fort. This four-hundred-year-old piece of heritage was carefully restored and got a new life as a charming hotel. The heavy doors in dark walnut wood creak in their equally heavy hinges. Worn steps guide us from one room to the next and each time we discover new, surprising places, all with the patina of bygone days and the scenery of mountains and valleys that we never tire of.
LEOPOLDSTRAAT 14_ANTWERPEN • NAAMSESTRAAT 72_BRUSSEL • HAVERMARKT 13_HASSELT
Truck Art in Pakistan
Baneen en Ahmed
PAKISTAN PRACTICAL Area: 796.095 km² Population: 207,7 MIO inhabitants Capital: Islamabad Government: Islamic Republic Official language: English and Urdu Time difference: 3 hours during summertime and 4 hours during wintertime. Travel documents: International passport and visa. With special thanks to: - Abuzar Bokhari, Chief Executive Officer, Porsche Centre Lahore - Rabia Akbar, Marketing Manager Porsche Centre Lahore - Moshin Muhammad, Marketing Executive Porsche Centre Lahore - Qasim Khan, Director Adventure Travel Pakistan - Aziz Boolani, CEO Serena Hotels South & Central Asia, Islamabad Serena Hotel - Hussain Odhwani, Manager Marketing & Communication Islamabad Serena Hotel - Martha Ruszek, Marketing Executive Qatar Airways
Just before we leave for the airport of Skardu we pop in to see Ahmed Hassan Khan. He is one of Qasim’s friends and owns together with his friend Baneen a campsite right on the water. Hikers can erect their tents here and spend the night alongside the splashing river water. If they like, Ahmed takes them on long walks in the mountains. His dear friend Baneen runs a restaurant that is popular with both passers-by as well as locals. Ahmed is a remarkable man with a free spirit. He has a wild head of hair and a bushy beard. "My friends say I look like a terrorist and have to go to the hairdresser," he says. Dry Pakistani humour, we can laugh at it happily.
A MISUNDERSTOOD COUNTRY Pakistan has captivated, surprised, enchanted and changed us. The country is wrongly equated with terrorism, extremism and corruption. Pakistan is infinitely more varied, more nuanced, more sophisticated and more complex than that. As if a country as big as France and Germany combined could be reduced to a few negative headlines. We have met fantastic people here: warm, honest, uninhibited and enterprising individuals who have shown us that the life of the ordinary Pakistanis is much more stable and constructive than the media would have us believe. The changes that have taken place in the country during the last ten years are encouraging and the Pakistani population itself is optimistic. Has there been one single moment when we felt unsafe? No. Are we planning to return again? Absolutely!
"A great polo pony can be compared to a Porsche 918 Spyder: powerful, fast, temperamental and with incredible responsiveness."
On an immense estate just outside Lahore, we meet Jamil Barry. In the cosy living room, tea has been laid out for us.
Jamil Barry, the man who knows everything about horse power.
I bought my first Porsche, a Cayenne, in 2013 and immediately bought another the following year. A new version of the Cayenne came on the market that I liked even better. It was more powerful and offered better roadholding. I think that the ratios between image and performance have also improved. Often people have the idea is that a Porsche is mainly a leisure car, but I think that is a misconception. I drive my Porsche every day, and that is a big turnaround for me because I do not really like driving. I prefer to settle myself on the back seat in peace and let myself be driven. But in my Cayenne, I always enjoy getting behind the wheel.
29 How is it that at a certain point, you decided to buy a Porsche? That was actually the moment when Porsche first opened a branch in Pakistan. Before that, you had to import the car and you were left with the question of where to go for the maintenance of the car. I drove a BMW at the time, for the simple reason that there was a BMW garage in Lahore. I feel that when you buy a more expensive car brand, you should be able to rely on a good after sales service. I know plenty of friends who had engine trouble with their big, exclusive cars on the motorway and could not find any technicians who could help them. As soon as I saw the Porsche workshop here in Lahore, I knew I could stop worrying. I know that there will always be qualified people ready to help me. What is your profession? I am the head of a large interior design store, Barry's Collection. My family has a very long history going back 300 years, as textile traders. Until Pakistan became independent, we lived in India. Then we emigrated to Pakistan. In the seventies we switched from textiles to interior design. More and more houses were being built and the time was right. We now market a very wide range of furniture and decorative items,
from classical to contemporary, and also provide a complete interior design service. How is the relationship between India and Pakistan? In the press we often read that there are tensions between Pakistan and India. You have to further refine that. On a business level, the relationship between the two countries is excellent. We still import a lot from India. Doing business with Indians also feels very natural to me. We speak the same language, share the same culture, laugh at the same jokes ... At fairs or congresses, for example, it is a piece of cake to make contact with Indian companies. If you speak the same language, it is much easier to assess and evaluate the other person. Do I have a bona fide person here before me or is someone trying to pull the wool over my eyes? You can tell from the intonation, from the language, from the tiniest nuances. For example, both you and I are speaking English now, a language that is not our native language. Then those subtleties are much less noticeable. I trust many of my Indian suppliers blindly without ever having met them. It is only at a political level that the relationship does not always run smoothly, but we do not notice much of that in everyday life.
