Capital of Pakistan. Built as a planned city in the 1960s to replace Karachi as Pakistan's capital, Islamabad is noted for its high standards of living.
Top Places to visit in Islamabad:
The eye-popping Shah Faisal Mosque, nestled at the foot of the Margalla Hills, is one of Asia's largest and reflects an eclectic blend of ultramodern and traditional architectural design styles. Topped by sloping roofs (a stark contrast to the traditional domes found on most mosques), the main prayer hall and courtyard is said to hold around 100,000 people. Designed by a Turkish architect, Vedat Dalokay, and built between 1976 and 1986, the mosque's geometric design (modelled on a desert tent) and clean lines make the impressive scale hard to discern until you are up close.
The Margalla Hills are full of hiking trails that snake their way up ridgetops and down through forested valleys. Hiking Around Islamabad, available in major bookshops, provides details of hikes ranging from short walks to three-day excursions. It also provides a natural history background and handy hints for preparation. The walks can be steep, and it's usually hot and dry so take plenty of water and don't walk alone.
Shakarparian is also the site of the impressive reddish-brown granite Pakistan Monument, conceived to represent Pakistan's diverse culture and national unity. Flanked by well-tended gardens and shaped like an unfurling flower, the four main 'petals' represent the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), with the three smaller 'petals' depicting other regions, including Kashmir.
The buzzing Rajah Bazaar is a kaleidoscope of people and merchandise spreading in every direction from chaotic Fowara Chowk. You could spend hours exploring the colourful, crowded streets and buy anything from batteries to a new set of teeth. Dotted around are crumbling stone towers marking old Hindu temples
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