When travelers talk of visiting Pakistan, they often mention Lahore due to its reputation as the country's food capital and Mughal architectural history. This singular focus comes, however, at the expense of many other historical cities, such as Peshawar, Multan, and—just adjacent to Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, on the Potohar plateau in northern Punjab—Rawalpindi, my mother’s hometown and a culinary hub in its own right.
The region’s history spans thousands of years: Rawalpindi fell within the ancient state of Gandhara, a major center of Buddhism, and is a short driving distance to many Buddhist ruins. Much later during the Mughal era, Rawalpindi split time under the indigenous Ghakhar clan allied with the Mughals, as well as Sikh rule, before coming under British occupation in 1849. Since then, Rawalpindi has acquired the reputation of being a "garrison city." It was first home to the British Indian Army and, following the partition of India in 1947, the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army.