Stepping out of your comfort zone and making the notion that today you shall be heading towards the unexplored terrains leads to gates opening to far too many possibilities. The pandemic has been a stimulus for change. It has changed our perspective, allowed us to see things through a new lens and for many, it has actually changed the dynamics of exploration. Where there was a definite time when people would spend months trying to save money to fund their world tours and make the most of their vacation and time off, Covid has led to Pakistanis actually discovering that there is definite and immense beauty within our very own boundaries.
Be it the nudge from social media as high-profile personalities and celebrities showcased their spirit to unravel and discover the great Northern Areas, or the boost to national tourism as we came across exciting campaigns showcasing the PM himself visiting regions like Kumrat Valley. Whatever you may consider has caused a nudge to increasing tourism within Pakistan, one major region which is creating extreme hype is the valley of Hunza.
This mountainous region coming under Gilgit-Baltistan is a haven of possibilities. It is situated at an elevation of 7,999 feet. Geographically, Hunza consists of three regions: Upper Hunza (Gojal), Central Hunza and Lower Hunza. For a long time, it was left out of the public’s eye, however there has been a definite surge in visits. And one thing you will be completely mystified with is how Hunza is known and is remembered not just for its scenic sights and sound but more so by its people.
This is a complete cultural treasure- it stands strong in its placement of holding traditional values close to heart. The minute you speak to a local, you would truly get the essence that you are in the presence of something great and extremely hospitable. This little fact also does not come as a surprise. Certain studies have shown and proven that the Hunzas are the centre of attraction for people around the world because of the long and happy life they lead. The average life expectancy of the Hunza people is said to be above 80 years, while some also exceed 120. This in itself suggests that the people are living in contentment. They have a natural likeability towards living. You would notice, even during the very late hours, people in their complete element. They are walking across the streets, going by the streams and generally having a good time, without paying heed to the notion that it just might not be safe at this time of the night.
This goes for the female gender as well. Hunza is one of the safest places in Pakistan. There is an extremely low crime-rate meaning people are content with what they have. Interestingly, as you drive across and explore the various regions falling under the belt of Gilgit-Baltistan, you would be surprised to know how Hunza is actually one of those very few places which allows its locals the safety to be able to walk around the streets even as the day dawns. There is a rush of activities and the Hunza folks are known to shower not just foreigners with their absolute love and warmth, but also people who are big on ‘family feasts’.
Walk into a typical, traditional house in Hunza and there is one distinctive feature which completely stands out- the kitchen and the dining area. A structural depiction of celebrating large gatherings, the kitchen area has plenty of seating arrangements for the immediate family to sit around and enjoy a home-cooked meal. However, there is an entirely different and bigger room adjacent to it, which is fully carpeted and has big, floor cushions, allowing guests to sit together and not just feast on aromatic local flavors, but also have real, meaningful conversations. It is a norm for such arrangements to be made every once a week, allowing for you to indulge in what Hunza is all about- appreciating people and traditions.
Adapting an organic and healthy lifestyle has been passed down for generations. So much so that you would not find a single fast-food joint or a franchise of a popular eatery in Hunza at all. The people encourage even visitors to embrace the local flavors, even local snacking which includes the very revitalizing and what they consider the ‘desi redbull’, a glass of pure apricot juice. Just one glass of this amazing drink can give you such a bolt of energy. Here’s a nation which knows it is gifted with a multitude of flavors, and it proudly embraces it, enticing visitors as wherever you go, through every corridor, you may find quaint little shops selling off these homemade delights.
A nation which pays extensive attention to education, Hunza holds a literacy rate of 98%. You will be surprised to find not a single beggar on the streets. Children are put into schools and education is vastly available as many of these youngster’s study hard enough to go to major colleges and universities in the city. Only for them to actually come back, embrace their family businesses and create poignant strategies to ensure that the very foundation which defines Hunza and its beauty remains integrated into its cultural workings.
You may have visited plenty of places within Pakistan but Hunza Valley is defined by its own stature. Travelers, including foreigners, consider it as one of their favorite spots to unravel and visit, time and again. The Hunza tribe simply stands out. Their general charm, intelligence, and physical stamina is intriguing. Their history and traditional values make them extremely distinctive and the urgency with which the younger generation is committed to progressing in intellectual flair and literacy milestones simply suggests that this is one region which will continue to progress while firmly holding onto its values which are the basis of it and its people’s existence.