Places You’ve Been To Blowing Up – Part II (Marriot Hotel, Islamabad, Pakistan)

At least three places I’ve been to regularly have blown up in recent months – all of them places I felt (relatively) safe in while I was there.  I’m sure this isn’t something many readers will relate to particularly.  But not many readers have the travel background I have.

Marriott Hotel, Islamabad (taken by Abeer Jabar)

Marriott Hotel, Islamabad (photo owned by Abeer Jabar (cc))

Two weeks ago, a truck bomb exploded outside the Marriott Hotel, Islamabad.  Just like Pul-i-Khumri, I’ve been to the Marriott Hotel a few times, and I’ve been to Islamabad many times (ISB is my most visited airport after DUB).

By the way, this series was written over several weeks and I’m posting after the original writing – please excuse any choppy leaps between paragraphs.  Just like The Two Towers this part is kind of lacking in narrative, and without a beginning or end.  It’s all middle.  A bit pointless without the other two parts.

When I lived in Afghanistan, I was also tasked with managing the  IT systems in Pakistan.  This was made a lot easier than the Afghan posting by the facts that:

  1. There’s electricity in Pakistan
  2. There’s widespread internet connectivity in Pakistan
  3. There are HP and APC authorised dealers in Pakistan
  4. There are paved roads and proper airports in Pakistan
  5. Most white collar Pakistanis have a reasonable understanding of computers

Of course, these bring their own challenges (just like in Ireland, many non-IT people there think they know what they’re doing in computers, which is a sysadmin’s worst nightmare, especially when there’s been no sysadmin in place for several years).  But enough of that segue.

Islamabad was a great place to have to go for work, because I was always going there from Afghanistan, and it was comparitively luxurious.  I had cable TV, great food (Pakistani food is lovely), freedom to walk the streets, shopping centres, and as many pirated DVDs as you could carry at just US$1 per disk.  You could also get alcohol relatively easily – the Pakistani Government doesn’t allow Muslims to buy drink, but foreigners and Christians can buy Murree beer (and some spirits) from designated State-owned off licenses.  There’s even an Irish bar in the UN headquarters in the city.  Islamabad is safe.  Especially when your comparison is Afghanistan.

So, seeing serious terror attacks in Islamabad is just as wierd to me as seeing them in Pul-i-Khumri.  I don’t expect it in a place I considered safe.  Quetta, yes.  Islamabad, not so much.  When somewhere you consider a safe zone within an insecure environment suddenly stops being that, it’s strange.

This was Part II of a three part posting.  You can already read Part I, Pul-i-Khumri, and Part III should follow on Friday.

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