Hunza Valley

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Coordinates: 36°19′N 74°39′E / 36.317°N 74.650°E / 36.317; 74.650 The Hunza (Burushaski: ہنزہ, Urdu: ہنزہ‎) is a mountainous valley in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan. The Hunza is situated north/west of the Hunza River, at an elevation of around 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). The territory of Hunza is about 7,900 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi). Aliabad is the main town is while Altit is a popular tourist destination because of the spectacular scenery of the surrounding mountains like Ultar Sar, Rakaposhi, Bojahagur Duanasir II, Ghenta Peak, Hunza Peak, Passu Peak, Diran Peak and Bublimotin (Ladyfinger Peak), all 6,000 metres (19,685 ft) or higher.

History[edit source | edit]

Hunza was formerly a princely state bordering Uyghurstan to the northeast and Pamir to the northwest, which survived until 1974, when it was finally dissolved by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The state bordered the Gilgit Agency to the south and the former princely state of Nagar to the east. The state capital was the town of Baltit (also known as Karimabad); another old settlement is Ganish Village. Hunza was an independent principality for more than 900 years. The British gained control of Hunza and the neighbouring valley of Nagar between 1889 and 1892 through a military conquest. The then Mir/Thum (Ruler) Mir Safdar Ali Khan of Hunza fled to Kashghar in China and sought what would now be called political asylum.

Hunza Valley from Eagle Point

First Muslim Mir/Thum[edit source | edit]

The ruling family of Hunza is called Ayeshe (heavenly). The two states of Hunza and Nagar were formerly one, ruled by a branch of the Shahreis, the ruling family of Gilgit, whose seat of government was Nager. Tradition has it that Mayroo Khan, apparently the first Muslim Thum of Nagar some 200 years after the introduction of Islam to Gilgit, married a daughter of Trakhan of Gilgit, who bore him twin sons, named Moghlot and Girkis. From the former the present ruling family of Nager is descended. The twins are said to have shown hostility to one another from birth. Thereupon their father, unable to settle the question of succession, divided his state between them, giving to Girkis the north/west, and to Moghlot the south/east bank of the river.[1]

Mir/Thum[edit source | edit]

Hunza Valley near Chalt and the west face of Rakaposhi

The traditional name for the ruler or Prince in Hunza was Thum (also Thom or Tham), which is also a respectful greeting used by the people of both Hunza and Nager who belong to the clan of Boorish. The Shin use the term Yeshkun for the Boorish.

Both Thums are also addressed as Soori, a title of respect. This appears to be the same [in meaning] as Sri, an commonly prefixed to the names of Hindu princes in India, to denote their honour and prosperity. The Thum's wives are styled ghenish which is almost identical with the original Sanskrit word for mother, and their sons are called gushpoor.[2]

2010 landslide[edit source | edit]

In 2010, a landslide blocked the river and created Attabad Lake, which threatened 15,000 people in the valley below and has effectively blocked 27 km of the Karakoram Highway.[3][4]

Capital of Hunza[edit source | edit]

The first seat of power of the formerly Hunza State was Altit. Later it shifted to Baltit (modern-day Karimabad). Until the fall of princely state in 1974, Baltit served as political center of Hunza and hence its capital. Today, Baltit is one of the major tourist destinations in Hunza. The center of activities has however somewhat shifted to Aliabad, which is a commercial hub in the region and has most of the governmental infrastructure.

Geography[edit source | edit]

Baltit Fort, the former residence of the Mirs of Hunza

The Hunza is situated at an elevation of about 900 metres (3,000 ft). For many centuries, Hunza has provided the quickest access to Swat and Gandhara for a person travelling on foot. The route was impassable for pack animals; only human porters could get through, and then only with permission from the locals. Hunza was easily defended as the paths were often less than 0.5 metres (20 in) wide. The high mountain paths often crossed bare cliff faces on logs wedged into cracks in the cliff, with stones balanced on top. They were also constantly exposed to regular damage from weather and falling rocks. These were the much feared "hanging passageways" of the early travel accounts that terrified several famous Chinese Buddhist monks such as Xuanzang.

