Urdu belongs to the Indo-European or, more specifically, the Indo-Aryan language family. Apart from serving as the lingua franca in Pakistan, it is also used in six states of India, and is one of its 22 official languages. It is closely related to Hindi and was officially recognized during the British Raj in 1837. Urdu was strongly influenced by Persian and Arabic and almost all of its verbs have their roots in Sanskrit or Prakrit. As such, it has around 160 million speakers, including those who speak it as a second language.
The Urdu Writing System:
Urdu is written from right to left in the same way as the Persian alphabet or, more precisely, in the Nasta’liq style. It was also written in the Kaithi script and more recently in India, the Devanagari script is being used for publications. Occasionally, you might also encounter Urdu written in the Roman script which has been used since the British Raj in the nineteenth century.
Urdu has 39 letters with no distinction between the upper and lower cases. Additional to that, there are thirteen other characters, which gives us a total of 52.
It does not have standalone vowels; instead, they are represented by diacritics (glyphs added to a letter) on the preceding consonant, or by the consonants y or w. It is also good to remember that the vowels can be long or short, and that diacritics for short vowels are often omitted in practice.
Phoneticians can’t seem to agree on how many consonants there are in Urdu, giving it anything between 36 and up to around 50 sounds.
Pakistan, which literally means “Land of the Pure” in Urdu, is the sixth most populous country in the world, with a population of 191 million people. The country itself separated from India in 1947, but it gained full independence almost a decade later, in 1956. A democratic parliamentary federal republic was formed with Islam as its main religion. The capital of Pakistan is Islamabad, but Karachi is the largest city. As you might expect, many similarities to India can be still observed.
Being a huge country that could fit both England and France into its territory, Pakistan has an extremely diverse geography and climate. One can enjoy mountains such as K2 – the second highest mountain on Earth, as well as beautiful rivers in the Swat district, the Thar Desert, or the astonishing shoreline of Astola Island.
The most controversial part of Pakistan is the Kashmir region, which has been the reason for at least three wars between India and Pakistan since their separation in 1947. In the so-called “Kashmir conflict,” Pakistan maintains that Kashmir is the “jugular vein of Pakistan” and its status should be determined by the people of Kashmir. Meanwhile, India insists that this region is a part of India, although in 2010, after the Kashmir Unrest, the Prime Minister of India stated that his government is willing to grant them autonomy. In addition, China argues that Aksai Chin, which is considered a part of Kashmir by India, was and will remain to be a legitimate part of their country.
In terms of the economy, though still unstable, Pakistan is considered to be a rapidly developing country and one of the so-called Next 11 – eleven countries that will become the largest economies and play a major role in the twenty-first century. Pakistan is well known as the largest producer of natural commodities, while the textile industry plays a major role in its exports, and it is the eighth largest exporter of textile products in Asia.
With its diverse culture, nature, and landscapes, Pakistan is a very appealing tourist destination and has been recognized as such by guidebooks including Lonely Planet. You can enjoy anything from ancient ruins, many of which are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, through picturesque mountains, valleys, and beaches, to vibrant cities like Lahore, Islamabad, or Karachi.
Being home to a mix of cultures, Pakistan is also a mix of various regional cuisines that offer a wide variety of dishes. Since the main religion is Islam, most cooks follow the Islamic law and prepare food according to specific guidelines that mostly concern the types of meat that should be used. As you might expect from an Asian cuisine, it is rich in different spices, which create some unforgettable flavors – a true treat to a westerner. Some of the spices commonly used are brown cardamom, green cardamom, cumin seeds, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and black pepper. These make Pakistani cuisine not only tasty, but also very healthy and full of natural goodness.