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Islamabad / Pakistan

Traditional Domestic Beer in a Temperance Country

Tadahisa Yamada / Marubeni Corporation Karachi Liaison Office, Islamabad Liaison Office

I think it is safe to say that most of us have heard about Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, through newspapers and news reports. While its latitude is the same as Fukuoka, Islamabad has a severe climate due to its location in the continental interior. Climatic extremes range from summer temperatures of over 50 degrees Celsius to sweltering monsoons in the rainy season and winter temperatures below freezing.

Further, as a systematically constructed capital with streets neatly organized into a grid, rows of government administration offices and luxury homes where foreigners live, all surrounded by mountains and greenery, Islamabad is unlike any other city in Pakistan.
But the city itself is also very small, and after a short drive, you find donkeys, cows, and goats roaming around, and vibrant markets with men wearing traditional shalwar kameez (the national dress known as “shalkameez”, for short) and realize that you are indeed in Pakistan.

Pakistan is of course an Islamic country so alcohol and pork are forbidden. Foreigners and non-Muslims, however, can buy alcohol after obtaining a Liquor Permit (there are no bars or liquor stores in the city, but alcohol is discreetly sold in places such as hotels).

Also, although Pakistan is a temperance country, there is a Pakistani domestic beer called Murree Beer (Murree is the name of a summer resort town in northeastern Pakistan). Originally established by an Englishman in 1860 in order to provide beer to British Raj troops stationed in Pakistan, the Murree brewery is said to be the first modern brewery in Asia during that period.
I imagine that even though there are restaurants and bars that feature beers from around the world in Japan, they are not likely to carry Murree Beer. The taste is distinctive and it has its pros and cons, but on a hot summer day it is particularly delicious.

Finally, I’d like to recommend a renowned sightseeing spot. Due to preceding images of terrorism and violence associated with Pakistan, the number of foreign travelers is very small.
Nevertheless, Pakistan is an area where the Indus Valley Civilization flourished and which today boasts six World Heritage sites as well as five of the fourteen mountains in the world that have peak elevations over 8000 meters.

Among the wonderful areas to visit is a small town called Hunza in northern Pakistan. Said to be the model for Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece Kaze no tani no Naushika (Warriors of the Wind), the scenery in Hunza is so beautiful that it is well worth the two days that it takes to reach this unexplored region by car from Islamabad.

  • Main Street in Islamabad. Skyscrapers are only found along this street in Islamabad.
  • The two kinds of Murre Beer: Original (left) and Classic (right)

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