INTERVIEWPORSCHIST Which style of furnishing is the most popular in Pakistan? The Victorian style with lots of ornamentation, dark wood with engraved decorations and richly decorated fabrics, remains very much in demand. It is the style in which the British decorated their homes during the time of the colonisation of the Indies. For many Pakistanis, that style is still a symbol of luxury, wealth and prosperity. That may explain its success. Really rich Pakistanis like to go all the way, with lots of glitter and glamour. I myself love a totally different style. I am more of a collector of furniture. My interior grows along with my life. All furniture you see here has a story. I also collaborate with several Belgian suppliers. In Belgium, soft tones such as beige, sandy colours and taupe are particularly popular. That sophisticated style also appeals to me. Who are your clients? My customers frequently coincide with those people Porsche markets to. Those who can afford a Porsche can usually also spend money on a more expensive interior and vice versa. I am in a high-end market segment and aim for a clientele that can afford to spend money. The majority of my customers live in Pakistan. We have showrooms in Lahore and Islamabad and will soon start with a branch in Karachi. Punjab is the most prosperous province of Pakistan, so it is normal for most commercial activities to take place here.
Alongside Porsche, you also have another passion... Yes, that is true: polo. I am an ardent polo player. That usually surprises people. They think that polo is a tough, rough sport and cannot imagine how I fit into that world, because I am quite quiet and calm by nature. But they are mistaken. Polo has nothing to do with aggression. On the contrary, it is all about control. I have only been playing since 2011. My brother had been playing for some time and asked me at a certain time to come and watch a game. I went to it, saw what the players were doing and thought: I can do that too. I started training and after six months I started competing. Then I said to my brother: now I will aim for the national championship. He laughed at that, because the national championship is something that normally is not accessible to mere mortals, but I persevered. In 2012, I played my first game and in March 2017 my team and I won the national championship. A successful five-year plan. (laughs) Congratulations. You must have the right genes. Yes, apparently. But, of course, it is not just down to talent. I have also trained hard and long. And in polo, it is not only the skills of the player which are important, but also those of the horses. In fact, the horse plays 70% of the game. A good polo pony can be compared to a Porsche 918 Spyder: powerful, fast, temperamental and with incredible responsiveness. As far as the latter is concerned, every car - even a Porsche - will lose out to a polo pony. These horses concentrate exclusively on the ball and often anticipate the opponent's movement in a flash of a second. As a rider, it is important that you respond perfectly
Jamil Barry with his favourite horse Romeo
31 and instantaneously to the instinctive behaviour of the animal. With a car it is actually more or less the same. I took a test drive in a Porsche once with a qualified racing driver at the wheel. He took a turn at 150 kilometres per hour without doing anything. I asked him: how do you do that? He said: the car takes the turn, I only respond to its driving behaviour. It is exactly like that with a horse. It's all about trust, trust in the competence of a thoroughbred horse or a superb car.
into so-called chukkas - game periods of 7 minutes and 30 seconds - and after each chukka the rider changes horse. A horse can perform at top level for up to 7 minutes. Then it needs to recover.
Porsches originate from a German stable - we all know that but where do your horses come from? I mainly buy horses in Argentina. It is here that the very best polo ponies are bred. They are sports cars from the moment they are born, to express it in terms of the car world. Argentine horses have the perfect physique, musculature, agility and attitude, nothing needs to be changed. Playing polo has been in their DNA for generations. In the last two years I have also bought some horses in England, also beautiful animals, but they do not have it in them yet and still have to be trained.
Isn’t that very quick? Do you think? I would compare with motorsport again. Why are the tires in Formula 1 races changed so often? For the sake of maintaining speed and grip, right? Only you cannot replace parts on a horse. You must rest a horse. During a race, a polo pony comes to a halt from a stretchedout gallop in record time, turns around his axis and immediately runs in the opposite direction again at full speed. That requires a lot of strength and effort. Polo when played at high level is really top sport.
How many horses do you currently have? 27 in total. If you want to play polo at a higher level, you have to have your own horses, and you must have several. For one game you already need at least four horses. Each match is divided
Jamil, it’s time to go and take a look at your 27 thoroughbreds, or rather 28, counting the Cayenne ...
