Why do we gain weight during Ramadan?

ramadan-iftarEver wonder why do we gain weight during the holy month of Ramadan? We fast. From Fajr till Maghrib. Thats a whopping 15 hours (your local time may vary) of no food or drink under the blazing July Sun. But instead of making us thinner and fitter, we end up with an even wider waistline than before. Makes no sense!

Or does it.

The real problem is not what we eat. But how much we eat. And by God, we eat a lot after dutifully abstaining during the hot summer day. Just visit your nearest Iftar party in a typical Lahori restaurant; we literally invade the buffet trays as if we are famished for days.

Read more of this post

The Best Park in Pakistan – Fatima Jinnah Park in F-9

Fatima Jinnah F-9 Park

Monument at Fatima Jinnah Park in F-9

Islamabad has a lot to offer for those who love nature and the outdoors. And folks living here can’t wait to find a reason to spend time outdoors. Even in the middle of a hot monsoon summer or freezing winter.

There are these famous hiking trails all across Magalla hills with a new one added just a few weeks ago. Islamabadis take time out on weekends to enjoy the serene and beautiful nature resorts like Pir Sohawa, Shakarparian, Murree Hills, Khanpur and Rawal dams. Some of these places get so crowded during holidays that it seems everyone has abandoned their homes for the outdoors. The has one more outdoor activity to offer. The well manicured parks and gardens. And one such beautiful park is Fatima Jinnah Park in F-9 Sector.

This 700 acre park was part of the original master plan of the city dating back to early 1960s but was not opened up to the public till early 1990s. In the past twenty odd years, it has gone from being a rugged green expanse to a well maintained and managed park in the city. Probably the best kept in the country.

Read more of this post

Islamabad Hikers Club on Facebook

Here is a news alert. So all those hikers living in and around Islamabad, we now have a Facebook group to connect.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=75652559498

There are hundreds of Islamabadis who go hiking daily on numerous trails criss crossing the Margalla Hills. The most popular of them is Trail number 3 as highlighted by us in an earlier blog. Quite recently, Trail 5 seems to be attracting a lot of followers due to it being more beautiful and natural than other tracks.

One of the purposes of this group is to get these hikers to come together on one platform to discuss, plan and share insights about hiking in the vicinity of Islamabad. It may also be a great idea if we can get CDA (Capital Development Authority) to make some hiking friendly policies. And maybe, we can form a group together to go hiking on longer tracks beyond Islamabad.

So let’s spread the word and join in this group on Facebook.

Trail #5 a Nature Hiking Track

If you love bird watching, follow, track and photograph wild flowers, butterflies and other wonderful natural elements during the spring then Trail #5 is for you. Unlike Trail #3, which is extremely popular among hikers in Islamabad, Trail #5 is less traveled, more natural and passes through some of the most scenic sections of the Margalla Hills.

The trail is over 5km long and reaches the village near Murad Gali on Pir Sohawa Road. This junction is at least 2-3 km walk from the Capital Viewpoint restaurant where trail #3 terminates. The trail is thin and gradually climbs up the hill. It will take a little over two hours at a steady pace up the hill to reach Murad Gali. But since it passes through an extremely scenic part of Margalla Hills, we recommend hikers to stop, enjoy and take in the atmosphere.

Very few people go up this trail. However, it is worth every second on it. Especially during the spring season. Due to the summer fast approaching, we expect hikers to carry water and light food items with them. Take a good camera as well to capture most natural elements on the trail.

Warmer Winter in Islamabad

It is just me or was it a warmer Islamabad this winter? The temperatures here in December/January usually drop to around zero at night, but this year, they hovered close to 7 degree centigrade. There was no frosty dew in the morning, and nor did we need to scrap our windshields clear before we headed off to work.

I think the cutting down of trees in the recent past by CDA (Capital Development Authority) to make room for high rises and roadways did the trick. An estimated 3,000 trees were cut to make room for construction. The loss of vegetation in the past few years is now having a toll on the weather as the winters are no longer cold.

I am guessing, but this year onwards, it will be much much hotter summer and temperatures will rise above 40 degrees centigrade on a regular basis. Global warming will affect us Islamabadis a bit more this year than before.

Best Paratha Kabaab in Islamabad

If you truly want to enjoy your paratha, kabaabs and tikkas then you will have to earn it. And what best way to earn then to hike up the Margalla Hills via Trail #3. And we suggest hiking up with a near empty stomach to build up that appetite.

