Silk Route Festival – 2013 Gilgit-Baltistan Pakistan
Asghar Khan: Pakistan joined the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in 1976; The strong link between sustainable tourism and the rich cultural heritage of the Silk Road is a major step taken by the UNWTO. Millions of cross border visits take place between the Silk Road countries, and a clear need has been identified to promote new sustainable tourism products, focusing on three pillars: marketing and promotion, capacity building, and travel facilitation.
Acclaimed as the ‘greatest route in the history of mankind’, the ancient Silk Road formed the first bridge between the East and West and was an important vehicle for trade between the ancient empires of China, India, Persia and Rome. Dating back to 200 BC, the route was a channel for contact between people and cultures, inspiring the exchange of dialogue, art, religion, ideas and technology. With its richly diverse cultural heritage and its wealth of natural tourism attractions spanning across 12,000 kilometers of ancient routes, the modern -day Silk Road offers visitors the opportunity to experience a unique network of destinations, following the footsteps of some of the world’s most acclaimed explorers, such as Alexander the Great and Marco Polo.
Historically the Gilgit-Baltistan Province of Pakistan had close linkages with the central Asia including Peoples Republic of China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, through different branches of Old Silk Route. Similarly the region was well connected with Ladakh, Tibet and Kashmir. These linkages with the outside regions had lasting impact on communities of Gilgit-Baltistan. Its unique location – the main trading route between India, China and Central Asia (Silk Route) passed through the area – not only made it a meeting place for traders and pilgrims, but also attracted emperors and conquers from Central Asia and Persia. The resulting rich cultural heritage includes a large number of archaeological sites and historical buildings, depicting the long, turbulent history and diverse culture of the area.
This year the Silk Route Festival was jointly organized by Tourism Department of the Govt. of Gilgit-Baltistan, Serena Hotels, Tour Operator Association Gilgit-Baltistan (TOAGB), Karakoram International University, Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP), Aga Khan Cultural Services Pakistan (AKCSP), WWF, Karakoram Area Development Organization (KADO), Seed Project of Ev K2 CNR and Wakhi-Tajik Cultural Association (WTCA) from October 27th to 29th 2013
The main objective of Silk Route Festival was focused to, establish brand, supported by extensive cooperative marketing campaigns with stimulate partnerships between public and private sector. Governments will value and support the tourism sector and gain significant return for their investment to improve cultural and environmental management and will generate significant direct and indirect employment. The unique geographical and cultural heritage of Gilgit-Baltistan will makes it an ideal tourist destination on the Silk Road for domestic and international tourists.
The Silk Route Festival was inaugurated by Governor Gilgit-Baltistan Syed Pir Karam Ali Shah on October 27th 2013 at Karakoram International University Gilgit, the festival was attended by envoys and ambassadors H.E Mr. Volodymyr Lakomov, Ambassador of Ukraine, H.E. Dr. Song Jong-Hwan Ambassador of South Korea, H.E. Mr. Ro Kyong Chol, Ambassador of North Korea, H.E. Dr. Ismatulla Fayzullaev, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Uzbekistan, H.E Mr. Kubanyebek Toktorbaev, Charge d’ Affairs, Embassy of Kyrgyz, H.E. Dr. Ali Muhra, Head of Mission, Embassy of the Syria, H.E Mr. Dashgin Shikarov Ambassador, Embassy of Azerbaijan and 15 other diplomats from China, Japan, Italy, Egypt, and Indonesia.
They guests visited different stalls and cultural performances at the Karakoram International University. Lunch was hosted by Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan at Kargha Buddha, during the lunch all dignities were briefed about the 7th century Kargah Buddha rock carving,The Buddha was carved in the seventh century a monastery and three stupas about 400 meters upriver from the Buddha, were excavated in 1938-39, following the discovery of so-called Gilgit manuscripts in 1931. The local legend about the Buddha tells of a man devouring an ogress called Yakhshini who lived at Kargah.
After lunch a friendly free style polo match “the Game of Kings” was held in their honor at the historical Aga Khan Shahi Polo ground. Shields and prizes were distributed by the Ambassadors to the players.
Silk Route Gems and Jewelry expo was organized at Gilgit Serena Hotel by Rupani Foundation and Govt Gems department, where gems and jewelry items have been put on display, the guests visited the stalls.
On the second day of the Silk Route Festival, the ambassadors and diplomatic staff on the way to Hunza stopped at the Collision Point near Chalt (Nagar), where briefed about the two continental plates, which is nearly 50 to 55 million years ago the two continental plates collide at this junction, such as the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate; the result is literally Earth-shattering. The tremendous amounts of pressure created cause the Earth’s crust to buckle, producing large horizontal and vertical displacements. The primary features produced by this pressure and buckling are towering mountain ranges and elevated plateaus.
