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Sand, desert, camel…

Things that average Americans think when they hear the word ‘Pakistan’

Sand, desert, camel…
Clueless about Pakistan: People on the streets of US.

Taking advantage of being in the US, I decided to go around asking common American people a question that may be of interest to Pakistanis back home – what struck them right away when they heard the word Pakistan. Though this, by no means, qualifies as scientific research, it will perhaps shed some light on time and effort the people in the US put in thinking about Pakistan and allegedly conspiring against it.

The responses are as follows:

Kayra Sailors, a graduate student in a famous public university in the US, says, “Hmmm… Sand? And camels! And Arabic, it’s like Egypt isn’t it?”

Dr Kramer, a professor at another public university in the US, says, “I don’t know, I have never thought about that, maybe, religion, hot weather and cuisine?”

Chris, a former graduate of another public university, says, “I, literally, don’t know much about Pakistan. Sand! Maybe? We did a cultural day in grade 5 in the Middle East. But I don’t remember specific places.”

Tracey, an undergrad student at a public university in Ohio, says, “Terrorism, hot and desert.”

Kacey Kump, an athlete and an undergraduate student in a public university in Illinois, says, “Ummmmmm… really never thought, perhaps, sand… and war… and, and… camels?” Lauran, a graduate from a public university in Kentucky, giggles, “It is… give me some time… it is… war?“ She looks at me with a question mark on her face.

I ask, “What’s the second thing?”

She adds, “Humans of New York was in Pakistan, and third… maybe, I know it would not sound good, bombings.” She giggles again.

Dr Miller, a professor at a public university in Pennsylvania, says, “Cricket, desert and not good things… all those bad guys! Terrorism!”

Dr Chris, an instructor at a public university, says, “TV show Homeland… Bin Laden and terrorists and stuff…”

I ask for the third thing? He adds, “Uhhh… that’s not the country you think about… now I am thinking… drones, maybe?”

A graduate student in one of a public university in the US, says, “Sand, Middle East and Afghanistan… Coloured people, different language. I have really never thought of it… you look like one of my friends who is from Jordan! Is Pakistan near Jordan? What language do you speak? Arabic?”

I reply, “No we speak Urdu.”

She adds, “What? What is this?”

While the responses were amusing, the ignorance and naivety displayed in these responses shocked me a little as it exceeded my expectations. So as I reprimand our habit of linking every evil prevalent in our society to a conspiracy hatched against us by others, I also take this article as an opportunity to educate people in the US a bit about Pakistan.

Of all the responses I got, desert and camels made me laugh out loud. I want to tell people in the US that Pakistan is not a desert and we don’t speak Arabic or travel on camels. I strongly encourage them to come visit the country and see for themselves.

TNS Editor


  • Writer said he speaks Urdu.
    One can safely say that it is likely he is from Punjab but he says he speaks Urdu!
    If you ask me, I, as a South Indian, will say I speak Tamil.
    What a contrast!
    A nation which forgets its own mother tongue and latches on to an imported tongue is not worth preserving.

    • I disagree on several fronts. First of all, your tone is full of hubris and self-congratulatory tones. ‘A nation which forgets its own mother tongue ….. is not worth preserving’ – Wow, what logic!!! There are many African nations with speak the language of their colonial invaders because within their ‘nations’ carved out post-colonial rule each tribe has a separate language. By your logic, those nations would not be ‘worth preserving’. Secondly, what makes you think that Urdu is an ‘imported tongue’. Urdu is very much a language native to India, and it was rather affiliated with the Muslims of the subcontinent. I do not understand what is ‘imported’ about it. Just as in India, there are many local languages in Pakistan, and while all Pakistanis know their local languages, to communicate across the diverse ethnicities inhabiting the country Urdu is a common language – analogous to Hindi in India – though I know being South Indian you may not know Hindi very well.

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