GT Travel


Actress-songstress Ayesha Omer’s tips on staying healthy while travelling

Drink plenty of fluids

Water is truly a girl’s best friend. There is nothing more indispensible for holistic health, beauty and brains than a steady 15 glasses a day. And no, not juice, not Vitamin water and not even sparkling water can take the place of good old plain, clean and still water.

Airplane cabins are notoriously devoid of moisture and you can shrivel up like a prune if you’re not diligent and conscientious about your water intake. Take an extra trip to the loo if necessary but whatever you do, do not skimp out on drinking water at regular intervals.

Invest in a handy reusable water bottle. You’ll be saving money, plus you won’t be stranded without any water where there’s no place to buy any. And you can take it through airport security, too, albeit empty.

“It’s good to stay hydrated, lemon is always a good pick me up and is always refreshing. You have late nights when you’re travelling usually and waking up early and hence you’re not really sleeping much, so it’s very very important to stay hydrated. I try to have coconut water here and there also. That’s a great way to get hydrated when you’re travelling. I also always carried around my water bottle everywhere!”



image3 (2)

“What’s more familiar to a McDonald’s lover than seeing the massive golden arches of the McDonald’s M and wanting some Mc meal or other? It’s important to exit your comfort zones!”

Try the local cuisine

As a rule, even when in the homeland, it’s always advisable to indulge in local AND seasonal produce. It’s fresher and healthier and more climate appropriate. For example, oranges come to us in Pakistan in the winter season and stave off cold and flu using their copious quantities of immunity boosting vitamin C.

So wherever you travel, let go of your inhibitions and take a chance on the local cuisine. It may even be miles away from what you’re used to, it’s still an integral part of the cultural experience of visiting another place.

Stay away from generic fast food

Humans are, after all, creatures of comfort and comfort lies in the familiar. What’s more familiar to a McDonald’s lover than seeing the massive golden arches of the McDonald’s M and wanting some Mc meal or other? It’s important to exit your comfort zone and ditch familiar fast food chains for local and small eateries. Not only will you be in for an alternative experience and a cornucopia of variety inaccessible to you in the run-of-the-mill fast food chain, fast food is notoriously unhealthy, full of unsaturated fats and sodium and God knows what else.

If you’re worried about hygiene standards in the local mom and pop eatery, take comfort in knowing that the world is growing smaller and that food standards and hygiene are becoming more and more regulated across the globe each day. So there will more or less be at least some hygienic, local and healthy food sources for you to choose from.

Keep healthy dry snacks in zip lock bags (nuts, seeds, trailmix, etc.)

When there is absolutely nothing around to eat or you’re trapped in that airport limbo where there is not an ounce of food in sight and you need sustenance, you can rely on your own private stash of dry, portable foods to keep you going. Take a Ziploc bag and stuff some nuts, seeds, trailmix, whole wheat crackers and the like and keep hidden away for when you’ll most need it. Dried fruits also provide essential vitamins and minerals when you can’t access the real stuff.

These portable snacks are excellent alternatives to a dreary and icky airline meal that’s all carbs and grease. Dried yogurt covered cranberries are a favourite of mine and provide a whole host of nutrients, essential for your good health and for having a good time on the go.



image1 (2)

“And I always carry some snacks in my bag, a bit of dark chocolate or some nuts or some handmade energy bars. Not the processed ones, try and scope out some homemade or handmade ones or try making them yourself at home. Mints also give you some energy, they’re good to have around.”

Keep meals light and frequent to stay energised

Most of us know the feeling of lethargy after having scarfed down a huge meal of festive and/or comfort food. The two possible outcomes are either sleepiness or frequent trips to the bathroom coupled with intestinal discomfort. Who wants to experience either on a trip? Not us.

That’s why it’s smarter to eat small meals more frequently throughout the day rather than the usual three solid ones. Not only will you be able to do more regional food sampling this way, you’ll stay energetic, keep your metabolic rate up and hence be able to see and do more.

Opt for salads, smoothies, and grilled lean meats or scope out the healthier and more nutritious options on your own using some basic nutritional common sense.

