America is a country abundant in us immigrants. While we live and work here, the plan to visit back home every or every few years is a must for most of us – to meet families, get the next generation an exposure to the culture and above all touch and feel the taste of our childhood memories. Like other countries, Pakistan is frequently visited by their overseas settlers during many times of the year, with summers being a peak season. There is a certain excitement to travel but another kind when going back home. We all look forward to that big deal journey. The moment we land in Pakistan, it suddenly becomes a place like Disney World. Every single thing is a source of fascination. From lit bazaars to exciting desi food items, none of us will step back from having the fun because life runs at a whole lot of a different pace in Pakistan than in foreign countries. People who had not had the privilege to visit Pakistan in the recent past, go in complete cultural shock after experiencing the ordinary street life of Pakistan. We enjoy and get fascinated and when it’s time to wind up and conclude our travels, it’s time to buy gifts too, to bring for the circle of friends, relatives and acquaintances we make here in the US and other counties we live in. While a lot of us are pretty good at keeping track of our itineraries, the hustle bustle increases as we approach the departure date and the list of gifts gets longer! Our staff at Tea Crockery put this list together that you can get on the way back – and in form of the presents, bring a little bit of Pakistan here!
NAAN KHATAI – Bakeries in Pakistan are specialty shops unlike we see here in the US. All of us have few foodie friends and dessert lovers who crave those yum bakery items! Naan khatai is something anyone from Pakistan will recognize – these are desi baked cookies. A famous Naan Khatai place is Tahzeeb Bakers (formerly Rahat Bakery) among other bakery items. The Khalifah Khatai of Lahore is another popular place and is known for its almond Khatais. It has become a principal gift item for their long life and impeccable taste.
HANDICRAFTS – Each province of Pakistan has its distinct handmade items from wall hangings, centerpieces and curious knick knacks. A touch of these items can bring an ethnic element to any decor in your and your freinds’ homes and become a great conversation pieces. There are way too many souvenirs to list here but few that represent the diverse culture and vibrant lifestyle of these regions include hand embroidered wall art, mirrored work cushions, ajrak and its accessories, woodwork, hand-woven baskets etc.
TRUCK ART ACCESSORIES – Roam around for a few minutes on any given highway in Pakistan and you are guaranteed to see the huge Pakistani Trucks, embellished with amazing patterns and all sorts of colors. On the internet, now you can buy all truck art accessories from mugs to, t-shirts and key chains. They look stupendous. The truck toys and rickshaws adorned in the same art and decorations make great gifts! These pictures were provided by Scarlet Scroll Studio!
TRADITIONAL SHAWLS – There is a huge variety that can fit any budget for any relative when it comes to hand embroidered shawls. These add grace to the traditional shalwar suits and a classy touch to the western clothing. You can get a plain pashmina, embroidered pashmina or a Kashmiri shawl. What sets them apart is the fact that in the new digital age, these shawls are hand woven on manually operated wooden machines called a Khaadi. The hand embroidery in pashmina is especially very intricate and has its own subtle embedded style.
HANDMADE POTTERY – Multan region is known for its pottery since forever. The pottery they make is a feast to the eyes. The traditional blue and white floral pattern shall remind everyone of Pakistan the moment their eyes are laid on the piece. These make great décor items for homes and can be part of many themes, given the timeless bleu et blanc style.
PESHAWARI CHAPPALS – Since Imran Khan’s accession to the seat of the Prime Minister, these are now named as Captaan Chappals. These hand woven leather sandals are original to northern Pakistan. You won’t find these anywhere else but Pakistan. Our men wear these with shalwar kameez as well as jeans. They are widely available in all markets and some brand names also carry them like this one below by Junaid Jamshed.
TRADITIONAL JEWELRY – Pakistan has a thriving gem industry in the North. You can get rings, pendants and all other sorts of handcrafted jewelry items for as low as $4 in any traditional market in Pakistan. These will make girls of any age happy; the glass bangles especially are a novelty to give you non-Pakistani friends. They come wrapped in tissue paper in special rectangle boxes and bring a fairy tale joy with them!
DRY FRUIT – Pakistani Mango is not the only fruit for one to go bonkers about. From almonds, pistachios, peanuts to cashews, you name it and Pakistan has it. This specialty food of the region always make great gift!