Hunza is divided into 3 Geographic Sub-Divisions:

Upper Hunza (Gojal)[edit source | edit]

Upper Hunza comprises the Gojal tehsil of Hunza–Nagar District. The main towns, villages and valleys are:

Lower Hunza[edit source | edit]

Lower Hunza comprises the parts of Aliabad tehsil of Hunza–Nagar District. The main towns, villages and valleys are:

Central Hunza[edit source | edit]

Central Hunza comprises the parts of Aliabad tehsil of Hunza–Nagar District. The main towns, villages and valleys are:

Climate[edit source | edit]

Spring in Hunza Valley

The temperature in May reaches a maximum of 27 °C (81 °F) and a minimum of 14 °C (57 °F); the October maximum is 10 °C (50 °F) and the minimum −10 °C (14 °F). Hunza's tourist season is generally from May to October, because in winter the Karakoram Highway is often blocked by the snow.

Transport[edit source | edit]

Today, the famous Karakoram Highway crosses Hunza, connecting Pakistan to China via the Khunjerab Pass, although blocked by the Attabad Lake north of Hunza. Travelling up the valley from the south, Hunza is to the left, and the former state of Nagar to the right of the Hunza River. Regular bus and van services operate between Gilgit and Central Hunza (Ganish Village, Aliabad and Karimabad) and also between Gilgit and Sost Gojal. PTDC Office at Gilgit, Sost and Islamabad arranges tours and transport for visitors.

Spectacular scenery[edit source | edit]

Rakaposhi: Nagar Valley, 7,788 metres (25,551 ft)

Several high peaks rise above 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) the Hunza valley. The valley provides spectacular views of some of the most beautiful and magnificent mountains of the world, including Rakaposhi 7,788 metres (25,551 ft), Ultar Sar 7,388 metres (24,239 ft), Bojahagur Duanasir II 7,329 metres (24,045 ft), Ghenta Sar 7,090 metres (23,261 ft), Hunza Peak 6,270 metres (20,571 ft), Darmyani Peak 6,090 metres (19,980 ft), and Bublimating (Ladyfinger Peak) 6,000 metres (19,685 ft). A watch tower is located in heart of Ganish Village, Baltit Fort stands on top of Karimabad whereas Altit Fort lies somewhat lower down the valley on another outcrop.

The valley is popularly believed to be the inspiration for the mythical valley of Shangri-la in James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon.

Duikar Valley[edit source | edit]

Duikar is a charming hamlet above the village of Altit. One of the main attractions of Duikar is the viewpoint (2900 m), a 5 minute climb up behind the Eagle’s Nest Hotel. This gives you one of the best views during sunrise and sunset, in particular at full-moon. From Eagle’s Nest Hotel it is a 1½ hours climb up to Hosht (3600 m). From there, there are great views of the Ultar Mountains and the Hopper glacier.

People of Hunza[edit source | edit]

Hunza valley river

The valley is famous for its beauty and the people of Hunza are noted for their friendliness and hospitality. The local languages spoken include Burushaski, Wakhi and Shina, although many people understand Urdu. The literacy rate of the Hunza valley is believed to be more than 95%.[5] Hunza has been described as a "role model" for Pakistan in terms of its high literacy rate and school enrolment figures. Virtually every child nowadays is educated up to at least high school level.[5]

Most of the inhabitants of Hunza are Ismaili Shia Muslims, followers of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, while in Ganish Village more than 65% are Shia Muslims.

The Hunza region is principally home to people of three ethnicities:

New district[edit source | edit]

Hunza–Nagar became a new district in Gilgit–Baltistan starting July, 2009. An additional Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) seat for Hunza has been proposed.[6]

Altit Fort: A beautiful view of Hunza River

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh by John Bidulph page 26
  2. ^ Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh by John Bidulph Sang e meel publication page 30
  3. ^
  4. ^ Blockage of Hunza river, Landslide blog written by Shakeelgilgity, Gilgit-Baltistan
  5. ^ a b Siddiqui, Shahid. "Hunza disaster and schools". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  6. ^ [1] HunzaTimes, June 24, 2009.