A little background to begin with.
Well, first of all, you are in for beauty and surprises.
The region is filled with impenetrable mountains and cities straight
from a "1001 Arabian Nights."
The main city is Peshawar, the provincial capital. Street vendors
sell everything from jewelery to gunbelts. Horse drawn carriages
outnumber the cars. And of course, there is the Smugglers Bazaar. No
tents and bandits in the Smugglers Bazzar but a Western style mall
full of TVs, the latest in video equipment, refrigerators, furniture
and fashion label clothing.
The fabled Khyber Pass is close by.
North of Peshawar is the area known as Swat, with some of the
loveliest mountain scenery found enywhere in the world , and Chitral,
a relatively unspoiled area of green valleys and hot-springs. If you
are subject to vertigo, then avoid the Indus Koshitan to the west, a
region of colossal peaks and seemingly bottomless canyons.
All in all, if it were not for the political situation, the region
could be one of the world's great tourist destinations. I think it
would be a marvelous place to hike.
Now to get down to some of the detail.
You began with language and so will I. You will find more than one
language spoken in the area.
The official national languages are Urdu, Sindhi, and English.
If you were dropped by the side of the road in the Chitral region, you
would find locals speaking Phalura. If that roadside drop took place
near Peshawar, you would find speakers of Northern Pashto and some
southern Pashto. There is only an 80% similarity between the lexicon
of both languages. There is a good deal of similarity with
Northwestern Pashto spoken in Afghanistan. Subdialects of Northern
Pashto are Kohat (Khatak), Yusufzai (Peshawar), Afridi, Shinwari,
Mohmand and Shilmani. It is written in a modified Persian/Arabic
script. It is used in schools and media in NWFP and adjacent tribal
territories. Newspapers, radio programs, films and TV.
Information from: "Ethnologue report for Pakistan" -
The region you are interested in probably has more foreigners that it
does native tribesmen. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in
December 1979, refugees began streaming over the borders into
Pakistan. By 1990 approximately 3.2 million refugees had settled
there, a decrease of about 90,000 from 1989. Previously uninhabited
areas of the North-West Frontier Provincehad been settled by refugees
during the 1980s. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) estimated that in 1990 there were 345 Afghan refugee villages.
Of these, 68.5 percent were in the North-West Frontier Province. Each
village housed an average of 10,000 people, and women and children
accounted for 75 percent of the refugee population.
As for the person who found you after you were dropped off, more than
likely it would be a 'kid.' More than 40% of the population in the
region is under 14 years of age and the median age is only 19. And
since you are alone, there is a strong possibility you will be killed.
Anti-western violence in North-West Frontier Province is so strong,
visitors to the tribal areas of that province should obtain permission
from the Home & Tribal Affairs Department before even thinking of
entering the area. Visitors to Chitral and the upper Swat Valley
should hire reputable guides and bodyguards to ward against assault.
Now, presuming your man is the Indiana Jones type and has managed to
get past all of the above. You will merely have to face a strong
distrust of strangers, a probable denial of traditional hospitality to
westerners, or strangers in general, - and a new round of opportunity
for getting his butt shot off.
"We have already made one great concession," says Mr. Khan, a tribal
leader, "with the government forcing us to sacrifice our custom of
hospitality to guests. The Pakistani military has been allowed to
search our homes and take our guests from us." It is highly doubtful
you would recieve hospitality in a tribal home.
The eight leading tribes in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province
have all decided they do not want Westerners there. "We don't even
want them hanging around our airports." It is basically a religious
issue. They won't allow the infidels to "enter any places where we
keep our holy Korans." That included private homes and the former
traditional hospitality found there. - More quotes from tribal leader
Mohamad Shafiq, another tribal leader states point blank, ""We'll
welcome Osama anytime he drops in. He is, afterall, our hero."
We need to remember that while "on-the-map" the North-West Frontier
Province is part of Pakistan, they don't see it that way. - "We don't
even recognize the Pakistani government, since we are an independent
people" - another quote from Shafiq.
If the person 'being dropped off' is the hero of your film, he will
need some very strong survival skills to get out of the area in one
piece. for one thing, his mere presence may mark him as a "bounty
hunter" in the eyes of the locals.
So for the sake of continuing this answer, we will pretend his
language skills have gained him hospitality in a local tribe and
The most common tribal people he would probably run into are the
Pakhtuns, one of the largest tribal groups in the world. The West has
long had a fascination with the Pakhtuns. They were one of the few
peoples able to overcome Genghis Khan and defeat the advances of
British Empire. Authors as varied as Rudyard Kipling and contemporary
Pakistani anthropologist Akbar S. Ahmed wrote about them. More is
written about the Pakhtuns than about any other ethnic group in
A major feature of the Pakhtun way of life is the joint family system.
