When militancy swept into Chitral in 2012, it blew a hole in the main source of jobs: tourism. People used to come here for the Kalash culture, five hundred valleys and two hundred of the world’s highest peaks.
But then the economy crashed and people were forced to leave for greener pastures both in Pakistan and abroad.
“Most of the tour guides moved to other cities,” says Hareer Shah, who worked as one. He moved his family to Germany.
Three years later, by 2015, peace has returned to Malakand Valley and mercifully, so has tourism. In fact, old tour guides like Shah have started moving back.
A good tour guide shows you the beauty of an area when you’re there but a great one will entice you to visit without. This is how Shah persuaded the friends he had made in Germany to visit Chitral.
Today if you visit you can get the guides to take you to the rocky snow-capped Tirch Mir. You can explore the 10.4km Lowari tunnel.
Yasir, who lives in Bumborate Valley, says that the number of foreign tourists has gone up 50%. Hotels and guest houses have been rebuilt to keep up with demand.
“I had to renovate and redesign my guest house to suit the taste of foreign tourists,” he explains. He had to employ more staff and most of them are locals.
A Japanese couple, Yoka and Mamooro, said the Bumborate Valley was like heaven on earth. Then, Min Woo, 45, from South Korea came to research the Kalasha lifestyle and its history. Lawyer Muhammad Farooq Awan flew from Islamabad with his family and was overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty of Chitral. He said the district is replete with natural splendors. “I found it incredible, exquisite and marvelous. My message to the entire world is to pay a visit to this hidden treasure trove of peace, ancient culture and hospitality.”