13 Things You Should Know About Pakistani Culture

The Pakistan Monument, a landmark in Islamabad, represents four provinces of Pakistan
The Pakistan Monument, a landmark in Islamabad, represents four provinces of Pakistan | © Shahid Khan / Alamy Stock Photo
If there is a country whose culture is starkly contrasted by its international image, it has to be Pakistan. Pakistanis all over the world often face the dilemma of explaining what their culture really entails, thanks to years of news-media exaggeration and agenda setting. Beyond democratic and economic disappointment dwells a world of Pakistani civil society that works resiliently against all odds to keep what matters most intact: the country’s vibrant culture. Let’s try to get to know Pakistan a little better.

Pakistani culture is very diverse

Thanks to its historical, geographical and ethnic diversity, Pakistan’s culture is a melting pot of Indian, Persian, Afghan, Central Asian, South Asian and Western Asian influences. There are over 15 major ethnic groups in Pakistan, which differ in physical features, historical bloodlines, customs, dress, food and music. Some of these include Punjabis, Sindhis, Baloch, Pashtuns, Kashmiris, Hazaras, Makranis and Baltis, coming from regions as close to home as the Indus Valley or as far as Africa or Tibet. Other than ancient ethnic elements, the religious influence of Islam has also strongly shaped Pakistani culture since it first came to the region in AD 700.

Pakistan, Chitral, Rumbur Valley, Kailash women dancing at annual harvest festival.
Pakistan, Chitral, Rumbur Valley, Kailash women dancing at annual harvest festival. © Asia Image Group Pte Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Many different languages are spoken in Pakistan

The official number of languages actively spoken in Pakistan is between 73 and 76. This means that within hours as you travel between the country’s districts, there are languages that other groups in different regions do not speak. The most popular languages, however, belong to the largest ethnic groups with their own modern and ancient literature. Most languages in Pakistan belong to the Indo-Iranian language group, including Urdu, the national language.

The people are friendly, but gender segregation still exists

Due to Islamic and tribal influences, non-urban regions of Pakistan have varying levels of gender segregation, while big cities too have conservative expectations in terms of interactions between men and women. Couples usually don’t hug or kiss in public in a non-platonic way. Regardless of that, the people of Pakistan are helpful, friendly, approachable and humble.

Pakistanis love listening to – and making – music

Diverse culture has exposed Pakistani musicians to many different poetic forms and styles, along with languages and literature. Qawwali and Ghazal are the nation’s auditory treasures. Building on that, Pakistani TV shows, like Coke Studio, have amassed millions of fans internationally and locally, from non-Pakistanis to non-Urdu speakers. The nation has also produced legendary singers, like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who have left a tremendous influence on the culture and the collective conscience of the people. Contemporary musicians too play with modern styles and develop fusions in the Urdu language, of blues, funk, rock and jazz.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan perform
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan perform © alberto / Alamy Stock Photo

Family bonds are strong in Pakistan

Family comes first in Pakistan due to religious, cultural, economic and societal values. Pakistani society is not led by individualism but rather by collectivism, where family and other relationships stand strong.

Pakistani culture includes excellent craftsmanship

Pakistani truck art is not the only world-famous example of craftsmanship. Passed down through generations, Pakistani craft includes a plethora of styles, materials and aesthetics. Calligraphy in Arabic is one of the most prominent skills found in many local buildings and sites and wall hangings, like copper work, paintings and carved wood. Pottery, especially blue pottery, typical of Sindh and Multan, is loved all over the world for its look. Naqashi, or the art-making of camel-skin lamps, is another example of local craft, along with colourful tile work, which is a Mughal legacy.

Head Women's Jewelry nomadic Pashtuns Pashtun Pakistan Silver 20th Cent.
Head Women’s Jewelry nomadic Pashtuns Pashtun Pakistan Silver 20th Cent. © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo

Sufism has given birth to beautiful poetry and music

Mainstream Islam and Islamic mysticism are both prevalent in Pakistan, but often, hard-line clerics, who follow the Wahhabi school of thought, reject the tradition of mysticism or Sufism that has added great beauty to the already unique Islamic flavour of the country. Sufis show their devotion through many means like dance, poetry, whirling, meditation, etc. Some of the country’s most spiritually advanced and unifying messages of love are found in Sufi poetry. The hard-liners may try to isolate them, but the population cannot help but be entranced by them.

Read the full article at The Culture Trip