One of the absolute coolest things I ever got to see in Pakistan was the Wagah Border flag lowering demonstration. When we visited Lahore in January 2005, we stayed with a fellow Ph.D. student M had gone to school with (and his lovely wife and son.) They were the absolute best hosts I have ever in my life stayed with. They provided for our every minute need and had already planned out every day to include all of the top sights of Lahore and it's surroundings.
One of the excursions they'd planned was visiting the Wagah Border. Wagah is the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan. It's closed every evening, and the flags of both countries are lowered at sunset. I'm pretty sure the flag lowering thing is a "flag etiquette" throwback to British rule.
Driving through the country to Wagah.
Visitors crowd both borders - where there are spectator seats for just this purpose - to watch the ceremony. It's actually much more about who can yell the loudest and stomp the hardest - the Indian or the Pakistani border guards. Someone told me that the relations between the border guards can be seen as a barometer of India-Pakistan relations. It was quite the spectacle when I was there - and that was during a time of relative calm.
Before the flag lowering.
When we set out to drive to Wagah I didn't realize how long it was going to take. It's quite far! We did get lost a bit on the way, and ended up arriving to Wagah a teensy bit late. On the way M's friend had mentioned that there would be people waiting for us there. His wife's father had been pretty high in the Pakistan Army, so that would determine where we sat. Those Army guys get some kinda special treatment, lemme tell ya.
Driving past the regular parking.
When we did finally arrive, we drove PAST the area where it seemed all the cars were parked. An Army official came running up to our car and instead of yelling at us like I thought he would, he asked if we were Iqbal Sahab's guests. They he showed us where to park (almost IN India, it was so close to the action!) and then scurried us to our seats. The seats lining the road leading to the border gate were separated by gender, so the guys & gals were split up. I could see all the seats for the general public, and then special rows of seats lining the road. He just kept walking and walking - past where anyone was even sitting! He led us to the VERY FIRST bank of seats. We were all alone, me and the friend's wife.
Pakistani Ranger sets aim on the border gate. Also - look! That's me!
The guards march forcefully down the street, yell and stomp their feet, slap the hands of the Indian border guards (or maybe it was just a quick, forceful handshake.) Then the flags are lowered. It seemed to me that the Pakistani flag-lower-er was always a little bit behind, so that he could ensure the Pakistani flag was a little higher than the Indian flag at all times. The whole time the crowds are chanting patriotic things on both sides (and even a few threats to the other side, even in good times.) They ceremoniously take the flag away, the gates are slammed shut, and the Pakistani Rangers stomp away. It was great!
About to begin lowering the flag.
Blatant display of machismo.
Afterwards you could pose for pictures with the guards at the border.
It was such a completely different experience than I ever thought I would have in my life. Seeing such a demonstration, being treated like such a VVIP! We even were escorted over to a tent area near the border gate for tea and cookies afterwards!
Chai stand outside the Wahah Border.