Welcome to Baltistan – I




There is something magical about Karimabad. Not Disney created, Harry Potter worthy magic, but a quiet overpowering of one’s senses. It’s in the glow of the snow-capped mountains in the Karakoram range that glint in the sunlight, the messages spelt out on the mountains during Imamat Day celebrations, the winding route of the Karakoram Highway that leaves you breathless with awe and fear. The people add to the magic: the woman who runs her grocery store and the old man who runs a restaurant and will pick fresh cherries for you for dessert. The children who wave hello as you walk by, the residents who stop and ask how you, a perfect stranger, are and the girls who skip to their school. The mother shepherding her children down to the Jamaat Khaana in their new clothes and the grizzly old shopkeeper who has adopted a family of cats, with a special carton with bedding dedicated for them. The magic is in the food: fresh cheese, chapatis gleaming with apricot oil, spinach and fresh bread. It’s in the noises you hear: the faint whirring of the moths, the cries of the birds, the rushing water of the Ultar glacier as it streams downwards into the city of Karimabad. It’s the happiness you feel when you see children playing in the streets and singing national anthems, and in the butterflies that whizz past you as you walk down the paths, the sense of security you feel when no one harasses you or looks at you with a lecherous leer as you walk alone through the markets. There is a sense of wonder at the resilience of the people of Hunza, how they manage to open their stores day after day, polish and dust their wares and wait for the tourists that may or may not show up – yet they will have smiles, they will be polite, and they will answer your barrage of questions with remarkable reserves of patience. It is the feeling of being blessed for being alive as you look up in the sky and see the valley light up with strings of fairy lights draped on every house. Sigh.

You can see the rest of the pictures from Hunza here.

  1. M Akram Khan said:

    Wonderful article about ‘Heaven on Earth’ … Wish more people would learn to see the beauty of the land of the pure.

    Looking forward to more of the above post.

  2. Sonia said:

    I don’t think I have ever read such a beautiful -magical- post about Pakistan, let alone of Northern Pakistan. Thank You, for letting us all see this domestic-foreign world through your eyes.

  3. Ankit said:

    aptly said in “Lamha”(Bollywood movie)….God created heaven and we made it hell

  4. khizzy said:

    If the ride up were not so scary, I’d have been there already. looking at the pictures…I hate you!


  5. Rai M Azlan said:

    i have traveled a alot thats what i think but to visist bultistan is a dream which every time faces a delay when it is almost close to be a reality. Its been a magical post very well written and this has gave another life to the desire of visisting this place. Waiting for the next part.

  6. roshni said:

    Three Cups of Tea wali place?.. wowz3rs

  7. Nabeel said:

    Well said. And this is exactly why Hunza is so important – why Gilgit is so important – why the Northern Areas are so important. The picture of a boy with the Pakistan flag stands out in my memory. The various images of signs in Urdu stand out for me. Ye bhi Pakistan hai – sirf Karachi Lahore Islamabad nahin hai. We need to value these places, look at them as more than simply tourist destinations.

    Thank you.

  8. shayma said:

    really, really beautiful. what a beautiful depiction of Pakistan.

  9. Mackers said:

    We have blondie kids in Pakistan? The Greeks were definitely here.

    Oh, and the food sounds exotic and amazing. Rotis with apricot oil!

    I would go there just for the food

  10. aazar said:

    I so damn agree with you. Karimabad is second heaven. I know the feeling of going to their Jamat Khana

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