Author: Nawab Tanweer Ahmad
Date of Trip: September 2015
Date: 20th September 2015
Yesterday we arrived at the most beautiful spot on the earth, Hunza Valley, “The Heaven on Earth”, and stay at its capital city ‘Karimabad’. Today we will be exploring this city. This city is built along the border of the mountain and is sloped upward to Ultar Sar starting from Karakoram Highway. The hotel at which we are staying is at the start of the market, after a hot bath and dressing up we moved downstairs to the main route and started proceed toward the marketplace. There are many shops along both positions of the main road, we went into the first shop that is on the left hand side of the road directly after our hotel. This shop sells gems and jewelry and is led by local women. From the time we arrive in this area we found its people courteous and soft spoken, they steer us at every spot and quick to offer any sort of assistance. After visiting this shop we move toward another shop on the road this shop sells handmade rugs and carpets. These carpets are extremely beautiful and nicely woven by the local workers, there are also handmade jackets and shawls, and since my wife loves shopping she immediately started bargain and pick from the items.
The Hunza valley is popular for Camping, Swimming, Hunting, Hiking and Trekking, Mountaineering, Mountain Biking, Horse riding, Eco tours, Skiing, Safari tours, Fishing, Gliding and many other activities, for that there are many shops in Karimabad that sell equipment required for these activities. The equipment can either be bought or can be rented from these stores. Paper maps of these areas are also available in nearly every shop and one can also hire a local tour guide for hiking and trekking.
Going forward, there is a link road leading upward toward Baltit Fort this is a 700 year old fort and belongs to Mir of Hunza (but it is vacated by them in 1945) and is now considered as World Heritage by UNESCO. We have a program to visit Baltit Fort in the evening but not now, at this time we remain in Karimabad. Near this junction we found a small tea shop, it’s named as “Hunza Snack Bar”. It is a small local tea shop that server’s tea, coffee, omelet and a local bread called “Arzooq”. Originated from the Baltit, Arzooq is made with flour, eggs, butter and milk and finally cooked in oil, it is one of the most famous bread of Hunza. As shortly as we sat in the shop we placed an order for tea, my daughter spotted this bread and ask the shopkeeper regarding this bread, and after his explanation about the bread, we add this to our order. The shop owner is a very well-spoken and friendly person and we have a long chit-chat with him while waiting for our breakfast. After the food was served and we taste the Arzooq, we found it very delicious and from that day till we stay in Karimabad, we daily have our breakfast at “Hunza Snack Bar” with Arzooq also a part of it.
Finishing the breakfast we again proceed on the main route, travelled to different shops and take in the beauty of the area all around us, also surprise to catch the name of the shop as “Best Buy Family Shop”, the shop sells cosmetics, children products, ladies products, decoration and gift items, same as sell by the “BestBuy” in the United States.
Enjoying the beautiful and long walk we settled to revert back to our hotel where we are sticking around. At a lower place in the valley there is a large number of Apple, Apricot, Walnut, and Fig and different other types of fruit trees, last night while having a chat with a local guy we were informed that there are no limitations on visiting their gardens and can deplete the fruit from these trees as much as we like, merely not to harm them. So today we have decided to hold a picnic in these gardens, we went down the valley and spread a sheet to sit among the trees, and the kids were thus happy and began running just about. Later on having tea that we purchased from the “Hunza Snack Bar” we began picking some apples, apricot, and walnuts from the tree. In that location there were some local kids also playing and picking walnuts, my kids wants to talk to them but due to language difference they were unsuccessful, but those children were so courteous that they gave the bag full of almond, grapes and apricot to my kids. We also collected a small bag full of apple and walnut and after spending such a splendid time at that place we started climbing back toward our hotel. On the way back my wife meets a local woman she was the mother of those kids playing in the woods, when the woman learn that we are interested in eating walnut she assured my wife that she will arrange for the walnuts. The lady not only arranges for the walnuts but also send a bag full of walnuts for us to Gilgit city after we left Karimabad. We return back to our room and passed sometime in the room as it was afternoon and the sun was shining too bright.
In the evening, our schedule includes a tour of “Baltit Fort”. Baltit is a 700 year old fort and belongs to Mir of Hunza and is counted as World Heritage by UNESCO. Fort is situated at the tip of a cliff and one need to climb up to the emplacement. The walkway to the fort was amazing itself, on the way we were greeted by the residents of ‘Baltit’ who were sitting alongside the street holding their daily tea and discussion. Many stores and houses exist on both sides of the route with people engaged in their everyday chores. Enjoying the walk we reached the Baltit Fort, we enter the Fort by paying a nominal fee, the well-trained and knowledgeable team of guides give us a well-planned tour of the facility. Built with bricks, mud and wood painted in red, the fort is also a museum that holds items belonging to the Mir of Hunza. The bird’s eye view of Hunza Valley and the spectacular view of Rakaposhi Peak can be observed in front of the Fort and the Lady Finger and Ultar Sar peak at the back. After having a circuit of the fort we started settling down toward the main Karimabad.
Hunza valley is rich in gems and precious stone there are many stores in Karimabad from where one can purchase these stones, suited according to their birth sign. Thither are many types of gems and stones available in Karimabad, some of them are stones like Ruby, Emerald, Aqua Marine, Sapphire, Tiger Eye, Quartz, Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, Carnelian (Aqiq), Tourmaline and many others. On the route of Baltit, there is a store by the name “Mountain Art & Gems Gallery”, it is a store with the enormous collection of gems and stones, this shop’s proprietor is a respectful person with tons of knowledge related to gemstones. We purchased many different gemstones from that store, there were also wooden handicrafts in the store that we also bought on a succeeding day. Many statues of “Gautama Buddha” were also there in the store, but they are not for sale and are the collection of the shopkeeper, these are the statues set up during different expedition performed by the shopkeeper in search of the precious gemstones in the nearby mountains.
There were number foreign visitors around this place, they are from China, Korea, Britain, Germany, USA and many other countries. Roaming and shopping around the city and meeting different foreigners we arrive back to our room. We placed an order for the dinner that is of “White Lentils (Daal Mash)” and bread (Chapati) and watched television while waiting at the food court for the dinner to serve. After dinner, we return back to our room and fell asleep after such a fabulous day, with a plan in hand for the coming day.