Tourist Shopping Guide: Top 10 Souvenirs from Pakistan

Shawls by Ashley Wang

In order to truly experience Pakistan, you should shop in a traditional open-air bazaar. Be prepared for a sensory overload and some tough bargaining. I lived in Pakistan for over three years, and I have spent countless hours haggling in bazaars. Here are my top 10 choices for souvenirs from all over the country.

1) Shawls

Pakistani women wear gorgeous colorful shawls during cooler weather. You can buy soft solid colored shawls to match a favorite coat, or you can buy bold patterned shawls with sequins and exquisite embroidery. Shawls come in two sizes, small and large. The large ones are called stoles, and honestly they would probably be too big to actually wear in the West. Alternatively stoles make great wall hangings, curtains, tablecloths and bed coverings. A typical shawl will set you back about 300 rupees ($3.75), is easy to pack and will be a sure hit with any ladies back home.

2) Multan Pottery

Handmade pottery from Multan, in Punjab, is a treat for the eyes. Traditionally the pottery is made in blue and white with floral decorations, but you can also find different designs and colors. For the best prices, go to Multan, but the pottery can be bought in the bazaars of any major city.

3) Embroidered Bedsheets

In Pakistan, bedsheets are usually custom made and are very affordable. Pop into any bedsheet store and pick out a pattern on one of their large rolls. Usually you can get the bedsheets and the pillowcases sewn up within a few hours. If you want something really nice, check out designer home d├ęcor at Bareeze or Chen One.
Onyx bowls

4) Onyx

This may be one of the only souvenirs you can buy in Pakistan but not in India. Pakistan is famous for black onyx. It’s not the cheapest souvenir, but if you want something different go for a vase or box in black onyx.

5) Carved Wood

Carved inlaid wood can be found in any traditional bazaar where furniture is sold. You can also find carved wooden souvenirs inside tourist emporiums, although you’ll pay a bit more to buy it there. Vases, boxes, and chess sets are popular souvenirs.

6) Classic Photo

You will notice that in Pakistan there are men with guns almost everywhere, and the weapon of choice is the AK-47. Before leaving, you should take a picture of yourself armed to the teeth in true Pakistani fashion. Preferably get a local to pose with you. Mom and Grandma may not enjoy this souvenir, but your friends surely will. Just don’t let these photo souvenirs get into the hands of the CIA.
Pakistan felt hat

7) Men’s Felt Hats

In Northern Pakistan, many men wear curled felt hats to protect them from the cold. They are similar to a French beret but are more fitted. You can buy a felt hat for just a few hundred rupees.

8) Stone Jewelry

Precious and semi-precious stones are mined all over Northern Pakistan. In the Gilgit bazaar I love to buy stone earring and necklace sets, for less than $2 each. You can buy rubies, emeralds, sapphires and other gems for less than in the United States. In the North, there is a cooperative in Karimabad that has excellent prices and products. This jewelry has a traditional flair to it. Otherwise, you can get gold jewelry at different dealers in any major city. Liberty Market, Lahore is famous for gold jewelry.

9) Wall Hanging

Traditional Sindhi handiwork makes an amazing wall hanging that can serve a conversation piece for your living room or add some style to a bedroom. Keep in mind that there are two types, the regular type that is made to look rough and antique, and the type marketed for tourists that uses bolder, brighter colors and doesn’t have so many rough edges.

10) Carpets

If you’ve got money to spend, a carpet is a great souvenir. Carpets, especially from Afghanistan or Iran, are not cheap but they are beautiful. Prices vary considerably by the density of the threads per square inch, and carpet buying is best done with a local Pakistani friend.

Hope you enjoy your trip to Pakistan, and make sure you leave room in your suitcase for all the amazing souvenirs you’ll be bringing home.

Images

Shawls by Ashley Wang
Onyx bowls by Cobalt123
Felt hat by Olivier Galibert

3 Comments on “Tourist Shopping Guide: Top 10 Souvenirs from Pakistan

  1. This post will help me so much as I was unsure what to buy everyone back home as I’m currently visiting Pakistan. Thank you!

  2. The classic photo paragraph was highly offensive. In all my years of living and traveling to Pakistan never have I ever casually come across a bearded man with a turban holding an AK-47, unless he was in the army. Thank you for spreading a false depiction of Pakistan, as if white folks weren’t brainwashed already.

    • Hi Sarah, I’m not sure about your experience in Pakistan and where it took you, but I lived in Pakistan for 3 years from 2006 to 2009, and I encountered men with AK47s and other guns almost everywhere. The guards outside of my workplace, the guards at every small shoe store or other shop in Defence area, the riot police in the streets, the bodyguards at the local churches. Hence I absolutely disagree with you that I am spreading a false depiction of Pakistan as per this detail. There may be many incorrect views in the Western media, however during my time there from 2006 to 2009, heavy arms were visible and part of everyday life in Lahore, Islamabad, and Sialkot all of which I spent significant time in. I personally did not have a bodyguard, but I interacted on a daily basis with the guards at my workplaces. Some of them asked me to take photos with them and their guns!

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