Photo Essays

Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Scenes of daily life in Pakistan rarely make the news; here are some glimpses.

By Robert Gerhardt for
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Young men on their motorbikes at night during Ramadan. Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Man with monkey who dances for money. Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Man selling cotton candy outside of the Jinnah Mausoleum. Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Women and a young boy waiting to cross the street. Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

View from a food stall. Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Man walking down a back street. Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Pakistan Air Force Monument. Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Man having a drink at a small shop in the intense heat. Lahore, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Children playing video games in a small arcade. Lahore, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

View from inside an Uber. Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Waiting for a connecting train. Hyderabad, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

View from inside an auto rickshaw, Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Food vendor at a nighttime tea stall in the Empress Market. Karachi, Pakistan, 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Walking through a shoe market. Karachi, Pakistan 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt
Pakistan: Chai at Midnight

Nighttime cricket tournament in the streets during Ramadan. Karachi, Pakistan 2016

Credit: Robert Gerhardt

Pakistan has a mixed reputation in the eyes of many Americans (including the president, according to his tweets). When Pakistan is in the international news, it’s often for terrorism or sectarian violence. But while terrorist attacks do happen in the country — the people I met during a recent visit were open about that fact — the country is far from being a warzone.

During my travels, no matter where I went, or what time of day or night, every Pakistani I met was unbelievably welcoming to me. They would offer up bits of small talk and copious quantities of tea and snacks. They even put up with my bad attempts to speak Urdu, smiling and laughing as I tried to string together a few phrases.

Virtually every night my new friends and I went out for chai at a little market stall, usually around midnight when the heat broke — at least a bit. It got to the point that the locals and the Puthans who worked there stopped acting surprised to me see; they would smile and wave as we arrived.

As I traveled around the country, I photographed what I saw in front of me: the markets, streets, late-night chai stalls, drivers, motorbikes and street food vendors. It’s these people going about their routines that make up the daily life of a country many never see.

Robert Gerhardt is a social documentary photographer based in New York City.  His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Hindustan Times, and Newsweek among others.  Robert’s projects can be seen on his website: www.RobertGerhardt.com