Hin-du-stan v. Pak-i-stan…………
Every night right outside of Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan, there is a border closing ceremony between the two countries – India and Pakistan. It is called the Wagah Border Retreat Ceremony. The point of the ceremony is to lower the flags of the two nations and officially close the border for the night.
In 1947, the village that existed at this point where the Radcliffe Line was drawn became split between India and Pakistan and it remains the only place to cross the border by road between the two countries.
The best way to describe the ceremony is kind of, sort of like a U.S. college football game. Kind of. Sort of. There are dancers instead of cheerleaders and there are soldiers instead of players. And, instead of a ball, they have guns and each soldier gets his own gun – so no balls, but lots of guns. See what I mean – kind of, sort of but not exactly? There are also crowds and they cheer their ever-lovin heads off. There are even bands that play really loudly in the background. But eat before you go, because there are no hot dog or beer vendors. Not even cotton candy – but you can get popcorn and balloons on the way out. (Just don’t buy them on the way in because they won’t let you take them in the stadium.)
The entire program is announced in Hindi and I guess Urdu. I don’t understand a lick of either language – so please don’t ask me for exact translations. Basically they are saying:
We are better than you
Says me, that’s who
But remember, that is a loose translation.
I did, however, understand when the Indian side yelled HINNN-DOO-STAHN and the Pakistani side answered with PAHK-EEE-STAHN.
It is quite the occasion and if you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it. Let me be sure to say that I would not plan an entire vacation around this, but if you are a.n.y.w.h.e.r.e. near it, don’t miss it.
The security – these guys sat right behind us – fully loaded – I am not sure if that made me feel better or not.
The cheerleaders dancers………
The gates had to be opened before they were closed………
The flags coming down……they are brought down together so that neither country has the “advantage”….
The gates closing again………
A few good things to know.
If you can get VIP seating – do it. Really – don’t hesitate – just say thank you and move on to a very uncrowded spot with a fantabulous view. Otherwise it is open seating and that means about 8,000 of your new best friends enter the gates at the same exact time as you do and rush for a seat. VIP seating is way better. And the security lines are much shorter.
Speaking of security – you will be screened at least twice.
I have been told that you are not allowed to take a bag in. I have also heard no cameras. We did not take in bags but we did take cameras in our hand. During the ceremony people sitting near us were asked to not take pictures. I was standing on my seat snapping away and no one said anything to me. So this is something you will definitely want to clarify before you go.
You should plan on walking a fair distance from the parking area to the stadium and back (you can actually take a rickshaw up to it but you must walk back). Comfy shoes are a good idea.It’s really not that far – but I would hate for you to be surprised by it.
And remember, you are not allowed to take your cell phone so clarify with your driver exactly where he will meet you before you head to the stadium. Have him point to it and say right here. You won’t be able to call him when you leave the stadium because you won’t have your phone.
We did not have to use the restrooms while we were there but I always feel it is a good idea not to need to use them when there are that many people who might need to do the same thing.
The whole ceremony lasts about 30 minutes max.