Every Thursday night in the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, heavily intoxicated Sufi followers take part in festival of music, dancing, and chanting. Beginning around 9pm the deep bass of beats from a long, double-sided drum can be heard from the Madho Lal Hussain Shrine – a thump thump thump fueling vigorous coordinated movements.
You can see this weekly Sufi festival which I attended, in the video above. It’s one of those times where showing you makes much more sense than attempting to describe the unison spinning, headbanging, and guttural chants. A gathering which takes places within a cloud of opium and hashish, dispersing light from small fires lit all around; adding a mystical quality to what you’re seeing. (With a possible contact high included.)
Until the morning the dancers go, spinning and shaking their heads vigorously causing their long black hair to fly in the air. Children play around the shrine, families sit at the steps, while closer to the music groups of men sit around campfires drinking teas and taking heavy hits from joints loaded with opium and weed. You can hear more about my experience right after it happened in this episode of the foXnoMad Podcast.
As an observer (filming with conspicuous camera and microphone) hardly anyone paid attention to me. Despite the energy, crowds, and semblance of chaos, the atmosphere was relaxed – likely in part due to the actual local atmosphere.
The Sufi festival at the Madho Lal Hussain Shrine is yet another example of what it’s like to travel in Pakistan. An unexpected experience in a country that has more contradictions than it might seem from the outside.