All the family members, even the married sons, live jointly in a house
large enough to separately accommodate each married couple under the
authority of the father who, as head of the family, manages the family
affairs and exercises an enormous influence.
All the earning hands of the family, married as well as un-married
sons, contribute their share of income to the common pool of
resources. All expenses of food, clothing, education, health, birth,
marriages and deaths are defrayed from this common fund. The mantle of
authority falls on the eldest son's shoulders after the death of the
father or when old age renders him unable to discharge his functions
efficiently. The system of "Nikat" (ancestral line) which regulates
the shares of losses and gains, debts and liabilities of each family,
is the mainstay of Pakhtun society. The internal management of the
household rests with the mother who exercises her authority within her
own sphere of influence.
The Pakhtun have several methods of greeting and salutation. Strangers
passing on a road or thoroughfare exchange courtesies such as "Starrey
ma shey" (May you not be tired) and "Pa khair raghley" (welcome). This
is answered by "Khudai de mal sha" (May God be with you), "Pa khair
ossey" (May you live in peace) and "Ma khwaraigey" (May you not be
poor). Though I rather imagine the first words your drop-off would
hear would be a variation of "hands up," if they bothered speaking to
him at all.
At the core of any identity as a Pakhtun is adherence to the male
centered code of conduct called "pakhtunwali." Foremost in this code
is the concept of honor. Honor or "nang," is defined in a starkly
black-and-white, all-or-nothing manner. Without honor, for a Pakhtun,
life is not worth living. Honor demands the maintenance of sexual
propriety - - Complete chastity among female relatives is of the
essence. It is only with the purity and good repute of his mother,
daughters, sisters, and wife (or wives) does a man ensure his honor.
Because of that, women are restricted to private, family compounds in
much of the province.
Now, make a note of this next statement: - - Even census takers,
invariably male, are constrained not to ask about the women in another
man's home, and the number of men in a household is often overstated
because sons and brothers are a source of strength. Accurate
enumeration of the population hence is not possible.
Related to the notion of honor is the principle of revenge, or
"badal." Offenses to one's honor have to be be avenged, or there is no
honor. Minor problems may be settled by negotiation but murder demands
blood revenge. Partners in illicit sexual liaisons are killed if
discovered. Even making lewd innuendos or, in the case of women,
having one's reputation maligned may mean death. The men involved
sometimes escape to other regions, where they may well be tracked down
by the woman's kin. When a woman is killed, the assailant is, almost
without exception, a close male relative. Killings associated with
sexual misconduct are the only ones that do not demand revenge. Even
the courts are accustomed to dealing leniently in such cases.
Vendettas and feuds are an endemic feature of social relations and an
index of individual and group identity.
Since Americans under the auspices of the Pakistani military have
entered tribal areas, searched homes and questioned - refer back to
the statement regarding census takers - The Pakistan military, and
because of the American pressure behind the military action of
entering homes and violating the privacy of women living there and
removing guests - the concept of "badal" has in many cases been
extended to the treatment of all Westerners. American and allied
Pakistani troops have violated "pakhtunwali" and honor must be
What you asked about is another major dimension of pakhtunwali, which
is hospitality, or "melmastia." Commensalism is a means of showing
respect, friendship, and alliance. A complex ceremony surrounds the
serving of guests, in which the host or his sons, when serving, refuse
to sit with those they entertain as a mark of courtesy.
Closely related to melmastia is the requirement of giving refuge to
anyone, even one's enemy, for as long as the person is within the
precincts of one's home. These codes, too, are related to the concept
of honor, for the host gains honor by serving his guest, and the
person who places himself under another's protection is weak, a
supplicant. Refuge must extend to the point of being willing to
sacrifice one's own life to defend one's guest.
The key words are "within the precincts" of one's home. Outside of
those private precincts, the protection of melmastia does not apply.
That is where your drop-off is in trouble. It will be very difficult
for him to actually be offered the protection of a private house.
Social pressures brought about by the distrust of the government and
its Western allies have undermined the ability, or desire, to provide
refuge to most anybody who is not recognized by other members of the
tribe or village.
The large number of refugees from War-torn Afghanistan have also
contributed to the undermining of traditional hospitality.
But we already have your man in the door, don't we?
