By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: Ganish, as locals pronounce it, is said to be one of the earliest settlements on the ancient silk route. This settlement was inhabited by 10th century caravans. Shish Kin, a Chinese visitor, said his ancestors belonged to this region.
“Awesome, it just took me back to medieval times,” a tourist remarks as he walks down a narrow street of the 1,000-year-old settlement of Hunza in Gilgit Baltistan.
Another tourist from Faisalabad said the place looked like a Hollywood movie set, meant to portray the lifestyle and culture of a civilisation from ancient times. “It is strange that our media does not educate us about these sites and their histories. Rather, they spend all their energies and resources in covering politicians’ quotes and speeches.”
The village is accessible on foot and people have to walk just three minutes off Karakoram Highway to get here. A signpost carries a brief introduction about the settlement.
Entering the village after walking up a slope, the first thing the visitor encounters is a beautiful pond at the entrance. On the other hand, the more populated and ‘residential’ areas of the village are also inhabited by new and old constructions, including ancient mosques, guest houses, towers and narrow streets.
“The village was at the brink of collapse when it was first renovated by an NGO,” lumbardar Shabeer said.
The settlement was also nominated twice for UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
“Only some supernatural force has kept this village intact,” another resident of the settlement said. Similarly, Alamgir, another local, said the construction of the village at such a great height with heavy boulders must have been a superhuman task. “Some supernatural forces must have helped them construct this village.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, Alamgir said the settlement is not known to many although its ancient history and heritage can be verified from information in history books and online libraries. “If the government can make this village tourist-friendly and attractive for foreigners, Pakistan will move a step ahead in terms of international tourism,” he added. “Activity around the site could potentially provide jobs to the entire youth of Hunza.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2016.