"The red strip on the front grille is what I call the x-factor of my Porsche."
Fahad Qadir: the man who bought a Porsche without taking a test drive.
Fahad Qadir and his Porsche Macan
In the more expensive district of Lahore, we have a lunch appointment with Fahad Qadir. An elegant man is waiting for us: impeccable suit, pocket square in his breast pocket, polished shoes and a perfectly trimmed beard. This is clearly a man who knows what style is. We start with the most obvious question:
Why Porsche? I think every Porsche driver has a unique story to tell. If someone had told me ten years ago that I would ever drive a Porsche, I would have laughed in his face. But times are changing, and opportunities are opening up and look, here it is outside the door: a brand new Macan in my favourite colour black. I cherish the car as if it were a baby. Washing, buffing until it gleams like a mirror, waxing ... I do it all myself. have been driving the car for almost six months now and inside it still smells as if it has just rolled off the production line. That special, exciting scent that only has a new car, I love it. I have personalised the license plate. I thought 911 was a nice gimmick. That this fantastic car now stands in my garage at night gives me a feeling that I cannot even describe. I think it is a sensation that all Porsche drivers in the world share with each other. Do you drive the Macan every day? Yes. I bought it to drive it, not to keep it as a show model. Of course, I cannot get the maximum out of my Porsche in the hectic surroundings of the city, but that is not really the main issue for me. I intensely enjoy the beauty of the car, its perfect lines and the fantastic driving comfort. Every detail is important to me. However, the road from Lahore to Islamabad is excellent. That is a perfect, modern motorway that has been built to last for at least 50 years. There, I can allow the car to growl now and then. Is there a speed limit on that road? Yes. Unfortunately, things here are not like they are in Germany. 120 km/h is the limit. Ridiculously low for a Porsche, of course. In themselves, the fines are not that high (about $ 10 if you convert it), but there are so many cameras and police checkpoints along the way that - if you do not stick to the imposed speed limit - you can easily accumulate 10 to 20 fines during one trip alone. And that way, the amount quickly increases. The traffic in Lahore is frightfully chaotic. Do you even dare to take to the streets with your expensive Porsche? The traffic situation in Lahore is a cauldron, that's right. But I grew up with it and have never known anything else. Of course, I am a bit more tense behind the wheel of my Porsche than I would be in another car, that speaks for itself. But you just have to look out really well while on the road and never hesitate. Hesitating is fatal. In itself, Lahore is no different from other busy cities in the world. It is not because there is heavy traffic that there are no exclusive cars driving around. What I do take into account is the ability to park. I have to be sure that I can leave my Porsche somewhere safe, if not I leave it at home.
Maybe other drivers get out of your way more quickly because it is so exclusive? If only! In fact, the opposite is true. Because a Porsche is still very exclusive in Pakistan, other road users get annoyingly close in order to view my car as well as they can. I do worry about that, because in that case I know very well that the driver next to doesn’t have his attention on the road, but rather on my Porsche, and that is just the type of risk I really don’t want or need. Do you sometimes notice that people are envious? Not really. In recent years, the country has seen great economic progress that creates opportunities in numerous areas. Pakistan is a country with enormous potential. 67% of the population is below thirty years of age. Many have studied, have a good job and are increasingly able to spend money. I belong to that generation. As I said earlier, a few years ago I could not have imagined that I would ever be able to afford a Porsche. Now I sometimes even look forward to the next one. Maybe that will be a Cayenne or who knows, a 911. (laughs)
INTERVIEWPORSCHIST Is that something you dream about? Of course. Isn’t that the dream of every Porsche fan? I can also tell you a special anecdote. When I first entered the Porsche showroom to get information about the Macan, the salesman asked me when I wanted to take a test drive. I replied: a test drive? Why would I want a test drive? It is a Porsche, the best car that exists, surely I don’t need a test drive? I am perhaps the only buyer in Pakistan who bought a Porsche without first having driven it, but that is how it happened. My confidence in the car is absolute. But how can you be so sure that Porsche is a good car if you have never driven one? That is perception. My confidence in Porsche is absolute. Now, I have always been a fan of cars and racing and am pretty well aware of the ins and outs of the car world. It is not as if I am a total layman.