“So chaltay phirtay, one can just stay energised with quick bites on the go like fruits, nuts and the like without much fuss. It’s always so much better to have little tidbits instead of huge meals. Any green salad is great for a light snack and so healthy too.”

image2 (2)



“It’s so great to get a lot of sun when you go to beachy places and that’s actually good for you, believe it or not”


“It’s so great to get a lot of sun when you go to beachy places and that’s actually good for you  believe it or not. In Pakistan, we don’t get out in the sun a lot so the vitamin D is really welcome.

We did some walking and sightseeing, chilling in the park or biking around. It’s good to be getting at least a bit of exercise because you’ll probably be eating a lot of junk when you’re on holiday.

Whenever you’re walking around, you can get fruit almost everywhere, on the street, fresh cut up fruit like the one I got in the fruit market. So indulge in the local produce.

It’s important to take vitamins and supplements while you’re travelling. Not only is your body under more duress than usual and you may not be able to access the full spectrum of nutrition that you need for optimum health.”

Dubai has a large Pakistani population. We asked some recently-emigrated Pakistani women what they love most about Dubai, and what they miss about home

What’re your favorite shopping haunts and why?

Zara Khan (Associate at KPMG)

I love exploring the collections of the Lebanese designers that sell their clothes and accessories through private trunk shows here. My favourite nowadays is a label called DeebyDalia because of the fabrics they use for dresses and tops.

Zunaira Tamur (Homemaker)

Harvey Nichols, Boutique1 and Massimo Dutti. I can always count on them to have just what I need.

Alina Talha Rizvi (Entrepreneur, Founder at Allure)

I love to explore new and different designers. I don’t like wearing or shopping for what is easily available in the Mall. I like to pick up dresses from Ayesha Depala, Entre Nous and sometimes from Aizone. These days, I love Balmain’s Pearl Collection.


What do you love about Dubai? What do you dislike about it?

Zunaira Tamur

It truly is the best of both worlds. You have both the comfort of Pakistan and the taste of Europe all in one place. It’s the land of opportunity and something new is always taking off. But I dislike the superficiality of some of the people here. It starts getting to you after a while.

Zara Khan

The thing I love the most about Dubai is that it is home away from home, yet it has the perfect touch of everything I love from the West. But I absolutely hate the traffic!

Gull Zeb

Dubai is my second home after Lahore and the best description for this place is that it’s the perfect mix of East and West. The weather is the biggest issue, but hey, it’s hard to hate Dubai!

Alina Talha Rizvi

I love all the options for entertainment and the complete sense of security one has living here. Also, I love to travel spontaneously, just pick up my bags and set off. Dubai is so easily accessible to any destination in the world. But I do hate how almost everyone here is so materialistic.

gt2 gt3

I remember talking to an older Emirati trader who talked so fondly about Karachi from the 70s that it brought tears to my eyes

What’s your favorite Dubai night out? What’s your go-to dinner place?

Zunaira Tamur

I love to go out anywhere in Dubai, really. It just comes down to what I’m in the mood for. A great night out can be a house party, a club or even sometimes a nice meal in a good restaurant. I’m a real foodie so restaurants are always a go-to for me. My favorites are Nobu, Zuma, Sass Cafe, Buddha Bar and Okku.

Zara Khan

A nice relaxed evening with friends and family beats everything else. My latest restaurant obsession is Sass Cafe that recently opened up.

Gull Zeb

The best, most chilled-out place during pleasant weather is for sure 101 in the one and only Palm Hotel. For a casual, laid back night, it’s definitely Souk al Bahar which has great eating places like Shakespeare and Cafe Habana.

Alina Talha Rizvi

Favourite nights out include mostly yacht parties and fine dining. I loved Iris when the weather was nicer and these days, my go-to is Roberto’s.



For many Pakistanis living in Dubai, it’s a home away from home. Many things are similar: the heat, the help, and the fact that you can hear an azaan mostly everywhere. How far do you think this is true and what do you think you would like to see from your life in Pakistan included or excluded in your life in Dubai?

Zunaira Tamur

Despite loving my life in Dubai, I really miss my family being here.

Zara Khan

Dubai is definitely a home away from home. I love the freedom and sense of security in Dubai, something that is missing in Pakistan.

Gull Zeb

The reason I decided to settle down in Dubai was to be closer culturally to my homeland. I lived in London during my university days and it used to give me pangs of homesickness, but in Dubai I hardly ever get that feeling.

