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Himalaya

Day 10: Chitral

Chitral, Pakistan 
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Chitral. With Siraj Ul-Mulk at a madrassa (a religious school) in the mosque his grandfather built
Michael Palin - HimalayaChitral, a compact riverside town and centre of a close-knit valley community, has grown and prospered in recent years with the influx of Afghans, who came over the mountain passes during the Taliban years. Siraj reminds me that the border is less than 50 miles (80 km) to the west.

'You see, in winter we're cut off from the rest of Pakistan, but we're not cut off from Afghanistan.'

He's complimentary about the Afghan influence. They rejuvenated the sleepy town, bringing new cafés and restaurants, improving the choice of food in the shops, opening butchers, greengrocers, carpet-weaving and other businesses and generally demonstrating their talent as entrepreneurs. Now many of them are returning home and Chitral is once again reverting to its natural sleepiness.

There was a time, a hundred odd years ago, when it was the British who were the new arrivals in Chitral. Seeing Chitral's western passes as potentially vulnerable back doors through which the expansionist Russians might steal into their Indian empire, they installed a garrison at the fort. The Great Game, as the rivalry between the two 19th-century superpowers came to be known, saw one of its more dramatic moves played out in Chitral in 1895.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 10: Chitral
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Chitral
  • Book page no: 30

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