So we go back to the way a guest is served - only by the men of the
house - and the guest must eat alone. But it is not as "cold" as it
seems. Since your drop-off is already in the door, 'Melmastia' will
ensure 'hospitality without expectation or reward.' Though this
should be reciprocated, in order to keep on the host's 'good' side. -
- In other words, you can hold anyone's Kalashnikov at tea time and
have the biggest bowl of soup you want, provided you offer an olive
branch of friendship back. Perhaps by taking on a Pakhtun pen-pal.
The pen-pal idea is no joke. While I have not been in Pakistan, I
have been in similar regions and the establishment of regular
communication is considered a great gift and act of friendship. I
doubt if the hundred miles between where I was and where your drop-off
is is going to be, make that much of a difference for this kind of
As for what he will be served, lamb tikka is one of the more common
dishes in the area and there is more than a 50% chance it is what he
will be served. I found it in Iran and it is made much the same way
there as it was just across the border. It is sometimes known as
"Death by Curry."
This makes enough for a whole family:
4 lb boneless leg of lamb.
4 teaspoon ground cumin.
1 teaspoon tumeric.
1 teaspoon salt.
12 teaspoons natural yogurt.
2 onions,finely chopped.
4 inch piece fresh root ginger,grated.
4 cloves of garlic,crushed.
2 teaspoons gram masala.
8 chillies (very hot)
2 green peppers
1 red pepper
4 teaspoons of grapseed (or olive) oil.
2 teaspoons of sugar.
Trim the fat from the lamb and cut into i inch cubes. Place in a large
glass bowl add 5 teaspoons of water. Cover and steam for about 10
minutes. Drain and save the drippings
Place the Cumin, Turmeric, Salt, Yogurt, Ginger, and Garlic in a large
bowl. Mix well and chill overnight.
With a pestle and morter crush the chillies to a pulp. But be carfull,
if you have hot enough peppers, these babies really do burn. I use
Chop the red and green peppers and place in a large glass bowl then
add 4 teaspoons of water and cover. Heat till peppers just blanch.
You will now need to make a mixture called "Murghal Spice."
Seeds from 2oz green Cardamom pods. - Two 3 inch Cinnamon Sticks
crushed. - 1 Teaspoon whole Cloves.
2 Teaspoons black Peppercorns. - 1 Teaspoon greated Nutmeg.
This is the hard part:
Place the Murghal Spice in a dry pan and cover with lid. Heat the pan
for 2 to 3 minutes.
By doing this you will release the natural oils of the spice. Have the
lamb ready as you are doing. Take the spice off the heat and quickly
add the lamb. Once this is done, turn off the heat and let sit for 5
minutes. Now add the lamb stock you drained earler and the oil and
cook on medium heat for 6 minutes. Add the crushed chillies and sugar.
Now add the Cumin, Turmeric, Salt, Yogurt, Ginger, and Garlic mix from
the refridgerator and the peppers. Then cook for 30mins on low heat.
Serve with Safron Rice and garnish with slices of lime.
Well, - - - you did ask for authenticity and I have a large recipe
collection. Tikka can also be made from chicken or veal.
As for what your drop-off would drink - - tea and more tea. Alcohol
is forbidden as the whole society is Halal. Fruit drinks, squeezed
from pomegranates, apples, melons, and mangoes, and called "sharbat,"
are also found.
Here is a site about Pakistani food. Because the items covered here
are basic, much would apply to the Tribal regions as well as the rest
of the country. Cooking in the Northwest-Frontier Province uses many
of the same ingredients but is a great deal plainer and involves the
heavy use of lamb.
http://www.msstate.edu/org/psa/frontpage/articles/cuisine.html - Pakistani Food
As for what your drop-off's hosts would be wearing, most of the
Pakhtun women in the province still wear the Bhurka though there is no
Pakistani law demanding it. A good friend's sister still lives in
Iran and defends the Bhurka as a symbol of freedom where many of us in
the West call it a thing of repression. She considers it a symbol of
freedom simply because she does not have to look her best every time
she leaves the house. She likes shopping with curlers in her hair,
not having to bother with makeup, and if the day is hot enough, not
having to bother with anything under it at all. She dresses in
high-style when she is in the US. It is just a matter of the way we
view things I guess.
Both men and women wear the shalwar-kameez. This is a complete
costume, like a trouser-shirt combination. Shalwar is a pair of thin
cotton trousers, baggy but tapered at the ankles. It has a drawstring
Izaar bandwaist acting as a belt and a long tunic like shirt down to
the knees, which is called kameez. Women wear the Shalwar-Kameez in a
variety of colors & designs, and look much better in it than the men
Pakhtun men also wear sleeveless embroidered vests over the
Shalwar-Kameez. In addition, they wear Turbans which have the clothes
tied in such a way that symbolize their Tribal identity. However, more
frequently, they generally wear caps of various shapes & designs with
the most common being the Pukul Hat which is a flat round wool cap.
