I’ve been reading about the fascinating Kalash tribe in the Hindu-Kush area of Northern Pakistan. Their background and history further intensified my desire to travel through Central Asia, all the –istans in particular. For the most part, the history of the Kalash people remains obscure and controversial. According to some scholars, the Kalash people are direct descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers. This view however is unsubstantiated and most scholars trace the history of the Kalash back to the Indo-Aryan migration/invasion in 1500 B.C. No matter where they came from and when they settled in the mountain villages of the Hindu-Kush, the light skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes of many Kalash people provide an interesting evidence to their Caucasian origins.
The Kalash are among the few remaining non-Muslim people in Central Asia. Having been isolated for centuries in the Hindu Kush mountain ranges, the Kalash people have become genetically distinct. The centuries and centuries of isolation also allowed them to maintain their pagan beleifs and preserve their culture from outside influence. In Afghanistan, they used to occupy a region called Kafirstan (land of the infidels) but in 1895 they were conquered and forcibly converted to Islam by Amir AbdulRahman Khan and since then the region became known as Nuristan (land of the enlightened)! Today, there are approximately 3,000 Kalash people living in Northern Pakistan. Their culture and traditional way of life is under threat from urbanization, industrial development, and tourism, in addition, being surrounded by millions of Muslims from every direction does not help. Although violence is no longer used against them, the Kalash people continue to face racism and are under constant pressure to assimilate to the Muslim/Pakistani culture. Many Kalash people, especially men are converting to Islam only to leave their tribe in search for better economic opportunities in other regions of Pakistan.
It's quite interesting to browse through pictures of the Kalash tribe. They have such a beautiful culture. Kalash women wear black gowns adorned with a dozen of yellow, red, and orange necklaces. They also wear a beautiful headgear covered with beads and other colorful stuff. Men wear the standard shalwar qameez but they distinguish themselves from Muslims by putting a feather in their woolen caps.
One day, if I.. or hopefully when I embark on that trip of a lifetime through central asia (the silk road perhaps?) I'll make sure to include the Hindu-Kush valleys in my route.
For more photos and info about the Kalash, check out the following websites:
-The Kalash, the last descendants of Alexander the Great
-Abi Gul (beautiful girl)
-Picture of a beautiful kalash girl
-Images from Chitral: 1973-76
-Kalash Indigenous Survival Program
-Pakistan: De Paris a Auckland sans avion
-Kalash: A dieing culture
-Children of the Kalash Valleys
-Kalash Valley: Where fairies dance and sing
-Kalash Festival of Choimus