Alina Talha Rizvi

My lifestyle in Dubai is very similar to Lahore. Yes, the heat, the help, the azaan, exist in Dubai too. Socially too, I’m busy in both Lahore and Dubai. The only difference is that I don’t have my parents here with me. I miss them terribly.


Amina Ajaz (Lawyer)

I remember having mixed feelings when I moved to Dubai six years ago. People would talk almost exclusively about what car they had just bought, what property they were planning to invest in, and what holiday they would take. I missed my friends in London terribly, and compared to our hangout spots in some wonderful dilapidated nooks and corners of Russell Square, Dubai seemed crass, commercial and a bit too shiny.

But then I remember one of my Emirati friends, who could not speak a work of Urdu, randomly belt out some 80s Indian song from an Amitabh Bachan movie. I remember going to Barasti and loving the live music, the food, the beach and the chilled-out crowd. I remember standing for the first time on the extensive coastline of the man-made Palm Jumeirah and could not believe this all used to be the sea. I remember talking to an older Emirati trader who talked so fondly about Karachi from the 70s that it brought tears to my eyes. And I remember the taxi driver who refused to take money when he found out that I too was Pathan.

I began to realize I was in a really interesting place. Michelin star restaurants, the Rolling Stones, Prince, and Eric Clapton in concert, Formula One weekends, the most incredible restaurants on the beach, lavish brunches, man-made islands with your villa opening up to a private beach, having a buffet in a palace, a meal in a hut in the sea and dinner in the sky. You name something outrageously extravagant and it exists in Dubai. Once you decide to partake in the luxury—Dubai will just offer you more and more wonderful surprises.

Often I feel like moving to Lahore in the hope of “making a difference” but get strictly told off by friends living there not to even think about it because of how unsafe it has become 

But the best thing about being in Dubai is that you are so close to home. On my way back from Lahore to Dubai I distinctly remember the chaotic airport, the shuffling and pushing, someone always smoking in front of the no-smoking sign, endless hours of load shedding but as I entered Dubai I could see every single building flashing with stroboscopes and a 6-lane highway lit up like it was day-time. The contrast between Pakistan and Dubai is upsetting and jarring. Often I feel like moving to Lahore in the hope of “making a difference” but get told off strictly by friends living there not to even think about it because of how unsafe it has become and how frustrating it is to live there with the load-shedding, broken work ethics, etc. Even your mother who misses you all the time lectures you to stay away.

In Dubai you will see women wearing short dresses. But you will also get invited to Pakistani parties where the wives sit separately from the men discussing their challenges in procuring the right bag. As you walk into a Mall in Dubai you can see the peaceful coexistence of the loud and the modest, the sophisticated and the kitschy, and most importantly, the liberal and the conservative.

Shafaq Imtiazi on why Chicago and Lahore are sister cities

One of the biggest decisions I’ve made in the last five years was to leave Lahore and move to America with my parents. One of the best decisions I’ve made in the same five years has been to move into my own apartment in Lahore’s official U.S. ‘Sister City,’ Chicago.

Leaving Lahore — my friends, my family, Defence Market, shaadi season, Hot Spot, load-shedding, rickshaws, ghar ka khana — was daunting because I was moving post-college-graduation to a new country without the kind of pre-constructed social framework and safety net provided by school, college, or khaandaan.  “Where will I meet people?!” I remember asking a close friend as my departure date approached. “Relax,” she said, “one day you’ll strike up a conversation with someone in a grocery checkout line or something, totally hit it off and bam — new friend.”

I never did make a random grocery checkout line friend, but it wasn’t the social tundra I had dramatically envisioned. Forty minutes from the quiet little suburb we settled in was the bright, bustling, colorful city of Chicago. Ethnically diverse, culturally explosive, climactically completely unpredictable, Chicago was exciting. After a couple of years in the suburbs, I moved into a cozy little studio in the trending, café-filled, farmer’s-market-having, music-festival-hosting Chicago neighborhood of Logan Square. It’s accented with little bits of Pakistan — Kashmiri embroidered pillow covers, a coffee table book of recipes from along the Grand Trunk Road, a lamp from Bajwa’s in Liberty, a very touristy toyrickshaw I bought once in Islamabad (and probably paid way too much for because I never was able to haggle like a proper Pakistani). All definitely worth the now hour-long daily commute to my design engineering job in the suburbs. And with rush hour traffic, that is saying something.




