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.