Baltit Fort, the residence of the Mirs of Hunza, was restored as a museum and cultural centre by AKTC

Baltit Fort, after restoration by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (Image: AKDN)
Baltit Fort, after restoration by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (Image: AKDN)

The Hunza Valley in Northern Pakistan is located in one of the world’s highest mountain ranges – the Karakorum – and borders Gilgit, China and the Pamir mountains. Baltit Fort, a commanding landmark across the Hunza Valley, was the official residence of the Mirs who ruled the region for over 700 years. The Fort, dating to at least the 14th century, was built to protect the settlements in the Hunza Valley. In 1945 the last ruler moved to a new palace and Baltit Fort began to deteriorate; his son, Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, donated the Fort to the Baltit Heritage Trust, a foundation responsible for maintaining the Fort.

MHI_Baltit_Fort
Mawlana Hazar Imam and Prince Amyn take in a view of the mountainous Hunza valley from the vantage point of the Baltit Fort (Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte)

In 1985 the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) engaged a team to develop proposals that would save the Baltit Fort from further decay, and to formulate a program for the conservation of the complex.*  The Trust provided the technical expertise, however, much of the labour and material were provided by the local communities themselves. In addition to restoration efforts, the Trust also focused on reviving traditional skills, generating new employment opportunities and providing training in the jobs needed for a  changing economy.

Mawlana Hazar Imam inaugurated the newly restored Baltit Fort in 1996 as a museum and cultural centre, attracting thousands of visitors to the area, thereby improving the livelihood of the local community and restoring pride in their heritage.

The Baltit and Karimabad projects received a British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Global award in 2000. According to the citation. In 2004, AKTC was awarded the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for restoration work on Baltit Fort. Visit http://www.akdn.org/awards.asp to view all awards presented to AKDN for its work around the world.

References:
*Li Lian Tan, Baltit Fort, Karimabad, Pakistan, Restoration and Adaptive Re-use
Pakistan: Conservation and Development in Gilgit-Baltistan and the Punjab, AKTC

Research by Nimira Dewji


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