How to describe the Midwestern metropolis that is Chicago? The city has acquired a slew of monikers throughout history. The Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, that Toddlin’ Town, and more recently the Chi, Chitown, Chi city… but when it comes down to it, most Chicagoans will settle on the sentiment that Chicago is just its own kind of beast. The phrase “Lahore Lahore hai” comes to mind. And that sentiment is not the only thing that truly makes Chicago and Lahore ‘sister cities.’ Both revel in vibrant cultural expression through art, architecture, music and cuisine.

A ten minute walk down my quiet Latin-American street brings me to my neighborhood Sunday Farmer’s Market (Itvaar Bazaar and then some!)

The architecture is the most visual representation of the love affair between the old and the new that pervades most aspects of the city’s culture. A large number of buildings were destroyed in ‘The Great Chicago Fire’ in 1871, so there was a huge architectural push driven by necessity. The city had the opportunity to actually rebuild instead of revamping and retrofitting itself as architectural technology progressed. The first modern skyscrapers were born. Architects philosophized, discarding precedent and embracing verticality and steel reinforcement while still celebrating intricate exteriors of heavy brick and stone. The diverse signature styles of the likes of American Frank Lloyd Wright, the German Mies Van der Rohe and the Bangladeshi-American Fazlur Khan pepper the city in the old Rookery Building, apartments along the scenic Lake Shore Drive, and of course the Willis and John Hancock towers. The result today is that one routinely sees ultra-modern steel and glass skyscrapers alongside stone-pillared brick-and-mortar structures sometimes that still have gargoyles on them.

The exciting and sometimes provocative nature of the architecture is immersive in nature. I see it everywhere I go. A great example is Millennium Park by the lake, one of my favorite summertime haunts. I sit at the center of the acoustically innovative Pritzker Pavilion watching the tourists taking pictures of themselves in the reflective surface of the giant bean (officially: the Cloud Gate), behind which rise the buildings of Chicago’s skyline. An ant’s-eye view.




A stroll away from the pavilion is yet another set of my personal Chicago favorites — the museums. The Museum of Contemporary Art, the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural history and the Shedd Aquarium. But I don’t experience these in the usual 6-hour-walk-from-one-exhibit-to-the-next kind of way. These museums are their own social scene. When I want to check out the planetarium, I go to “Adler After Dark,” an after-hours event open to the public and full of special interactive exhibits, themed drinks and hors d’oeuvres and a killer view of the skyline from the observatory on the lake. Who said museums have to be boring? The art museums host similar events regularly, and it is the most fun way of taking in the art and/or science.

I walked into a restaurant to have dinner with some friends. There was a hardcore punk concert in full swing in the back room

While I love downtown Chicago, it’s the surrounding neighborhoods that tourists never make it to that harbor the real charms of the city. And one of the biggest of those charms: the food. Chicago is home to some really exciting chefs and restaurants that create unique gourmet burgers, innovative tapas, classic deep-dish pizza — but you don’t have to go to them to engage in fine foodie activity. A ten minute walk down my quiet Latin-American street brings me to my neighborhood Sunday Farmer’s Market (Itvaar Bazaar and then some!). Here I can buy fresh ingredients for my own cooking endeavors, and I can also get favorites from local restaurants. Local bakeries showcase fresh bread baked in the myriad ways of the baker — baguettes, croissants, regular loaves, pastries, donuts (actually fried, not baked), cream puffs. The (arguably) best vegan restaurant in the city is selling vegan-ized burger patties. There is cheese. There are home-made salsas. Kitchen experiments are inevitable. My Sundays belong to this market for the rest of the summer.

There is a whole lot more to Chicago than I can fit in just this article, but I can’t not mention the really vibrant music scene. Punk, rock, jazz, hip-hop, soul, classical – hundreds of local and not so local acts every single night. Choosing where to go and what to see probably takes up a too-big-chunk of my Fridays at work (however, who’s to say that a healthy obsession with live music doesn’t make me a better engineer, right?). Historically, Chicago is where distinctive styles of Blues and house music were developed. That means Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, but also DJ Funk and Ten City. While most people know famous Chicago jazz artists and venues like the Green Mill and House of Blues, few know that house music actually originated in a Chicago nightclub called The Warehouse. With this extremely eclectic musical history and tendency to go ahead and create a sound if it doesn’t already exist, it’s not unusual to walk into places and find live music of all kinds. In fact, that’s exactly what my last Saturday night was like. I walked into a restaurant to have dinner with some friends. There was a hardcore punk concert in full swing in the back room. The walls were covered in Abraham Lincoln art. A typical Saturday night — almost as fun as sitting on a friend’s veranda after a gorgeous rain has swept Lahore.


