On our way to Kalash Valley
We left Swat behind and after staying at a peach farm we moved up into the mountains. I guess we can’t get enough of the border with Afghanistan because again we move close to it. However this time mountains are in between.
The road to Bumboret
We get ourselves in eight hours from the Peach Farm in Swat to Kalash valley. The first part of the road is alright, it follows the river and therefore we cannot drive faster than 50 / 60km/h. And eventhough Kalash valley is only 200km away it takes ages to reach. Especially the last 15km are hell. Small road, lots of stones and steep slopes. At one time Alexine even needs a push to get atop the hill. And then after paying 600 rupees per person we are stuck. The road needs to be cleared of stones that fallen off the mountain. The 15km are already taking 1 hour and we still have 30 minutes to go says Google.
The moment we stop people surround Alexine. Curious to know where we are from and what we are doing here. Well, driving this road I have no idea. Again I’m scratching my head and cursing to myself. These are no roads for Alexine. She can handle it sure, she’s high enough but it takes it’s toll. Well, we’re almost there so no way we will go back.
After twenty minutes we are moving again. The road isn’t better, worse maybe. It’s full of dust, like moon sand. And lots of bumps as well, so big that sometimes it feels as if Alexine is shaking apart. And maybe she is. I hear her creaking and squeezing but we make it. We make it to the Kalash area, a tribe I’m so eager to meet.
The Kalash Tribe
The Kalash are a tribe now only found in this area of Pakistan. They believe they are the direct descendants of Alexander the Great, because of their looks. Their skin is as white as mine and their hair as brown. Actually we look quite a like. Although the sun have browned my skin. Anyway, the Kalash are living here and they have been oppressed by many but the Pakistani government is doing its best to preserve the Kalash culture. Nonetheless many Kalash convert to the Islam. Which is a pity because the culture is therefor declining. At the moment there are about 3.000 to 5.000 Kalash living in the valley and Bamburet is the main valley they live in.
The Kalash lived in Kafiristan, which translates to the ‘land of unbelievers’, which spread throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan the Kalash were hunted, they had to convert to the Islam or die. The Taliban changed the name of the region in Nuristan ‘land of light’. So most of the Kalash fled to Pakistan but as said many convert to Islam (out of free will). Why? Because they marry, because they learn about the other religion, because it’s the main religion of Pakistan. Everyone has their own reason.
Our arrival in the valley
We made it to the valley and immediately we see a change in people. Their skin colour is white, the hair of women seen in a braid and amazing colourful dresses. But why I love the Kalash the most and why I wanted to meet them is mainly because of the women. The Kalash women have power, they choose who they marry, they can shake the hand of men, they are free to do whatever they want. Compared to the Muslim women of the region who are covered, not allowed to eat with men and often will be in an arranged marriage, it sounds the Kalashi women are free. And don’t get me wrong, I respect anyones choice of religion and how a person wants to dress. I don’t care if a person wants to wear a burqa, is okay with not eating with men, is fine with an arranged marriage. But, it must be a choice. It must be out of free will. If not, it’s oppression and if I am against something it’s that. I’ve experienced it myself; having to wear a headscarf in Iran against my will. It’s not okay. I’m a person, someone with a brain, with a heart, with a will, and then a government makes me wear something I don’t want. So in Pakistan I see a lot of burqas and I just can’t believe anyone chooses to wear that. First of all; it’s too hot. Second what about the social interaction with people on the street? But still, there are women chosing to wear a burqa. And then I see the beautiful clothing underneath the burqa, clothes that are screaming to be seen and I really don’t understand it.
But back to the Kalash, because they can show their colourful dresses, their beautiful hair! And I dig that, I love that. They want to be photographed, they want to talk, they want to show their beautiful clothes. Those women are badass in a country that is the opposite towards women. Although, Pakistan is fine actually. No one looks at me weird for wearing a T-shirt and showing my hair. They don’t care, they just love that we are here. We’ve been invited to diners, tea and selfies. It’s amazing and the Kalash aren’t any different.
Well, they are. Because here we get wine!!!!!! Yeah, you read that well; wine! So in Pakistan the Muslims aren’t allowed to drink or produce alcohol but the Kalash aren’t Muslims so they are allowed to produce their own wine. And believe it or not but the taste is comparable to Georgian wine, the oldest wine on earth. I’m not a fan of Alexander the Great but if he really left these people here, if they’re really his descendants he did something good.
I’m now surrounded by men with white skin, blue eyes and light brown hair. They fit more in the Netherlands than I do. I’m more brown than they are. Incredible! And they are not all blonde and blue eyed. Most have brown hair and brown eyes. But I think these people are closer to the Arian race than are the Iranians, while the name Iranian comes from Arian. And that all has nothing to do with Hitler, although in Iran they think it has and therefore they like him. They don’t understand that Hitler meant blonde hair and blue eyes with his Arian race but alright. Other topic I guess. But yeah, I can totally understand the people here think they are the direct descendants of the army of Alexander the Great. He came to Afghanistan and continued his journey East through this area. It happened that soldiers left his war mongering pilgrimage and settled in an area like this. So it happened that people stayed mixed with locals and became the Kalash.
And the Kalash are different. They have a different religion, different believes and different values. More on that in a blog dedicated to this amazing tribe.
But I’m sitting here, drinking a wine and enjoying the natural sounds of crickets. Oh and conversations with the manager, Abdul Wahab, who is a very nice guy. He is learning English, eager to improve it. That’s also a thing here, the men look a lot older than they actually are. And Yuri to them looks very young. 30-35 they think he is. Me they don’t ask. It’s alright, I’m fine with that. Ok the wine is getting to my head now. And food is coming soon. Oh I didn’t even talk about the cook and where we got the wine. Ok let’s get back to that quickly.
So we got here and asked about wine, of course – what else? Then the cook, Zakibar, of the place took us to his house. We met his sister, also the boss of wine, his mother, brother, sister in law. We drank wine and had great talks. The women are looking so colourful and amazing. And they are all so kind! They gave us white wine instead of red but it tastes like Georgian amber wine. So we bought a 1.5 liter bottle for 3.000 rupees (€13,-), it’s a lot but hey, it’s wine in Pakistan! I guess we party tonight.
Love, Milene & Yuri
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