The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush

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On one memorable occasion we had made a double march.

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The track was extremely arduous, and the waning light found us tired and jaded, and still some distance from camp. Silent and slow-footed, we rounded the Doian spur in the gathering darkness, and had begun the descent to the village, when a strange sight to the north-west startled us into open-eyed wonder. And indeed a wonderful picture lay spread out before and beneath us. It was bounded and restricted below by the large spurs which guard the mouth of the Astor Valley. I was struck by the fact that at the entrance to the field there were lines by one J.

Stephen that read. The rest of our travels were by Land Rover. After a short trip to the Naran Valley, where we hoped to do a modest climb—the weather turned bad—we headed for Swat. This was the most touristic place on the North West Frontier and the roads and guest houses were excellent. I was struck here, as I was struck everywhere we went, that all the men were armed.

When we went for our little walk in Khaplu we were given an armed escort. I could never figure out the reason for this but one simply got used to it.

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I recall one gas station in Swat where a luxurious car stopped and a very heavily armed bodyguard got out to pump gas. Our last and most difficult drive was to Chitral.

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Dir and Chitral border Swat, but as soon as we hit the boundary of Dir the roads became nightmarish. We had been warned not to drive at night-—the reason was never exactly explained, but we were relieved to see a large presence of the Pakistan army. We decided to spend the night in the Land Rover and to cook our dinner and breakfast in the same. Getting to the top of the Lowari Pass was not too difficult.

Getting down was another matter. We counted over forty very tight hairpin turns before we reached the bottom. Most of the year the pass is closed and air transport is sporadic, which means that for a great deal of time Chitral is cut off from the outside world. The Chitral valley was formed by the Kunar river which veers off into neighboring Afghanistan. Looming over the town of Chitral is Tirich Mir, which at 25, feet is the highest mountain in the Hindu Kush range. We went in search of the local ruler Prince Bhirhanudin, to whom we had somehow obtained a letter of introduction.

We had been told that he had an extraordinary wine cellar. We found him at the airport trying unsuccessfully to persuade a Pakistan Airlines pilot to ignore the cloud cover and to come to Chitral to pick him up.


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He was too busy to pay any serious attention to us. They lived, a couple of thousand of them, in three valleys Birit, Rumbur, and Bumboret. The valleys are so well-concealed that even though we knew essentially where they were, we could not see their entrance from across the Kunar river as we drove in. The Kafirs had a bad reputation in Pakistan.

They had a totemistic religion that included the drinking of wine which they manufactured from their own grapes. They looked Mediterranean and the women wore remarkable costumes and did special dances. We drove the Land Rover to the town of Ayun, where the trail to the valleys began, and hired an armed guard to look after it. The walk up the Birit valley was lovely and at the end of it was a rest house where we could spend the night. No sooner had we landed there then we were offered the local wine—highly sweetened. Some of the Kafir ladies came to dance for a small fee.

The Káfirs of the Hindu Kush

On the way we passed a cemetery in which the Kalash bury their dead in wooden coffins above ground. We returned to Ayun and the next day walked up the trail to the Bumboret valley. It was a beautiful; made more beautiful by the sight of a Kalash girl playing a wooden flute as she tended her flock of animals. It has been suggested that this article be merged into Nuristanis.


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See also. Archived from the original on Retrieved Bellew: " Majumdar , A. Pusalkar, K. Majumdar, A. Afghanistan: its people, its society, its culture Survey of world cultures , , by Donald Newton Wilber. Entdeckungsgeschichte und Geographie Asiens , Edition, by Mountstuart Elphinstone; Proceedings , , , Raychaudhury, B.

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Rhys Davis, S. Strahan etc. External links. Credit: see original file.

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