Laila Ghaffar on her annual trip to Pakistan



Arriving in Lahore is like plunging headlong into another world. The sights and sounds merge to form a head-spinning vibrant city. I was born and raised in London, a place of rules, discipline and order. It’s a place where traffic flows calmly, where you hardly ever hear a car horn, where the electricity never goes, where the skies are often grey, where people speak softly, where I have freedom to wear what I want and choose whichever identity. When I come on my annual winter visit to Lahore, it’s a different story.

The first thing that hits me about Lahore is the poverty, noise and pollution. Piles of rubbish clog the city. Motorcycles weave through thick traffic, heaving under the weight of a family of five. I find it strange that women ride side-saddle on motorbikes, their heels almost skimming the road, dupattas trailing alarmingly close to the spokes of the wheels. People talk loudly, play their music loudly, honk loudly and even the birds, particularly the crows, call louder. The air has a rich ripe smell of traffic fumes, open drains and roasting meat. Many of the buildings, concrete boxes jammed together, appear unfinished. Thick tangles of electric wires loop across streets. And everything in Lahore is covered in a thick layer of dust. I’ve heard people describe it as a garden city but the ride from the airport to my grandparents’ house is not very scenic.



But Lahore has it charms. Lahoris are warm and friendly. In London, people tend to be distant. For instance at Heathrow, if you’re struggling to lift your suitcase off the carousel, they won’t offer to help. Here you just have to say, ‘Excuse me bhai sahab…’ to your moustachioed neighbour and before the words are out of your mouth he will have hoisted your suitcase on to your trolley. People are extraordinarily generous. They invite you to their homes without hesitation, even if they don’t know you very well. They heap food and drink on you and don’t mind going out of their way to pick and drop you. They will lavish time and attention on you and nothing is too much trouble. In London however, people just don’t have that kind of time or generosity.

I am used to being anonymous in London. That is good and bad. Good because it gives me freedom but the flip side of that freedom is that most of my interaction with strangers is impersonal. They don’t care about me. Here your identity is bound up with your family’s. Therefore people tend to treat you according to how much or little they like your family. I am lucky for in my case this means I am treated well most of the time. However this comes with a downside: no boundaries. If somebody feels they know your family well, they feel entirely justified in asking you a barrage of intimate questions. Should you choose not to answer, you are considered rude and stand offish. Should you answer, the next day a dozen people will know.


No boundaries includes staring too. From the moment I step out of Lahore airport I feel a thousand eyes upon me and that doesn’t let up the whole time I am here. Wherever I go, whether it’s the bazaar, library or even driving on the road, I am always ogled at. Usually it’s men but women do not hesitate to stare you out when they get the chance. I know it’s not just me. All the girls that I’ve spoken to say they also find it very irritating but that they’ve got used to it. Last night I went out to dinner and there was a man sitting at a table next to mine, who stared so much it was wonder he managed to eat at all.


I love the ‘come and go’ atmosphere in Lahore. It’s so different to the structured London way of things. You can be spontaneous here — just drop in on your friend uninvited for lunch, and leave in the same breezy manner as you came. It creates a fun, buzzing environment in each house. In London, I would have to tell my friend I was coming over the day before. I would then text them when I left for their house and text them again when I was five minutes away. A time for me to leave would have probably been negotiated the day before. It’s excessive but it means that less time is wasted. Londoners are punctual, and most Lahoris are not. To some people four o’clock means 5, to others it means 6. If you show up at 4, you are considered a bit lonely.


All in all, I find Lahore maddening, exhilarating, annoying, exciting and joyous. If there were three things I could change about it, I would like it to be cleaner, safer and more fair for everybody, particularly for those at the bottom of the heap. But even if I couldn’t change a thing, I would continue to love it as I always have.

Pin It