The Islamic Post Blog


Journey to the Land of Gold and Apricots by Khalida
June 22, 2008, 5:05 pm
Filed under: July Volume I- 2008, Magazine/ Culture, Touring, travel | Tags: , , , ,

By El Sheikh Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani, Vice Chancellor International Qur’anic Open University, Chief Editor Islamic Post

To view the Islamic Post print edition of this article, click here.

Introduction by Islamic Post Staff Writer

INTRODUCTION
Bismillahir Rahma nir Raheem
The Vice Chancellor El Sheikh Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani was the first person to give a scientific demonstration on the healing powers of the Holy Quran from 1976 – 1977. In the 1980’s, he spent his life conducting khalwas (retreats) in the desert and mountains where talibs beheld the Holy Last Messenger, peace be upon him, who told them what was to happen in the upcoming century of Islam. This is  recorded in Futihat-e-Muhammadiya. However, during his school days, he spent his entire life in the mountains leading national and international expeditions. He established mountaineering and hiking clubs based on character-building through adventure. Students and army personnel from all over Pakistan were trained. From the very beginning of his life, each and every minute has been spent in serving and achieving. Many talibs (seekers) will be amazed to learn the type of life he led and the world he faced. He undertook expeditions to explore Northern regions in the range of the Karakoram Mountains which have some of the highest peaks and longest glaciers in the world. At that time very little was known about that area. By writing articles and stories about his expeditions, he inspired the youth to be adventurous and to explore the unknown regions of Pakistan. He established a youth hostel association which eventually built hostels in many attractive mountainous regions, including the Kaghan Valley. He imparted courage, boldness, fearlessness, a sense of enterprise and a passion for adventure to the youth of Pakistan. El Sheikh and his companions were the bravest, most adventurous, and most fearless people on the face of the earth. Their expeditions produced maps and routes to unknown places and information on various cultures. After he left mountaineering, he felt saddened that no-one continued exploring the unknown areas; he was very sorry that adventure died in Pakistan. All that he and his companions had accomplished through exploration became a legend. The following article reprint from the Pakistan Times is the result of El Sheikh and his companions traveling with full pack, in burning heat, 16 to 20 miles per day. El Sheikh had hardly come out of high school; his command of language, the graphic description of the new region, Nagar Valley, previously unexplored in Pakistan, is plain to see. In the 90’s, our own mountain and hiking club of Islamberg passed through Nagar and Hunza when going to China. Of course, the Islamberg Hiking Club went by jeep but previously, the Vice Chancellor walked.
“Journey to the Land of Gold and Apricots” is reprinted on the occasion when El Sheikh celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of friendship with Brigadier Sher Khan, a lifelong friend and partner in adventure, along with a few others such as Dr. Farakh Ahmed Khan. Friendship is something, also, to feel happy and proud about; for it to be valued and unbroken continuously for fifty years is remarkable. Brigadier Sher Khan has just celebrated his fortieth wedding anniversary. This is a good lesson, for people should celebrate their 40th, 50th wedding anniversaries. We all wish Muhammed Sher Khan, Dr. Farakh Ahmed Khan, and others, a happy, prosperous and blissful life and continuation of friendship in this world and the hereafter as well!

Journey To The Land Of Gold And Apricots

By Mubarik Ali Gilani
Secretary, Climbers Club of Pakistan

Brigadier Sher Khan receives an award and certificate of honor for climbing and exploring from Lieutenant General Bakhtiar Rana.

