Islamabad – like Rubik’s Cube

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This was the view from the Margalla Hills at 8 o'clock in the morning.
This was the view from the Margalla Hills at 8 o'clock in the morning.

This might be a weird association with a city, however, that is how I feel about the town planning of the Pakistani capital. According to the online encyclopaedia ‘Wikipedia’ Islamabad is ‘one of the most organised and well-planned towns of South Asia’, and this does not surprise me. The whole city is divided into different sectors and zones and it somehow reminds me of Rubik’s Cube. It is very difficult to lose your way here and it is almost impossible to lose direction – even for me! In the north of the city lie the Margalla Hills, which are great for getting your bearings right, and then you have sectors that go from north to south starting with D and ending with I. Every sector is identified by a letter and a number and covers an area of approximately 2km x 2km. In the middle of every sector is a so-called Markaz, which is an agglomeration of shops and restaurants. What is lacking in this city is a proper town centre. There is the ‘Blue Area’ in the east but that is only a huge road with big shops, banks, airlines, etc.

Juggling two Cafe Lattes

During one of my reconnaissance bike tours through the town, I discovered a nice little market, the Kosher Market. It is in sector F-6 featuring two coffee shops that sell good Café Lattes – and as I like a good Café Latte in the morning I had a splendid idea yesterday. I biked there in the blazing heat to get one of these fine coffees for me and one of my colleagues, however, I had forgotten how tricky it was to juggle two coffees in one of those paper cups inside my shoulder bag. By the time I had left the coffee shop, thinking that I had put them in a good place inside my Crumpler bag, I already felt a warm stream going down my back. So I went back inside and asked for a plastic bag, which they very kindly gave me, and off I went on my bike in the now even more blazing heat. However, half way on the way to work I noticed that one of my bike pedals was a bit wonky and the next thing I knew was that it came off and of course, I did not have any tools on me. Unfortunately I was still quite a way away and I had a little hill to master – with one pedal and two Café Lattes that had been half empty by the time I had lost my pedal. As I did not have any time to push the bike (I had to be at work for a meeting) I took off my shoe, wiggled my toes around the pedal stem and mastered the hill. I did manage to get to work in time, however, the man I was meeting was wondering why I was so exhausted and why I had coffee all over my trousers!

After my meeting, an Irish colleague of mine was kind enough to help me put the pedal back on and I hate to admit that I had made a fatal mistake – I had put the left pedal on the right side of the bike, which means that every time you pedal it loosens. Well, I hope that male Irish engineering is better than female German engineering and that I do not have to bike around Islamabad with one pedal again.

One of the main roads in Islamabad - it is amazing how green it is.
One of the main roads in Islamabad - it is amazing how green it is.


Despite all Friday’s biking troubles, I still managed to find a flat at the foot of the Margalla Hills, which seem to have become my running ground. The Margalla Hills are a National Park and there are lots of guards and rangers watching the park, and you can actually find dedicated running trails. I normally run up the hills in the mornings but yesterday I went to the Fatima Jinnah Park after work. This is the park I thought I would see women run, however, all I saw were a few running men and very few power walking women in their Salwaar Kameez.

Before I ventured to the park I went on a flat-hunting tour with a real estate agent, who was recommended to me by the Swiss Developing Agency (SDC). One of my colleagues, Muktar from Kenya, has been living in our guesthouse for the past two months and I dragged him out to look at flats with me  – and guess what? We both found something we liked. It was really nice to see how happy Muktar was that he could finally move out of the guesthouse! And it made me realise how much I enjoy getting people to do things! Not that it was down to me that he was taking the flat, however, he probably would not have gone house hunting had I not dragged him!

So, if all goes well, I will be moving to a nice 2-bedroom flat with a huge terrace this Monday – so watch the space for more news from Islamabad.

Having reached the top of the running trail.
Having reached the top of the running trail.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Usama

    Just came across your blog searching for trail 5 and was already lost in your posts. Its fascinating reading about my city from a foreigner’s perspective 🙂

  2. Ellen Miller

    Hey Everest sister!!! I am glad to hear that you are getting settled into ISB. Enjoy running….you might be the only woman doing that there, but hopefully other women will be inspired by you!
    I am proud of you, Billi! Headed to the Alps next week.
    I miss you! Cheers

  3. Ingrid

    Dear Billi!

    I have finally taken the time to read up on your blog after following you closely only until the SUMMIT. Congratulations again! Just wanted to say, it is so interesting to follow what you are up to and I love that you go running in Salwaar Kameez! Good luck in Islamabad. Look forward to hearing more. I know KTM and the people there miss you a lot aready.

    Hugs, Ingrid

  4. Declan

    Hey Billi! Ktm’s temporary loss is the Rubik’s Cube city’s gain then!! Sounds like there’ll be a project for Richard to design a latte-tight coffee cup while he’s passing through. I’m on a last mad dash to see to all that needs to be done before I fly back to Ireland in the morning. Look forward to keeping up with your on-going global adventure. Take care, stay safe and smile lots, d.

  5. Chris

    Have a great time. There is a great book shop in F-6 as well.

  6. Ms D

    Hi BB, good to hear what you’re up to. We’re in Ireland right now (Richard and Mairead say ‘hi’), and, true to form, it started raining almost as soon as we set foot on the Emerald Isle. Lots of love, Dagmar

  7. adele

    Wonderful to see you’re settling in an finding your way round in true energetic Billi styleee! xx

  8. Claudia

    your story made me laugh! i could see you struggling with the coffee and bike and still show up on time. Congratulations on the flat!

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