In certain zones rifles, pistols, knives, and other weapons are
considered as an essential part of the Pakhtun getup. Yet another
item, very much part & parcel of a Pakhtun man, is a small tin can of
This is a green-colored tobacco powder, stewed in lime (some secret
recipe, I guess), which is stuffed between lips and teeth, several
times a day. The tin can, which is usually round, is also fitted with
a mirror for the Pakhtun man to view the entire operation of stuffing
the Nuswar in the right place - it works better if stuffed in the
right place. - - Please don't ask? I'm simply passing on information
:) So, if your drop-off friend sees a tribesman get out his "compact"
and 'do' his face - it is quite all right.
As for celebrations and social life, other than Pakistan 'state'
holidays which are largely ignored in the tribal areas, most
celebrations mark 'rites of passage' within families, such as
marriages, coming of age, etc. So perhaps the drop-off might get
invited to one of these.
Pakhtun weddings are social events that can go on for days. The
wedding festivities usually start with a religious ceremony at which a
mullah reads parts of the Koran, and the couple exchanges vows (known
as the Neka). Only the bride and groom and a few close family members
will attend this ceremony. Your hero would probably not be invited to
this part of the celebration. The next part of the wedding is similar
to a Western wedding reception in the United States with gifts and
Traditionally, the guests first gather without the bride and groom.
The men and women are entertained separately. There is music, dancing,
and a dinner as lavish as circumstances can afford. After everyone has
finished eating, the bride and groom go into the reception. All the
guests stand and applaud the couple as they proceed to a couch on a
raised platform. They are showered with candy or flowers and from
there they carry out various wedding traditions, such as exchanging
rings and cutting and exchanging cake. After the reception, the bride
and groom are taken to the groom's home, accompanied by some of the
guests. There breakfast is served, and the couple is finally left
Social occasions are predominantly family and extended family affairs.
Picnics are important events. Many parties are for either male or
female groups, and if both sexes are invited, they often participate
separately. They of course celebrate Islamic holidays. The two most
important holidays are ?Eid al Fitr and 'Eid-al-Qurban. ?Eid al Fitr
marks the end of Ramadan, the month of ritual fasting associated with
the lunar calendar. These holidays occur eleven or twelve days earlier
each year, according to the Arabic lunar calendar, which is eleven or
twelve days shorter than our solar calendar.
?Eid-e-Qurban, also known as ?Eid-al-Adha, marks the preparation for
Hajj, which takes place during the 12th month of the Moslem calendar,
between the 7th and 10th days. ?Eid-e-Qurban is celebrated on the 10th
day and centers on the ritual slaughter of a sheep or goat to
commemorate Abraham?s sacrificial slaying of a sheep instead of his
son Isaac. One-third of the slaughtered animal is used by the family,
another third by relatives, and the rest is given to the poor. Friends
also exchange presents during this time.
The birth of a first child is also the occasion for daylong
celebrations, which are more elaborate if the child is a boy.
Subsequent births receive less attention. The sixth night after a
birth there is an open house celebration for friends, who bring small
Boys are usually circumcised about the age of 7, after which they are
permitted to wear turbans if they so choose. The circumcision is the
occasion for a celebration and feast, likely to involve wrestling
contests and other demonstrations of manliness.
So your drop-off may find some good home-grown entertainment afterall.
Search - Google
Terms - pakistani tribal culture, pakistan north west frontier
province, north west frontier province ethnic studies, pakistan
ethnology, pakhtun food, pakhtun celebrations
The following were used in composing this answer:
http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/pk.html - CIA The World Factbook
- Country Profile, BBC News
http://countrystudies.us/pakistan/ - US Army Handbook - Pakistan
Country Study Pakistan - My own web page about Pakistan
http://www.garfnet.org.uk/new_mill/winter96/as_pak1.htm - Pakistan by Andy Sellins
Shalwar-Kameez, the Pakistani thob
PakistanNorthWestFrontier.png - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - -
While there is good information here, I sometimes question it as final
authority since users are permitted to make changes to the text and
http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0836032.html - North-West Frontier Province
http://www.bartleby.com/65/nw/NWFProv.html - North-West Frontier
Province. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition
I hope I have covered most of what you asked in your question. But an
answer can also lead to more questions. So if there is anything I may
clarify, please ask before rating the answer.
Cheers and Salaam