ISLAMABAD A French doctor, who served for three years in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences' Intensive Care Unit (ICU), is returning home next month, driving a truck art-adorned 1974 Beetle dubbed Foxy Shahzadi to celebrate Pakistan's artistic and cultural potential; and promoting Pak-French friendship.
Dr Vincent Ioos, who specialises in critical care medicine, will be accompanied in the 10,000km Islamabad-Paris trip by one of his colleagues from Pims, Dr Haroon Khan, as well as Salman Rashid, an IT expert.
The 25-day journey - 'Art on Wheels Tour', which starts from Faisal Mosque on October 31 would take the trio to Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy before ending up in France.
'We want to highlight the huge cultural potential of Pakistan through indigenous truck art and tell the world that Pakistan is not just about terrorism,' said Dr Ioos, while proudly showing his cherry red Foxy Shahzadi decorated with landscapes of mountains, waterfalls, flowers and animals and inscribed with truck poetry. The car represents the ethnic heritage of all the four provinces of Pakistan.
The front is decked gloriously with floral motifs; pictures of Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal; flags of Pakistan and France; and a poetic inscription - Maa Ki Dua Janaat Ki Hawa, translating 'mother's prayer is breeze from paradise.'
The team has got the car especially reconditioned for this trip.
Most of the art designing was done by Ustad Habibur Rehman, a painter who the team claims 'understood the purpose of the journey and incorporated that spirit in his work.'
'It is a popular common man's car and for us it is a collector's item,' Dr Haroon said explaining the choice of Beetle for the journey.
It took the team four months to prepare the car. Starting with the reconditioning from a scratch by a local mechanic and later being painted at one of the truck paint shops in downtown Rawalpindi, it was a moment of great joy and satisfaction for the team when the car was finally handed over to them around Eid time.
'It was a fabulous experience seeing the car ready and the reaction on the way back to Islamabad was tremendous,' Dr Haroon recalled. He still remembers someone exclaiming 'Shahzadi (princess) is getting out' as the car rolled out of the paint shop.
'Almost everyone stared at the car in amazement and appreciated it,' he said, adding one of the traffic cops in Rawalpindi stopped the traffic to let Foxy Shahzadi clear the crossing.
During the Paris trip, the car would be received in Pakistans embassies in Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France.
All preparations are almost final except for an authorisation for Dr Ioos to travel through restive Balochistan while on the way to Taftan border with Iran.
'We hope to get the permission well in time,' Dr Haroon said.
He expects the Pakistani authorities to be considerate enough to help a foreigner, who wants to portray Pakistan positively.
The team is also looking for sponsorships in their effort to project a positive image of Pakistan internationally.