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Pakistani adventurer paints bike with truck art to project country’s soft image in Middle East

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani man painted his motorbike with traditional truck art before covering thousands of miles between Islamabad and Makkah to perform Umrah and promote a “soft image” of his country in the Middle East.

Pakistani truck art comprises candy-colored murals depicting South Asian animals, celebrities, and floral designs. It earned its name since it was specifically associated with lorries initially, though the art form later became one of the country’s most popular cultural exports.

Many Pakistani bikers have recently traveled to Saudi Arabia after the kingdom eased travel rules for umrah pilgrims by extending the duration of their visas for three months and allowing them to visit other cities.

Aziz ul Hassan Hashmi, a 55-year-old businessman from Pakistan’s mountain resort town of Murree, started his journey on November 27 and reached the kingdom on January 26 after passing through Iran, Iraq, and Jordan.

“I embarked on this journey to promote peace and a soft image of Pakistan with a message that it is a peace-loving country that is full of colorful cultures and art,” Hashmi told Arab News in an interview over the phone from Madinah.

“That was the reason I converted my bike [and had] truck art designed on it,” he said, adding the art form was unique and recognized around the world.
“During my journey, wherever I went people loved my bike and took pictures with it,” he continued.

Hashmi said he explained to people the vibrant colors represented Pakistan and the diversity of its people, art, and culture.

“Through my bike, I want to show different colors of Pakistani culture to the world, [as] the art used on my bike depicts the culture of all provinces, including Azad Kashmir,” he added.

However, the bike journey through different countries and the cost of getting the vehicle fully designed proved quite costly.

“The total expenses [incurred during] the tour would be around Rs1.7 million ($6,241), while converting the bike to truck art cost about Rs250,000 ($918),” he said. “I [chose] Makkah as my first destination since it is considered the hub of peace in the whole world.”

Hashmi said he was also planning to go to the third holiest place for Muslims, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, next week to offer Friday prayer if he was allowed by relevant authorities.

“I cannot travel there on a Pakistani passport but usually they give special permission on paper at the Jordan border to visit Al-Aqsa for a few hours without a visa,” he added. “I will try my luck over there.”

Owing to Hashmi’s unique way of representing Pakistan internationally, the country’s consul general in Jeddah, Khalid Majid, presented a certificate of appreciation to him for undertaking a journey from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, said an official statement.



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