Unseen Beauty of Hunza Valley
The Hunza 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 while Baltit is a popular tourist destination because of the spectacular scenery of the surrounding mountains like Ultar Sar, Bojahagur Duanasir II, Ghenta Peak, Hunza Peak, Passu Peak, Diran Peak and Bublimotin (Ladyfinger Peak), all 6,000 metres (19,685 ft) or higher.
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/Tham (ruler) Mir Safdar Ali Khan of Hunza fled to Kashghar in China and sought what would now be called political asylum.
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. First muslim came to Hunza-Nagar Valley some 1000 years (At the time of Imam Islām Shāh 30th Imam Ismaili Muslims). 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.
Today, the 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. NATCO (Northern Area’s Transport Co) runs a daily bus from Rawalpindi to Hunza.
Several high peaks rise above 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) the Hunza valley. The valley provides views of several tall mountains, 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.
The local languages spoken include Burushaski, Wakhi and Shina. The literacy rate of the Hunza valley is believed to be more than 95%. Virtually every child is educated up to at least high school level. The Life style of People of Hunza is very simple and they are considered to be very warm and welcoming.
Most of the inhabitants of Hunza are Ismaili Shia Muslims, followers of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, while in Ganish more than 65% are Shia Muslims.
The Hunza region is principally home to people of four ethnicities:
The Lower Hunza area – from Khizerabad to Nasirabad is mainly inhabited by the Shinaki people who are Shina speakers.
The Central Hunza area – from Murtazaabad to Attabad is mainly inhabited by Burushaski speakers, however, there is a centuries-old locally inhabiting community as well that is known as the ‘Domaki’ which lives in a village lying in the immediate vicinity of ‘Baltit’ called ‘Mominabad’.
The Upper Hunza area, known as Gojal – from Shiskat to Khunjerab is mainly populated by Wakhi speakers and burusho speakers.