You talk about perception. Is that not primarily a perception driven by marketing? Of course. I work for Coca-Cola, the brand with the best marketing worldwide, so you do not have to tell me anything more about consumer influence and product profiling (laughs). But that does not take away from my steadfast belief in Porsche. Of course, you can have endless discussions about which car is the best, but for me that is undeniably a Porsche. You know, it's also more than just a nice car, it's the complete picture that's right. Every time I enter the Porsche showroom in Lahore, I am treated as if I were buying a new car. The service is as good as the car itself. The whole concept plays a role. With Porsche, it's all about making the customer feel good. Did you have to wait a long time for the Porsche you now have? Not at all. The Porsche I wanted was just waiting for me in the showroom. (laughs). I was just lucky that a Macan had been delivered in the version I had in mind: black metallic with beige interior. Anyone who orders a car that has to be produced in Germany first must be patient. Six months waiting time is the average. But that is not for me. If I decide to buy something, I want it right away.
There is a fine red line on the grill in front. Is that a reference to Coca-Cola? That is a good comment, it could possibly have been. But the red strip has nothing to do with my work. I call it the x-factor of my car, that little extra that I added to it and that makes it even more special. I already mentioned it earlier: I have a weakness for details. I also did a test with yellow, but that did not produce the same result. The car simply needs red. Now that we’re talking about Coca-Cola... ... you want to know what I'm doing there. I manage the PR and communications department. I have been working there for 10 years and still go in with as much enthusiasm as on the first day. The brand is still a booming business and that means it remains exciting. When we arrive back at our hotel room in the evening, two gift packages are delivered. In one we find a traditional Pakistani salwar kameez (trousers and shirt), in the other a wide dupatta (ladies scarf), both clearly of the finest quality. On the attached card we read who the generous donor is: our Coca-Cola man. It typifies the man 100%. A true gentleman!
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Mujib Rahim Khan in front of the Serena Hotel in Islamabad
" A Porsche is coming home. A car should feel like your most comfortable pair of shoes."
Mujib Rahim Khan: clearly the most passionate Porsche driver in the world.
For our third and final interview in Pakistan, we install ourselves comfortably in the garden of the beautiful Serena Hotel in Islamabad. Just before this we have taken lots of photos of a silver-grey 911 Carrera 4S, a fast car that fits its owner perfectly. Mujib Khan also travels through life at a fast speed and is probably the most passionate Porsche driver we have ever met.
PORSCHISTINTERVIEW Why Porsche? Well, Porsche has always fascinated me and the 911 is the car that I have always dreamed of. I remember my father taking me to Düsseldorf when I was 9 years old. That must have been in 1975, the moment the 930 came out. I saw the car and fell in love immediately. Until recently, having a Porsche in Pakistan was unattainable. My son and I watched a lot of YouTube clips about the 911, but we did not get any closer than that to our dream car. The moment that Porsche opened a branch in Islamabad was a milestone for me. I did not hesitate for a second and immediately bought a 911 Carrera 4S. That car makes me very happy. When I drive it, all my senses come to life. A Porsche is coming home. A car must feel like your most comfortable pair of shoes. Are the roads in Pakistan good enough for a sports car such as Porsche? Everyone warned me that a low car was not suitable for Pakistan, but I didn’t take any notice of that. I live in Islamabad, and as you have seen yourself, the roads in the city are more than decent, right? There is also a fantastic motorway to Lahore and one connecting Islamabad with northern Pakistan. The only danger is that animals regularly cross the road. I therefore always choose to leave very early in the morning. At that time, I have the road to myself. Even the small roads in the mountains are no problem. There are often potholes in the road, but my Porsche has narrower tires, so it can cope with those. In addition, I chose the 4S version so that I have four-wheel drive and even in the winter am assured of a firm grip on the road. I like to go to the limit with the car. Although you do not have to drive quickly to feel the perfect road handling of the car. And the petrol? That is the biggest problem for Porsche drivers in Pakistan. The quality of the petrol is variable and often leaves much to be desired. A sports car such as a Porsche requires an octane number of at least 97. This is difficult to obtain in Pakistan. Many petrol stations mix petrol and impure fuel is fatal to the delicate engine of a sports car. It doesn’t matter to the many small family cars you see here in Pakistan. Those can be filled with 'junk gasoline' and they still keep going. But a Porsche is a lot more sensitive in that respect. The higher the octane number, the better the running condition of the engine and the longer the lifespan. The combustion is better which means that the engine is also more powerful. I also use octane additives. Hopefully good regulation will be introduced at some point so that only pure gasoline can be sold. How much is the import tax? The import taxes for luxury cars in Pakistan are ridiculously high. The luxury tax is 280%. That really is too crazy for words. Two days ago, I was in Dubai and saw my absolute favourite car: the GT 3 RS, the top model in the 911 line. I asked what the price was and unbelievably, I could have bought that car on the spot for the price I had to pay for my 911 here in Pakistan. But regardless of the price, I love my Porsche.
