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Hin-du-stan v. Pak-i-stan…………

March 27, 2010

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:
Go team
We are better than you
Are not
Are too
Says who
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 stadium…

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………….

The gates had to be opened before they were closed………

Team Pakistan……………

The flags……….

The flags coming down……they are brought down together so that neither country has the “advantage”….

The gates closing again………

Team India…..

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.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Courtney permalink
    March 29, 2010 11:50 am

    I’m loving reading the blog. You are a really fun writer…I feel like I’m there half the time! This post reminded me of the book I just finished and can highly recommend- Three Cups of Tea. Have you heard of it? It took me a while to finish it (which Joe made lots of fun of me for but that’s neither here nor there) but it is a great story. American guide fails to summit K2 and in the process discovers a new goal…to build schools for girls in the most rural parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Makes me feel a bit under accomplished (as in, what have I done lately?) but a great story and an interesting read. Hope you are doing well!

    • March 31, 2010 10:55 pm

      I am loving that you are reading my blog! 😎 And you know if you and Joe come visit, you could really be here more than half the time….I’m just sayin! I started 3 cups of tea years ago and just could not get into it – I have thought about trying it again now that my perspective is a wee bit different. And yes, books like that make me feel like I could be doing a wee bit more – they aren’t always great for my self esteem. See you very soon!

  2. Minnesota Pilgrim permalink
    March 27, 2010 6:31 am

    This was totally interesting. I had no clue this went down and EVERY day. Really? Do you know when this ceremony/event started happening?

    Thanks for sharing.

    • March 27, 2010 6:41 am

      Hi Minnesota Pilgrim
      It does happen everyday right around sundown – I do not know how long this retreat has been in practice but I believe for at least several decades.

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