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+ "Dubai to Karachi"

from Marcela Gaviria

click here for a larger map It's 3:30 a.m. in Dubai and I can't sleep. I've been reading Robert Kaplan's Soldiers of God to make the night pass, but the reading is so intense and vivid, it's making my insomnia worse.

I step out into the hotel terrace to find it's as muggy at night as in the middle of the day. Dubai is a strange city -- a mix between Las Vegas and Jerusalem. For the most part it feels like an air-conditioned city built on Mars. The heat is so oppressive it's hard to enjoy the charms of the winding souks or the awesome futuristic architecture. As I write this, the call to prayer begins. It's hypnotic.

Half an hour later I am in the hotel lobby paying another hotel bill. We pile our 250 kgs into the back of the car and speed through the streets of Dubai as the sun rises. Seems like I've seen my fair share of sunrises and airports since I departed Newark one week ago.

. . .

Marcela Gaviria writes while waiting for a flight in Karachi's Qaid-I-Azam International Airport. (Photo by Scott Anger)
Qaid-i-Azam International Airport in Karachi is like any airport in the Third World, except that it smells of mothballs. Scott tells me that the Pakistanis like the smell of mothballs, so they put them all over the place, especially in the bathrooms. I laugh when I hear this outrageous explanation. If there is one thing that the West and the East definitely don't share, it's an affinity for the same smells. In fact, everything smells funny to me in Karachi. There is a strong scent of sweat or shoe polish, and plenty of patchouli.

And then there are the sounds. Instead of the usual boarding calls, the airport is filled by the call to prayer. There are also the unfamiliar sounds of Urdu and the blaring television sets with high-pitched singers. The poverty, the chaos, the mountains remind me of Colombia, my childhood home -- well, except for the smell of mothballs.

I am also very aware of being the only Western woman in the entire airport. Actually, Scott and I are the only two Westerners I've seen. It's hard not to think of another Westerner as I walk about the airport lounge. This is the town where the American journalist Daniel Pearl was killed. It doesn't scare me. Just makes me thoughtful, the way one gets after visiting a graveyard.

< previous dispatch  +  next dispatch >

(Aug. 13-14)

Zubaydah Is Dead
13 August, London

Armchair Jihadists
14 August, London

Gulf of Oman
(Aug. 15-21)

Faces at a Dubai Mall
15 August, Dubai, U.A.E.

HMCS Algonquin
16 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

On Board the Algonquin
17-18 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

Like an Elephant Chasing a Mouse
17-18 August, Gulf of Oman

+ Dubai to Karachi
20 August

A Firehose of Information
20-21 August, Dubai - Muscat - Chennai

(Aug. 22-29)

Old Hash
22 August, Islamabad

Nuclear Neighbors
22-23 August, Islamabad

We Believe in God
24 August, Islamabad

Paranoid in Peshawar
27 August, Peshawar

Bombs or Dust Devils
27-28 August, Peshawar

Rumors and Half Truths
28 August, Peshawar

Pakistan Border Lands
(Aug. 30-Sept. 4)

On the Road to Chitral
30 August, Dir Khas

Prisoners' Dilemma
31 August, Dir

In the Northwest Frontier
30-31 August, Dir

Border Town
2 September, Chitral to Arandu

Don't Go to Timargarha
1-2 September, Drosh to Timargarha

An American Informer
3-4 September, Peshawar

(Sept. 5-23)

Road to Nowhere
7 September, Islamabad to Faisalabad

Faisal Town
7 September, Faisalabad

9 September, Faisalabad

The Plight of Women
10 September, Faisalabad

A Little Noticed Gun Battle
10-13 September, Lahore-Karachi

The Madrassa
14 September, Akora Khattak

The Next Big Get
20 September, Karachi - Islamabad

A Circle of Trust
21 September, Islamabad

23 September, Islamabad

Saudi Arabia
(Sept. 24-Oct. 2)

Inside the Kingdom
24-25 September, Riyadh

My Baffling Question
27 September, Unizah-Buraydah

An Obedient Dissident
27 September, Buraydah

An Audience with the Crown Prince
2 October, Riyadh

(Sept. 25-Oct. 10)

Arriving in Yemen
25-26 September, Sana'a

The Wedding Party
27 September, Sana'a

A Talking Drug
28 September, Sana'a

The World's Most Ancient Skyscrapers
3 October, Sana'a

Americans Are Vampires
7 October, Sana'a

Waiting for Rahma
9 October, Sana'a

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