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Beauty of Kashmir

Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, is known worldwide for its natural beauty and atmospheric serenity. Here I am going to explain some of the beauties that I remember from my to-ing and fro-ing in the area in the past. The beauty of the Azad Kashmir landscape lies in the light, unlike any other tourist mountain region in Pakistan including the northern areas. Fiercer, stronger, and sharper light silhouettes the mountain resort and scattered houses on slopes in ever-changing patterns against the skyline. The sunlight plays with the green nooks and crags of the Kashmir landscape, tossing out long shadows that ripple across the green gorges, sometimes through tall pine and fir trees. It turns the hills from opal in the morning to sapphire to gold to silver and finally to dross before descending swiftly in a bright red ball in the evening.

It is the light of sculptors, not painters, who love the soft diaphanous hues and tones. Out of that light comes the great image of green hills and the long, clean lines of the spurs separating craggy countryside from the plains. In the background of photogenic natural settings, Kashmir weather proves fickle, switching from sunshine to downpour and again to sunshine in minutes. The rain that falls over the land and blots out the sun can be seen in the red, grey, and brown layers in the cliffs that plunge dramatically into the horizon.

Whereas the beauty in most places in the world has been marred by the detritus of tourism, one can still find secluded places in Kashmir — relatively quiet where one can find privacy as well as unmarred vistas of the green hills. Away from the hustle and bustle of the life in the fast lane, in Azad Kashmir one can enjoy a sense of solitary elation at that height — to meditate, and have a rendezvous with life. No hurrying up.

And in Azad Kashmir one can not only see but also feel and smell Kashmir everywhere. Other than the hilly landscape, the beauty of Kashmir lies in the people who live there. In the area, one sees mostly older men and women strolling along the contours or working in fields or following fodder-laden donkeys coming down from the hills, repose written all over their faces. Younger ones usually move out to cities in search of better opportunities.

Visible cultural fusion takes place in areas that see heavy tourist traffic from all over the country and abroad. Hill-village culture is gradually changing, from plain rustic to urban. Walk on any of the trails interlacing the area, talk to the locals, maybe in one of the many makeshift tea houses doing business in a nowhere kind of place, or take up any of the serene hikes, and you will find them politically alive and well aware of the hot national and international issues, discussing these in pleasant Punjabi blended with flavours of Potohari and Kashhmiri dialects.

The locals are amazing people. Resilient! There are many secrets hidden behind those silent smiles — secrets and strengths. In my experience, the Kashmiri people go to extremes to ensure their hospitality is perfect.

I keep thinking about Miran Khan who told me to tire the mountains while climbing, Murad Khan who advised me to suck on lemon while walking the hills to avoid thrust and many more whom I have had the chance to meet there. I don’t have an idea about what I will see when I go to Azad Kashmir next time. Will the landscape be different or will there be a visible change in the people?


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 2:25 PM,


At 2:00:00 AM, Blogger kristan watson said...

Travel Guide to Azad Kashmir


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