INTERVIEWPORSCHIST Why are you such a big fan of the 911? Because it is a car that embodies so much history. If you look at how the car came about in the difficult years after the Second World War, you can only feel admiration. Moreover, I also like how the DNA of the 911 was passed down through the generations: from grandfather to father and son. There are few cars in the world with such a long tradition and so much continuity. The 911 has been the reference point for all other sports cars for five decades now. In that time, seven generations of the 911 have entered the market and every time the Porsche engineers have succeeded in improving the car while still respecting the core elements. I am a purist and very sensitive to details. My son is only 11 years old and understands why my car is so special. This car is for me and my son. Passion must be so intense that it is contagious. If I had to sell a piece of land to keep my 911 Porsche, I would do so without hesitation. But I would only do it for this car, not for any other.
That is true love indeed. Many wealthy Pakistani who buy a Porsche don’t know what they are buying. They just have a lot of money and spend that on a luxury car. They think of the status they acquire through the car, the investment value of it, the resale value ... But those are all things that leave me cold. For me, my Porsche is a source of happiness. I know many people who buy an exclusive car and do not even dare to drive it. That sometimes happens in Belgium too. But surely, that is absurd? That makes you a slave of your car. You don’t buy it just to leave it in the garage, do you? Some people are like that with watches. I swim while wearing my watch. The watch is made for me and not the other way around. The watch must please me, just as the 911 should please me. Someone who can talk so passionately about his car, is probably also passionately involved in business. That is true. I am an interior architect and I design furniture. My company, The Icon Furniture Company, makes furniture and interior pieces in several styles: from art deco, classic, neo-classical to the sleek designs that have been popular lately. We always make everything to order for the customer. In the twenty years that we have been doing this, I have already drawn up some 3000 unique designs. All furniture is made by hand according to the highest quality standards and with the best materials. We have showrooms in Islamabad, Karachi and London. Something that is made using artisan methods is extremely expensive in Europe. We make furniture as it was being made a hundred years ago.
Why this explicit choice of handmade furniture? Mechanically-made objects have no soul. If something is made by hand, then the effort, the art of the furniture maker, lives on in the piece of furniture. We bring old techniques back to life and ensure that traditional skills are not lost. Just like the 911, my love for the origin of something is reflected here. We make furniture that we hope many generations will enjoy. Is it difficult to build up something professionally in Pakistan? Much less so these days. I studied in England and could have stayed there, but I deliberately chose to start my business in Pakistan. I have built up my assets in Pakistan, with Pakistani products made from Pakistani material. In some way, I want to set an example. What I have done, others can do too. There are so many opportunities in Pakistan now. You just have to spot them and grab them. Of course, there are also problems in the country. But we have been living in the post-9/11 era for 16 years now. It is time to start looking forward again.
What do you think of the latest developments within Porsche? I am worried about what the future will bring. I have seen the new Mission E Concept and know that the plans to bring an electric version of the 911 to market are becoming more and more concrete. That just makes me sad because then you spoil the DNA of the car. Can you imagine that? A silent Porsche? I never turn on the radio in my 911. Never. For me, the typical 911 sound is music in its purest form. Mujib, you are simply the personification of the love for Porsche and the very best ambassador the brand can wish for. Is there anything you would like to say in conclusion? Well, I once saw a video about a woman - I believe she was a doctor - who bought a 911 in 1964 and has already covered 500,000 kilometres in the meantime. That woman has seen almost the entire world from her Porsche. That is fantastic. I do not know if my Porsche will last that long, but I think the idea is beautiful. Mujib, we hope you will be able to fulfil your dream!
39 Muhammad Mohsin (Porsche Centre Lahore), Qasim Khan (Adventure Travel Pakistan), Kathleen Van Bremdt, Mujib Rahim Khan, Sven Hoyaux.
Experience the journey of your life and explore Pakistan!
Did the travel report stimulate your adventurous spirit and are you eager to experience this unique journey yourself? Then this is possible. Adventure Travel Pakistan has a fabulous program in store for you. Lahore / Islamabad / Skardu / Khaplu / Shigar You visit all the places described in the report and drive yourself via the M2 - The Motorway to Prosperity - from Lahore to Islamabad at the wheel of a Porsche. From Islamabad you fly to Skardu in northern Pakistan. There you continue your journey in a 4x4 with driver. Number of days: 10 days Price: 7.500 € per person (Excl. TAX). Overnight stays, excursions, guides, domestic trips, and rental Porsche included. Flight with Qatar Airways back and forth to Pakistan not included. (Economy: 850 € - Business: 3,300 €)
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