Customs and Traditions of Pakistan

The Pakistani culture, customs and traditions are an amalgamation of the Arab, Persian and native cultures. However these greatly differ in all regions / provinces of the country. From marriages to eating habits and from attire to recreation, there are varying shades, however very colourful and fascinating. Old people are given positions of prestige, honour and respect in Pakistani culture. Social life is simple with customs and traditions reflecting an Islamic touch.

Like all over the world, marriages in Pakistan are full of hues, music and lot of food. Marriages are generally arranged by the parents and the would be partners, however, the trend is changing but at a much slower pace where marriages of own choice and choosing are allowed. Sometimes the formal engagements may last from a few months to many years, depending on the age of the couple. In most of the cases, the bride and groom meet for the first time on their wedding day. It can be said that marriages in Pakistan are not a union of two individuals, but a long lasting relation of two families.
Wedding rituals are elaborate and usually take four to five till the actual wedding day.

The initial two days are generally meant for the ritual of "Mehndi", wherein Hina is applied to both the groom and the bride by the female friends and relatives of both sides. The friends of the bride and groom also dance at "Dholak" (indigenous drum, to which use of electronics and play back on cassete palyers is also on the increase.  Then is the wedding day, when a cleric gets a "Nikah Nama" (the marriage contract) signed by both the partners in the presence of witnesses of both families. A man and a woman must repeat thrice that he / she is willing to enetr into the matrimonial bond on his/her own will. After the ceremony, sweets are distributed as a omen of good will, followed by a sumptuous meal. The bride usually wears a decorated red dress with lot of jewellary, while the groom normally attrires in "Sherwani" - a long closed collar coat.

The next day, the groom hosts a luncheon/dinner called "Walima" to introduce the bride to his entire family and friends. On the wedding and Walima days, the bride wears heavily stitched wedding dress, normally red in colour and heavy gold ornamanets and bangles. 


Food and Eating Habits:The Pakistani cosines are rich in oil and chillies. Unlike the Indian food, Pakistani dishes must include meat, chicken and beef, though pork is totally forbidden as per Islamic teachings. Although eating habits differ from regions to region, the mainstay of the Pakistani diet is "chapati or roti" made from flour. "Lassi" a usual drink made like a milkshake in a home made utencil from curd/yogurt and water is usually taken at lunch time, specially during the summers as it beats the effects of hard weather. It is usually customary to eat a dessert after the dinner, which mainly comprises "Kheer" (made from rice and milk) and sweetened rice "Zarda". Rice though scarcely eaten in many parts, pulla´o (lightly fried rice with vegetables) and biryani (rice with meat or vegetables and spices) are the tw very favourite dishes of rice, specially on marriages. "Mithai" a kind of sweet made of corn flour, sugar and milk is the favourite sweet for all ages.

Sweets at Gujarkhan Bazar, Pakistan

Freshly baked sugar syrup ripe bright red "Jalebis" - Photo Courtesy friend_faraway back home

There are significant regional differences in cuisine. Curries of meat and chicken rich in spices are preferred in the south, while barbecuing and beef is more common in the north. The junk food is very popular in youngsters in cities, specially with the introduction of fast food like the McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. However, the indigenous snacks include samosas (deep-fried pastry triangles filled with potatoes, mixed vegetables or minced meat) and pakoras (floured and deep-fried vegetables). Tea with milk is the most popular drink both in urban and rural areas.
In most of the rural areas, people sit on the ground to eat, while the use of dinning tables is very common in urban areas. As a respect for the food, Muslims eat only with the right hand, specially dishes of rice which are usually eaten with hands and cleaning the plate completely so as not to waste the food. In functions / gatherings, men and women generally eat separately. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast for 30 days and do not eat or drink from sunrise to sundown. The fast is broken at the time of the evening prayer, mostly with dates and pakoras. Whenever visiting Pakistan, or for that matter any Muslim country, foreigners are expected not to eat in front of the fasting Muslims as a respect for the scared month. Read More About Pakistani Cuisines ....


Rest and Recreation: Sports are the real pastime and recreation for the majority of Pakistanis. Kabaddi and Kushti (indigenous wrestling), horse riding (specially tent pegging), polo and swimming are some of the indigenous sports that are widely played all over Pakistan, though cricket, squash and hockey have surpassed all other local games and are very popular. Pakistan has earned good name in all these three sports (details under sports icon on main page). Soccer and tennis are also played. Going to the cinemas is a popular pastime in addition to watching television and playing video games. Picnics are not very common since the majority of people hail from low-medium income groups. However, on holidays, families and friends do spend days in parks and take along food and play badminton etc. Visiting friends and family members are all popular forms of recreation.



The dress in Pakistan varies from region to region, keeping in view the climatic conditions of the area. However, it is colourful and eye dazzling, specially on weddings, when the women folk wear brightly coloured attire with matching ornaments / jewellery. Men usually wear "Shalwar Kameez", though on marriages, embroidery is also added even for men. In rural ares, as a sign of respect, turbans or caps are worn by men, specially by the village elders. Women in rural areas and most of the women in urban areas as well, cover their head and most of the upper body as a religious obligation and also as a mark of modesty. The dress of Kalash people in remote areas of Chitral is unique with black robes and colourful embroidery. Read More ...


Music and Dance


Dances are very popular all over the country in varying forms. Owing to the Islamic culture, mostly men take part in dances publicly, however female dancers too exhibit their skills in group dances and in theatre and cinema. Above a group of dancers is seen performing "Hey Jamalo" from Sind, based on the fabled Jamalo, who returning victorious was greeted by his tribe "Hey Jamalo".

"Luddi and Bhangra" are famous dances in Punjab, at the beat of big drums and are normally related to harvest season (top right), while "Khatak Dance" (top left) basically a sword dance is much popular in NWFP. Musical instruments like Dhol(drum), Shehnai (clairnet), sitar (three stringed instrument), sarod, alghoza (two wind piped flute) and flute are some of the widely used instruments.

While the music in the rural areas continue to follow the regional and indigenous tastes and traditions, music in the urban areas is changing over from the film music, which once used to be the most popular genre, to pop music. Many groups and solo artists have thrived the music scene and people have a wide choice to make from. However, traditional classical and religious music is still available as are film songs. Read More....


This page was created on 1 January 2005 / 3 February 2009

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