This summer the Climbers Club of Pakistan sponsored a mountaineering expedition under the patronage of Lieutenant General Bakhtiar Rana. On their way the expedition passed through the State of Nagar which forms the subject of this article. The flight to Gilgit is well known as a daring feat of flying. Usually the route follows the Indus river gorge and the Babusar Pass. Our Dakota at Rawalpindi was stuffed with many odd things. When it was air-borne, we were rather impatient for a sight of the Nanga Parbat. Most of us occupied the seats near the windows facing the mountain. Down below, the view was partially curtained by heavy clouds. Thick, black forests bordering snowy summits heralded the approach of Kaghan Valley. The tiny, irregular shaped terraces on the banks of the river presented a beautiful pattern of many colors. The narrow, winding road running along the turquoise-green Kunhar River seemed more enchanting than usual. The view changed abruptly and the scene was now dominated by the peak of Nanga Parbat. This solitary peak has fortified itself with its steep icy precipices which fall almost vertically for more than 16,000 feet over the Diamir Glacier. This summer, the Nanga Parbat has repelled another assault by the German team.
Familiar Contours
I saw its familiar contours. I could see the last ridge on which Herman Buhl’s successful climb was accomplished in 1953. Then, down below, I saw the fatal camp site over the Monk’s Head where almost the entire German expedition vanished in 1937. I could guess that from here F. Mummery, one of the earliest Europeans, vanished in 1892. Haramosh dominated the scene when we turned west from Bunhji for Gilgit. It had defied many attempts before it was scaled. Then Rakaposhi appeared from her veil of clouds.
The Dakota landed very smoothly and we were in Gilgit, to see the old familiar faces and friends. We headed for our usual Garden rest house. There is a small island platform in the river, beside the rest house. I guess it is the favorite rendezvous of the Gilgit elite. After some days, one cloudy morning we left on our long journey towards our mountain which is situated in the Nagar territory. Nomal, the first stage from Gilgit, is about 16 miles, and is dreaded by travelers due to scarcity of water and the absence of shade and shelter. Usually, people prefer to travel on this route at night.
Chalt is the next stage from Nomal and the distance is about 15 miles. It is situated in a large bowl-shaped valley rich in orchards and crops. It is also the winter capital of the Mir of Nagar.
We traveled its long, narrow, poplar-flanked lanes for some miles which led us on to a road; this further ran along a stream, which we crossed.
About six miles up, along Hunza River, a very dangerous rock-cut track offers thrilling trekking. Usually, people get down at this extremely steep, precipitous stretch. A helper runs with a piece of stone along it in order to put it behind the tyres to check the back skid, which can result in a plunge into the river hundreds of feet below. No doubt it is risky to travel by jeep on this route.
Sikandarabad
At Khazirabad we crossed once again into Nagar territory and reached Sikandarabad. This is a large village whose source of water is the nullahs coming down from the Rakaposhi glaciers. The land is extremely fertile and the scenery magnificent. Forests high above provide these people with timber which is a rarity in Hunza.
As compared to Hunza, Nagar is much more fertile, but Nagarites have not developed a liking for outsiders yet. Since we arrived in the fruit season, we had apricots and mulberries in evidence everywhere. In the beginning we enjoyed taking fruits very much but gradually we were satiated with them.
Fruit is the staple diet of these people. Even goats, cows, dogs, and horses enjoy these fresh or dry fruits. I was told that, in the apple season, the cows are fed on apples. Rakaposhi is one of the most precious gifts of nature to the people of Nagar. Without Rakaposhi, Nagar would be reduced to desert. The most impressive view of Rakaposhi, however, can be had from Hunza. Mike Bank, a well-known British mountaineer, who led the joint Pak- British expedition which climbed it in 1958, believes that this peak is much more difficult than Everest. After having a look at its steep frozen massif and precipices and walls, I am also of the same opinion. Perhaps Nanga Parbat offers the only comparison. It is a blessing for the Nagarites. It lends eternal beauty to the valley and its sweet streams irrigate their fields. Its pastures supply them with milk and meat and its forests yield a generous supply of wood and timber.
Minnapin
From Sikandarabad we hired mules and donkeys to carry our equipment up to the next stage-Minnapin. All along the way, for more than sixteen miles, we passed under a canopy of fruit trees flanking the roads. We were told that every tree which grows on the roadside is dedicated to travelers. Nobody owns these trees. Our march was interrupted several times when we had to distribute medicines to the ailing people of the locality. Most of the people were suffering from dysentery. Our doctor told us that they get it from the wells they use for water storage. Cases of malaria and eye sore were also fairly common.
All Beauty is Music
I believe all the beauty in nature can be translated into music, and the mountains produce music for those who have “ears” to listen to this music. For appreciating this music, one needs to develop a hearing power which can only be acquired through communion with nature.
It was moonlight when we reached Nagar and were led towards the royal guest house. We were astonished to find that our meal was ready and that it had been arranged by the order of His Highness. Next morning we met the most illustrious and colorful personality of Nagar – the old Wazir. Although he is seventy and keeps a long white beard, he enjoys robust health.
Nagar
The town of Nagar lies on the right bank of the Nagar River and to the west of Baltit, the capital of Hunza. The Nagar River is formed after the confluence of Nispar with Hopar above Nagar from where it is known as Nagar River.
From here there is no regular approach to Hunza except a rope bridge, which is considered the nightmare of travelers. Perhaps it is due to this that Nagar is very little known to outsiders. This bridge is supported by two cables which are bound together and covered by small wooden planks set at irregular distances. And a pair of cables is supposed to offer hand support to the traveler. One of my companions had a very narrow escape while crossing the bridge. Nagar is situated on a high plateau which guards approaches to the interior of the Karakoram. Routes to Hispar, Baifo, and other glaciers lead from here. Among the peaks, Dastigil Sar, Kunyang Chhish, and Ghani Chhish, all are approached from Nagar.
No Police
I was told that there were no police and all the affairs were looked after by the headmen of the villages, themselves, who keep in touch with the Ruler. Few crimes are committed, and there was only one murder, 18 years ago. There is no set code of laws.
The People
An average Nagarite is tough, well-built, fair, and sturdy. They do not belong to the same race as the people of Hunza. The people are very religious and do not have many colorful customs and rites. The women are very shy and observe strict purdah. After marriage, many discard it in order to be able to look after the fields. The rosy, chubby children are pretty and seem to be well fed.
Houses
An average Nagar house is built with boulders and mud, which is plastered with a thin layer of hard clay. Most of the houses are double-storeyed. The lower storey is used for cattle and the upper for family members.
The Golden Peak
The Golden Peak is the most romantically carved mountain I have ever seen. It dominates the view from every ridge, spur, field, or any place in Nagar. It shoots up into the blue heaven more than 24,000 feet. For myself, I found there was no better pastime than to watch it during evening hours.
Nagarites are, by nature, peace-loving people. They have not indulged in war against any people. The royal house of Nagar is closely related to that of Hunza, due to many inter-marriages which have strengthened the relations between the two.
Songs and Dances
Nagarites dance when they wish to honor their guests, or on weddings and festivals. It is considered a necessary education for a gentleman. The better a man can dance, the more respected he is in society. It is a tradition that the wazirs of the Ruler should be fully conversant with dances. Their dances are altogether different from our dances. And there is no link between these and the Khattak dance of the Frontier. The Nagar dances closely resemble the dances performed in Tashkent. The music is simple yet very enchanting indeed. It consists of drums of various sizes, flutes, sarods, and the audience usually takes part in rhythmic clapping, howling and whistling.

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