We hadn’t had much sleep – going sometimes 36 hours without it – visiting the troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Qatar, (and England). Our flight from Kuwait to Pakistan left a 10:30pm and arrived at 4:30am (2 hrs difference).
Gen Yeager was able to sleep some on the flight. I was very glad we had upgraded to Business Class. Economy was a bit of a free-for-all and we might have been knocked down or treated badly.
We got off the plane in darkness and were guided to a special bus which took us to a different entrance. As I got off the bus, there, amidst all the darkness, dark-clothed men, was a man in traditional tribal dress, high white turban, white trousers, white shirt, black vest. I had seen him many times in photos. Prince Malik Atta Mohammad Khan.
I turned to Gen Yeager, as I was first off the bus, and said, “He’s here.” I felt safe in this new land with much turmoil. Gen Yeager saw him and grinned.
He welcomed us with enthusiasm, thrilled and honored to see the General after 41 years. And happy to meet me.
He gathered us up and put us in his car – which also had character. His men would get our luggage and bring it later.
We set out to the palace, stopping for gas on the way and bottled water. 1.5 hours later, we were driving in the gates of the palace. We fell into our bed and slept until noon.
Prince Malik had been up all night too waiting for us so I think he got a bit of a sleep in as well.
At noon, a retired Colonel and his son, both professional polo players, came for lunch. We sat outside on the veranda to have a soda before lunch.
The son was off to England the next day to start playing professionally again there. The Colonel was very interesting and had a good grasp of history and politics and a very different perspective. He also was a hunter and a doctor. Fascinating fellow. He had been educated in England.
We went into lunch to the grand dining room of the palace. The table was set as though 20 guests might show up at any time to enjoy a grand feast. How welcoming.
On the mantel was a photo of Prince Malik’s father, Gen Yeager, US Ambassador/Mrs. Farland, and Mumtaz, Prince Malik’s aunt’s husband. Mumtaz is the one Gen Yeager went hunting with most often. Mumtaz died a while ago. The photo is signed by General Yeager in 1973.
At lunch, the colonel was careful what he ate – I should have taken note. He was a city person so was careful in the country. He didn’t drink water, only soft drinks with no ice.
Gen Yeager regaled us with the tales about Prince Malik which he also relates in his book. Prince Malik had come to dinner. Glennis, Gen Yeager’s first wife, had complained that one of the servants was lazy and was stealing sugar. Whereupon Prince Malik leapt from the table, gun drawn, saying: “Point him out, I will kill him. I will give you servants who won’t steal and who will die for you!”
Glennis I think replied with something like: “Did I say steal? I meant takes or tastes or…”
Also Prince Malik would bring a friend to Gen Yeager’s house and say: Gen Yeager saab, make a bullet.
Gen Yeager had his loading equipment there and would make a bullet for Prince Malik who thought that ability was just wonderful!
That afternoon, we raced back to Islamabad to see the tent-pegging contest. Gen Yeager in the left front seat next to the driver. Prince Malik and I were in the backseat. Gen Yeager insisted the driver slow down. It was a bit harrowing – lots of close calls, passing everything in tight situations. At one point we were driving down the middle with cars coming towards us first directly and then on either side.
We passed big trucks – what colorful designs on these trucks. If we did such artistry on ours, what prettier sights they would be.
We made it to the tent-pegging in time to see some of the pageantry.
The teams will trot, prance or jog by in all their finest, colorful regalia. As much of the regalia on the horses. The always seemed ready to take off at a gallop.
At the starting point, someone calls out to start and the jockey kicks his horse into a gallop. As he nears the tent peg, he reaches down and…spears it. Or not. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t go onto the second round. If he does, he does a second round – and this time speed is counted. The fastest of the jockeys that spear the peg in the second round wins.
The purpose is to keep up the skills should one tribe need to fight another. In a surprise attack, they would spear and lift the tent peg, thus causing the tent to collapse on their enemies and have the advantage while the enemy is squirming, caught in the tent.
I busily took photos of this new sport, of the General, of Prince Malik, of the prancing horses. I realized I was the only female. I crossed the track a few times to take photos – had to be careful – at one point horses were prancing in all directions.
We decided to get in the car when Gen Yeager pointed out the dark clouds. Just in time.
We drove back to the village and sat down in the palace’s large dining room, for dinner. We had traditional food and halvah, Gen Yeager’s favorite dessert from the days when he was the Defense Representative in Pakistan in 1971-73.
We went to bed early, still needing to catch up on much needed sleep.
The next day was pretty exciting. More later.