This weekend, Qasim and I did just that. With almost starving stomaches, and only mineral water to sustain us through our journey, we began our ascent of the Margalla Hills. The hills, as any Islamabadi will tell you, are the most beautiful feature of the capital city of Pakistan. They dot the North Western side and run through the length of the city. To one side, they extend and grow all the way to Murree, the picturesque and tourist town up into the Himalayan Mountain range, and on the other side protrude into the fertile Potohar valley.

Trail#3 begins at around 600 meters above sea level in Sector F-6 adjacent to Shalimar Cricket ground and reaches the height of 1100meters near the village of Pir Sohawa up on the hills. The trail is 5.5 Km long and criss crosses through some of the most beautiful, natural and serene surroundings.

Qasim on Trail 3

Qasim on Trail 3

This Sunday, the weather cooperated. After many days of rains and clouds, there was a welcome break as sun shone through making the day extremely good for hiking. We got there a little after midday and after light stretching exercises began our ascend. As we went up, the sounds of the city muffled away to make room for chirping birds, and whispering leaves in the mild wind. Occasionally, one may run across a monkey on the trail, but otherwise, it is just nature and you moving along nice broad path up the hill.

This Sunday there was an unusually large crowd out for a hike. But not many folks prefer to climb all the way. Most of the hikers usually turn back half way up the path. But this Sunday, we were determined to go all the way to enjoy our meal.

It took us a pleasant two hours to reach the village of Pir Sohawa at the top of the mountain. Once there, we immediately made our way to the Capital Viewpoint restaurant to fill our starving stomaches. After quickly occupying a bunch of seats we ordered our favorite Parathas, kabaabs and chicken tikka treat. Capital Viewpoint has been serving some of the most delicious meals since its inception in early 1990s. And after hiking for so long, it was worth the wait. We literally gobbled down a couple of tikkas and dozen seikh kabaabs in a matter of minutes. The hunger inside us was too much and we wanted second helpings but only resisted as we had another hour of descend planned.

So if you really want to enjoy your tikkas at Pir Sohawa, we suggest take Trail #3. You will not regret it.

>Islamabad Bloggers Meetup

>Now here is another refreshing meetup I attended in Islamabad. It was even more amazing that over 100 people came together at Bahria campus on December 29th who had received invitations either via email or through Facebook just a few days earlier.

It was an encouraging sign to see so many Pakistanis in Islamabad either reading or blogging on a regular basis. There were people who blogged about popular topics like technology, about their personal life, politics, their country to such obscure topics like Mayan Calendar predicting end of the world in 2012. There were freshmen students, political activists, techno-geeks, and young entrepreneurs sharing their successes with the audience. And not just in English but also in Urdu language as well.

And yes, the event was being live blogged and twittered on the internet. It was also broadcast live for a small but dedicated audience of viewers online.

It was a great opportunity to finally meet face to face with many bloggers whom I have been following for the past many years. Bytesforall, PakSpectator, Metblogs, Sizlopedia.com are just some of the early success stories of bloggers from Islamabad.

The event also featured some stunning success on the internet in Pakistan including BrightSpyre, Pakistan’s premier job hunt website that I co-founded in 2001. Naqsha.net, Pakistan’s first application providing street maps and GPS navigation among others.

It is amazing that this medium is able to attract such a huge following in Pakistan. The traditional media as is the case worldwide still not being able to grasp the power of blogging and citizen journalism to the level that is required. This void is now being filled by twenty something youth who are now building Pakistan’s next generation of citizen journalists and reporters.

Badar Khushnood
from Google in collaboration with IEEE Bahria University Chapter organized this meetup. I do hope such events take place more regularly in Islamabad as it will only inspire more youth to use this medium to their benefit. The organizers did a good job of keeping the event running on a schedule and a agreed upon format thus making it more productive and interesting for the audience.

>PASHA-BrightSpyre Host a Successful Career Fair

>

Once again PASHA and BrightSpyre have collaborated together to host yet another extremely successful job fair in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. This time thousands of potential job seekers streamed through the door of Pearl Continental Hotel in Rawalpindi. The traffic flow, was surprisingly, well managed and everything seemed well ordered and not once anyone felt that it was a “fish market”.