KHUSSAY AND OTHER TRADITIONAL CHAPPALS– These are traditional shoes worn by both men and women. Their history goes back to the Mughal times. There are shops in Lahore that have been making and selling these for centuries now. These handcrafted leather shoes are available in many colors from subtle to vibrant, to suit mood of any of your gift receipient! If your relatives have enough of these, there are many variations available in market. Look at these pretty floral ones that we found here! The leather chappals with embroidery are also great to pair with summer clothing and of course jeans!
SHALWAR KAMEEZ – There are literally zero outfits in the world as comfortable as a Shalwar Kameez and in my humble opinion, the attire is also one of the most stylish one. Majority of Pakistani women are super crazy about this dress. The outfit rules the desi social scenes in foreign lands as well. A nicely done shalwar kameez is the best – really the best gift you can give to ladies in your circle, both Pakistanis or non-Pakistanis. And there are so many options available to buy for your stylish friends and family member. The customization of the shalwar kameez can be done at any level – from getting fabric dyed in color of your choice, bespoke embroidery, tailored fit stitching. The budget flexibility is huge too – from low end to very high end! Luckily the fashion industry has an amazing select designers who create a class apart outfits in a budget that suits a lot of people and make a style statements, in line with current trends. These designers come up with beautiful and voguey inventories for prepared-to-wear line as well as work closely with their customers to bring out their personal, distinct style. I have found such breeds of creative souls very useful and my pick for our readers is Aberna Cuts & Stitches of Islamabad, because I have personal experience with them. They are pretty known locally, nationwide as well as overseas among their loyal customers. These are two stylish sisters in crime (Abeer and Nadia and hence Aberna!) who started catering to their friends and relatives and later expanding to a client family of more than 23,000 members (and counting) on Facebook. Whether you are looking for a modern look or thinking ethnic styles, they will be able to get to you what you need. They have honed their skills by designing and producing truly traditional fashionable clothes, reviving the old techniques of work like gota, sheesha (mirror), dabka (metallic strings and springs). You can place an order with them before you leave for Pakistan and the clothes will be ready for you when you arrive! If you did not plan that way, they can ship clothes to the US and other countries as well! They take orders all year round and exhibit their prêt-à-porter collection few times are year. If you are still in Pakistan, plan to attend their Eid Exhibition for their new Eid launch in Islamabad! Their main selling portal is their WhatsApp broadcast group and Facebook page.
While this above list is of presents we can easily get from Paksitan and can pretty much guarantee our recipients will enjoy (I mean who would not like a custom tailored dress, or dry fruit – you can never go wrong with these), sometimes our recipients also make great suggestions. Those are the specialty gifts, specific to the geographical and available in their authentic origin nowhere else! For example, last time my husband came back from Pakistan, his colleague asked him, “You went to Pakistan and didn’t get me tea?”. So I put aside some from our stash and made little gifts for his work place. From then on, we always remember to get traditional black tea (that we Pakistani loves to drink quite a few cups of per day) for our non-desi friends.
Fun fact for people who are not from Pakistan or India- most of us are able to converse almost perfectly with each other in Urdu and Hindi but we cannot read the written text of the other language. The lands’ history however goes back to centuries, and we share so much art, literature, past and appreciate each others’ writers and poets. I have Urdu translated copies of Kristin Chandr and Ajeet Kour which I have enjoyed reading various times. Our dearest friend, who is from India with keen literary inclination, requested Manto’s books in English, books with that had a stamp from a Pakistani bookstore. That I thought was priceless.
Over the period time that I have been in the US, books in Urdu Adab (Urdu literature) have been a great source of reconnecting with my past and I have loved receiving those as gifts.
Pakistan is a place rich in culture, traditions and fun shopping. We sometimes forget how beautiful things are over there and how amazing our heritage is. There are so many original items you can bring back for your loved ones to give them a nostalgic glimpse of their home country or share the art and culture of that land with non-Pakistanis. Gifts make the giver more happy than the recipient but sometimes choosing them can be frustrating! While it’s fun to pick unique and personalized gifts for dear people and exchange and play tiny part in exchanging the culture, a list can always be helpful in making decisions. Let us know in comments what good presents have you received or brought from back home!