The types of formations that occur in a continental plate collision can be observed at this location where the Indian Plate is colliding with the Eurasian Plate. The Indian Plate has buckled to create the Himalayas. This mountain range reaches heights as high as 29,000 feet, the highest continental mountains on the planet. The Eurasian Plate has been raised, producing the Tibetan Plateau. This plateau, sometimes referred to as the “Roof of the World,” is characterized by an average elevation of over 16,000 feet.
At next stop the Sikandarabad, Nagar community presented a programme highlighting the Ancient Silk Route Caravan, at Sikandarabad, Nagar. Locally known as “kini Kutto”the section of visible road high up on the cliff side across the river evolved from being a foot path into a pony track and was later widended (ony one jeep width) in to a jeep road in 1958 – 60. Howeverwith the construction of the KKH in 70’s, the old Silk Road fell into disuse. In order to show the nature of the historic connection Aga Khan Cultural Services Pakistan with funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Islamabad restored the visible section of the road in partnership with Budalas (Nagar) and Khizerabad (Hunza) communities in 2004. Kinu Kutto has great view of Rakaposhi mount.
The next stop was at Nilt Nagar, a programme demonstrating the Anglo-Borosho War of 1891 was held at Nilt, Nagar, where the guests were also briefed about the region’s history. The Hunza and Nagar were two sovereign states before 1891, they had their own foreign and internal administrative system. But 1891for expending her borders, British Empire attached on Hunza-Nagar states, Colonel Algernon George Arnold Durand, commanded a force of approximately a thousand rifles and many guns. Brusho tribe entrenched at Nilt Fort (Jangir-e-Laye) and tried their best to defend their mother land. Battle continued for many weeks. The British gained control of Hunza and Nagar. Hunza and Nagar were occupied.Another significance of this war is the British Empire awarded three Victoria Cross during this battle due to toughness of combat.
They delegation reached at Rakaposhi View Point, where they were greeted by Finance Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan and Member of legislative Assembly Mirza Hussain. The two elected leaders of Nagar Valley briefed the visitors about the region’s touristic and economic potential. A light refreshment had also been arranged for the visitors.
The visitors reached Hunza Serena Inn (Karimabad) and walk through the Altit Khuan, visited the old settlement and gathered at Jataq where Senior citizens and school children present cultural dance of Hunza Valley in front of the ambassadors and other guests. A guided tour of 900 years old Altit Fort was organized by Aga Khan Cultural Services Pakistan to the guests, after the Altit Fort visit a Traditional food was served at Khabasi. After lunch the delegation visit the 800 year old Baltit Fort, on return from the fort the guests visit the Aga Khan Rural Support Program and Karakoram Area Development Organization stall of Art & Crafts and Food fiestaat Karimabad polo ground, Speaker, Finance Minister, Advisor Tourism and Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan and other dignitaries are also present at the occasion.
On 29th October the closing ceremony of the Silk Route Festival held at Gulmit Gojal, all envoys, ambassadors and media representatives were transferred form Hunza Attabad spillway to Gulmit by speed boats. Chaudhry Barjees Tahir, the Federal Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs was the chief guest of this event. The colorful silk Route Festival closing ceremony held at Gulmit polo ground where the colorful ceremony started with performing a march-past by Govt, Al Amyn Model school children, Volunteers of Focus Humanitarian Assistance and Silver Jubilee Band Gulmit, Diamond Jubilee Band Chipurson and Sost and saluting the national flag as the guests rise in their seats, a group of elders citizen present traditional dance in front of the guests. The tradition of dance and music is at the core of Gilgit-Baltistan’s culture. Dancing in front of the guest symbolizes joy and happiness felt at welcoming them Students of Al-Amyn Model School, Gulmit, perform Seeni-Sai, a Wakhi folk song,Members of the Silver Jubilee Band perform Abiso Nat, a traditional dance of the Burushaski speaking community. The dance symbolized appreciation and celebration of diversity, i.e. pluralism
The Federal Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs addressed on the closing ceremony and said that Pakistan is safe for tourism and the current government is making all out efforts to capitalize on the nation’s tourism potentials, the Silk Route Festival and other such positive activities will hopefully help reduce negativity and attract tourists towards the region. He promised to organize more such events in the future in collaboration with the organizers, he mentioned that efforts will be made to capitalize on the tourism potential of the dammed Hunza River, by jointly working with the Tourism Promotion Services (Serena Hotels). He said that the dammed area will be converted into a tourist resort. The minister appreciated all organizers for staging an impressive show of the region’s cultural heritage.
The minister and the delegation of ambassadors and diplomatic staff have left Gulmit after attending the festival for almost 1 hour. The local people continued the festivities for almost two hour more after the departure of the guests, after a colorful display of the region’s rich cultural heritage. People from across Gojal valley put in a lot of efforts to make the closing ceremony of festival a success.