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Gilgit is located in the northeastern part of Pakistan in the northerly regions that have an autonomous status in Pakistan. Nowadays this region is known as Gilgit-Baltistan, the capital of this region is Gilgit. India does not recognize this region as part of Pakistan and classifies it as being part of the Indian province of Kashmir. This has given rise to one of the largest conflicts between these two countries. Gilgit is an old city which has been an important trading post for centuries because of its situation on the silk route.
Nowadays the city has a population of more than 200,000. Gilgit is often used as a stop over by travelers that are on their way to the Himalayans or the Karakoram mountain range. Because Gilgit is situated in the vicinity of the border with China Chinese culture has left its mark in the city.
The Climate of Gilgit varies from region to region; surrounding mountain ranges creates sharp variations in weather. The eastern part has the moist zone of the western Himalayas, but going towards Karakoram and Hindu Kush the climate dries considerably. Gilgit is hot during the day in summer yet cold at night and valleys like Astore, Khalpu, Yasin, Hunza and Nagar where the temperature is cold even during the summer.
At an altitude of 1,500 meters Gilgit has a desert climate with warm summers and cold winters. During the summer temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius are uncommon. Winters are cold longer periods with subzero temperatures are not uncommon. Precipitation figures are low all year round. During the winter precipitation often falls in the form of snow or hail.
Culture & Heritage
Gilgit is home to a number of diversified cultures, ethnic groups, languages and various backgrounds. It is home to people belonging to all regions of Gilgit as well as from other cities of Pakistan and aboard. This multitude of cultures is because of the strategic location of Gilgit. Being the headquarters of the Gilgit-Baltistan almost of the key offices are located in Gilgit.
Urdu and English are the official languages spoken while other languages include Pushto and Punjabi. Shina is the basic language spoken by most of the original settlers but the new comers have various backgrounds of languages and cultures. Other key languages spoken in Gilgit are:
As Gilgit is a multicultural city and there are a lot of different languages spoken in Gilgit which has an effect on the attitudes of people as well. Many citizens are following the old traditions and customs while others are enjoying a modern lifestyle which is influenced by other cultures, media and education.
Majority of the inhabitants are Muslims belonging to two different communities of interpretations i.e. Sunnis, Shias and Ismailies. A small number of Christians also reside in Gilgit.
- Eid-e- Ghadir
- Eid ul Azha
- Eid Milad un Nabi
- Eid ul Fitr.
- Jashn e Baharan
- Shandoor Polo Festival
- Babusar Polo Festival
- Harvest time festival.
The instruments commonly used in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan are Dadang (drum), Damal and Surnai while some other instruments like Sitar, Gabi(Flute) Rabab and duff represent the different areas. Beside this khiling-boo.chang, porgho-too etc instruments are used in Baltistan region.
Types of Music
- Alghani: The people of Gilgit, Ghizer Yasin, Puniyal, and Gupis call this rhythm as Alghani
- Ajoli: During departure of bride and groom from house this rhythm is used in different parts of Gilgit
- Souse: A martial rhythm and it has a fast rhythm and is used specially in sword dances.
- Dani: Dani is the name of a traditional music used in Hunza which links to Tibet, Baltistan and Laddakh.
The famous trio band music is played in this region as in most of the other regions. On the rhythm of this loud music, men love to dance in their typical way. There are some variations in lyrics from region to region. The people of Gilgit have some unique and very beautiful dances in different parts. Following dances are common during the festivals, traditional events and ceremonies.
Following are some of the famous dances:
- Old Man Dance: In this dance more than one man wears some old style dresses and dance.
- Sword Dance: In this unique dance the participants show taking one sword in right and shield in left. One to six participants as pair can dance.
- Cow Boy Dance: In this dance a person wears old style dress, long leather shoes and a stick in hand.
Some of the famous places which tourists can see when they are visiting Gilgit are as following:
- Gilgit Bridge: Bridge over the fast flowing Gilgit River, at the end of its traditional bazaar, is the largest suspension bridge in Asia (182 metres long and 2 metres wide) permitting enough room for one jeep ata time to cross
- Kargah Buddha: Located on a rock near Kargah Nullah 10 km. from Gilgit town is a beautiful rock engraving of Buddha from 7th century A.D.
- Monument of Taj Mughal: A victory monument of Taj Mughal, built 700 years ago, is 30 km
- Sher Qilla: It is 38 km from Gilgit. Trekking route links with Naltar valley. Trout fishing can be enjoyed in Sher Qilla Nullah and a small lake.
- Singal: About 61 km from Gilgit. Trekking route links with Chilas and Kohistan valley.
- Gahkuch: Headquarter of Ghizer Distric it is an Ideal place for trekking, good fishing sports and duck shooting in season. It is the gateway to Iskoman Valley. Government rest house and private hotels are available (73 km from Gilgit).
- Naltar Valley: Two hours jeep drive from Gilgit link rod. Government Rest house, Private hotels and a Ski slope, lush green Alpine forest with small lakes and glaciers, trout fishing in lake
Gilgit is perhaps the most beautiful area of Pakistan because of its geography and scenic beauty. It has a mix of a lot of culture which makes it even more important. Gilgit is also strategically the most important region in the Karakoram’s. So the people of Pakistan should realize this importance too and take care of it as it’s a valuable asset for Pakistan.