The event also featured numerous focused sessions as well for the benefit of job seekers. This included such important and critical sessions as Resume Writing, Presentation Skills, Hiring Fresh Graduates from an employer’s perspective. And last but not the least was the Startup Insiders Session which was attended by over 150 eager youngsters. There were numerous questions asked by young minds who wanted to make the leap from salaried life to unpredictable world of entrepreneurship. The questions were very extremely good and thought provoking. This was the 4th such session in Islamabad/Rawalpindi and 10th in the series so far. And yet, the interest of the individuals and the content of the sessions just gets better and better. It is definitely a must attend event for every budding entrepreneur in Pakistan.

I met quite a lot of interesting people during the event, as this was a great event for networking as well. I was also impressed by the dedication of the student Ambassadors from the local Universities who worked tirelessly all day to make sure everything goes as planned. BrightSpyre (one of the company’s that I have co-founded) team also pulled off a great show in collaboration with PASHA. Thank you guys for doing all the hard work and putting together a great event! Thank you PASHA and Jehan Ara for organizing this event in Rawalpindi.

Such events are critical to the growth of the nascent Pakistan’s IT industry. Currently, there are over 1,000 such companies registered with Pakistan Software Export Board with a total market size of US$2 billion and a phenomenal growth rate of 50% annually (source PASHA).

BrightSpyre, which is currently the biggest job portal in Pakistan and boasting over half a million unique registered job seekers, also played a critical role of inviting the right mix of job seekers to the event. It was pleasing to see Bearing Point, Cisco, Scrybe, Ultimus and many other enterprises (seeking job seekers) happy and satisfied with the quality of the candidates at the event.

Here is a link to the photostream on flickr of this event.

Startup Insiders Session in PC Pindi

Yes, the 10th edition of Startup Insiders is going to be held this Saturday in Pearl Continental, Rawalpindi. It is hosted by PASHA in collaboration with BrightSpyre.

This is an ideal platform for entrepreneurs and young startups to meet and collaborate. I encourage all to come and attend this session. I will be there as well. The event will be held during the PASHA career expo at Pearl Continental, Rawalpindi on August 2, 2008.

Date & Time: August 2, 2008 (3-5pm)
Location: Pearl Continental, Rawalpindi
Theme: Transitioning from salaried life to Entrepreneurship

Please visit the event website at for more information.

Hiking up Margalla Hills

So you are visiting Islamabad (capital city of Pakistan) and not sure what to do? One activity that I recommend all to partake in is hiking up Margalla Hills. Hiking! Yes, surprisingly Islamabadis are a bit more prone to such adventures than their counterparts in Karachi and Lahore. And Margalla Hills provides a great uniqueness about a big city where one can just forget the worries of the day while climbing up the beautiful mountain.

You ask what is this hoopla about hiking? Well, you see those hills dotting the north-west of Islamabad city. They also host many hiking tracks that take you all the way up the mountain and beyond. Initially, these tracks were nothing but trails for the local village folks to travel up and down the hill. However, with the passage of time, they also become frequented by hikers who just wanted to enjoy a few hours. And one such track, called, Trail #3, (adjacent to Sector F-6/3) is one of the most popular among the hikers. It goes all the way to the top of the hill and meets up with the famous mountain top village, of Pir Sohawa.

A bit of stats about the track. It begins at 600meters above sea level and goes all the way to 1100meters. It is about 5 Kilometers long and it is all gradual moving up. So the round trip down is a good 10 Kilometers. And during the strenuously hot summer months, it seems like 100 Kilometers.

Well, Islamabad, like the rest of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent cities suffers from a very hot summer, where temperatures soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit regularly. Hence, a typical climb becomes far difficult to achieve. But there is one great aspect of this summer heat. As you climb higher, you literally feel the temperature fall and become cooler around you and usually a light breeze constantly cools you down. It is one of the most wonderful feeling to have. However, I do recommend carrying a small bottle of water (or bigger if you like) all the time to hydrate yourself regularly.

There are numerous resting spots available where one can sit, rejuvenate and take in the atmosphere. The higher you go up, the more serene, beautiful, and calmer it becomes. On a clear day, you can see for miles literally. I, like many other fellow climbers, love to sit at the top and gaze the beautiful scenery in silence before heading back down.

The great thing is that it is not just guys, but lots of female Islamabadis also make it part of their regular routine to hike. Occasionally, one can spot a famous local personality including politicians and television stars. I have taken many foreigners and out of towners up the climb to let them enjoy Islamabad for what it really is. I recommend everyone to go up the track at least once during their visit to the capital city.