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Finding Neverland Blog Archive

A Trip to Kalash Valley, Pakistan

Kalash People 
Brian Glyn Williams.
Professor of Islamic studies, U. Mass Dartmouth.
Author of 'Predators' and 'The Last Warlord'.

The New York Times recently published an article that had a fascinating description of the Kalash, an ancient ethnic group living high in the remote mountains of Pakistan's Hindu Kush. For centuries this light-skinned, pagan people have claimed to be the long-lost descendants of Alexander the Great's world-conquering armies, which invaded this region in the fourth century B.C. The animist Kalash are outwardly different from the darker-skinned Pakistani Muslims who live in the lowlands below them, so it seemed plausible. However, there had been no proof of this remarkable claim until the geneticists quoted in The New York Times found that the Kalash people's DNA seems to indicate that they had an infusion of European blood during a "mixing event" at roughly the time of Alexander's conquests. This isolated people are thus most likely the direct descendants of the ancient Greek-Macedonian armies who set up outposts in this region 2,300 years ago.

Few outsiders have visited this forgotten tribe, whose homeland is located near the inaccessible mountain border of Taliban-controlled zones of Afghanistan. But in 2010 I and a friend, Adam Sulkowski, made a journey to the snow-capped Hindu Kush in search of this ancient European pagan people living in an unstable Muslim country. This is our story.

University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Spring 2010

For a number of years now, I have been teaching a class for the history department in which I do a "tour" of the great empires of antiquity, from pharaonic Egypt to Viking Europe. But for all my students' interest in the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians and the Romans, it is the exploits of Alexander the Great that inevitably lead to the most questions. Recently one of my students in History 101 asked me during class what happened to the far-flung garrisons of Greeks and Macedonians who were settled in the far corners of Alexander's vast empire. I told her that over the succeeding centuries they disappeared or were absorbed by succeeding waves of invaders. All that was left of the Greeks who left their Mediterranean homeland to settle in distant lands of Africa and Asia was the occasional coin, spearhead or amphitheater testifying to the conquests of one history's greatest leaders.

But then, after some thought, I corrected myself and told her the legend of the Kalash people of Pakistan.

High in the snow-capped Hindu Kush on the Afghan-Pakistani border lived an ancient people who claimed to be the direct descendants of Alexander the Great's troops. While the neighboring Pakistanis were dark-skinned Muslims, this isolated mountain people had light skin and blue eyes. Although the Pakistanis proper converted to Islam over the centuries, the Kalash people retained their pagan traditions and worshiped their ancient gods in outdoor temples. Most importantly, they produced wine much like the Greeks of antiquity did. This in a Muslim country that forbade alcohol.

Tragically, in the 19th century the Kalash were brutally conquered by the Muslim Afghans. Their ancient temples and wooden idols were destroyed, their women were forced to burn their beautiful folk costumes and wear the burqa or veil, and the entire people were converted at swordpoint to Islam. Only a small pocket of this vanishing pagan race survived in three isolated valleys in the mountains of what would later become Pakistan.

After class the student came to me and asked me if I'd ever visited the Kalash tribe of the Hindu Kush. Wistfully I told her I had not, but that it was my dream to do so.

I remember her response vividly. "Dr. Williams," she said, "you're always telling us to get passports and get out see the world. Why don't you take your own advice and just do it?"

Lahore, Pakistan, June 2010


A student's challenge can be a powerful thing, and in June my colleague from the business school, Adam Sulkowski, and I set out to travel into the Hindu Kush on the Pakistani-Afghan border to see this ancient race for ourselves.

But when we arrived in Lahore after flying through Abu Dhabi, Rafay, our Pakistani host, reacted with caution toward our bold dream of visiting the lost descendents of Alexander the Great.

"It's a dangerous, two-day journey off-road into the mountains," he warned us. "But that's not the most important obstacle you'll have to overcome. To get to the remote homeland of the Kalash, you need to cut through the Swat Valley."

Rafay then pointed out our intended route on a map, and Adam and I groaned. Our dream was falling apart. We both knew that the Swat Valley was a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban. In 2007 the Taliban brutally conquered this beautiful, alpine-like valley and forced a puritanical version of Islam on the local people. They also used the valley as a springboard for sending suicide bombers throughout Pakistan.



Lahore

"But all hope is not lost," Raafay continued. "The Pakistani army just reconquered most of the valley this winter and have opened the main road through it. If you don't stray from the road and there is no fighting, you just might be able to pull it off."

Nervous about the prospect of adding a journey through a war zone to our trip to the Kalash, Adam and I then traveled to the capital, Islamabad. There, after much searching, we found an ethnic Pashtun driver who claimed to have once traveled to the remote homeland of the Kalash. He not only knew the route but had a tough SUV to get us there.

After haggling for the price of the trip, we set out driving across the burning plains of Pakistan, where the heat soared to 120 degrees. Finally, after traversing the country from the Indian border to the Afghan border, we arrived at the mountains.

And what mountains they were. The Hindu Kush are an extension of the Himalayas and soar to 25,000 feet. As we drove into the tree-covered mountains, the temperatures blissfully began to drop. While we found respite from the heat, everyone grew tense. Saki, our driver, warned us that we were now in Taliban territory. We had entered the Swat Valley.

We had not traveled far before we were stopped at the first of many Pakistani army checkpoints we would encounter. When the soldiers manning it discovered that there were two Americans in the truck, they strongly warned us to avoid leaving the road. One of them asked us to sign our names in a registration book and proclaimed that we were the first foreigners to enter the Swat Valley since the Taliban had taken it in 2007.

That night we stayed in Dir, a Swat Valley village that locals claimed had briefly served as a hiding place for Osama bin Laden when he fled Afghanistan in 2001's Operation Enduring Freedom.

Rumbur, Kalash Village, Pakistan

The next day we made it safely out of the Swat Valley after crossing a mountain pass at 10,000 feet, and a nearby glacier. We were now in the scenic Chitral Valley. We drove up this valley for several hours before our driver grew excited. Gesturing to the dark mountains on our left, he said one word with a grin: "Kalash."

With mounting excitement we left the main "road," crossed a large river and began to drive up a mountain trail straight into the mountains. This continued for a couple of hours before the narrow valley opened up and our exhausted driver announced that we had finally arrived in Rumbur, the most isolated of the Kalash valleys. Having made our way from Boston to Abu Dhabi to Lahore to Islamabad to Swat to Chitral, we had finally reached our destination in the high mountains on the Afghan border. It was now time to meet the Kalash.




It did not take us long to find them. Adam was the first one to spot a Kalash shepherdess in the trees, wearing a stunningly bright peasant costume. After seeing the faceless burqas of the women of the Swat, the contrast between Muslim women and this Kalash woman could not have been greater. As we drove along we saw several more brightly clad Kalash women. But when we tried to take their pictures, they shyly ran off and hid behind trees. Worried that we might break some local taboo regarding photography, we continued on our way.

Soon we entered the Kalash village of Rumbur. The wooden houses were built in steps above one another, going up the valley's walls, and the village square filled up with Kalash curious to see us. Among them was Kazi, the village holy man. Everyone stood back as he approached us and heard our request to stay with the Kalash for a few days and learn about their culture. Kazi, a wizened man with twinkling eyes, heard us out and thought about it for a while. After some thought he finally smiled and gave us his blessing. He proclaimed that as blue-eyed "pagans" (the Kalash believe that in worshiping the Trinity, Christians worship three gods), we were like the Kalash and therefore welcome to stay with them.

With that, everyone's shyness was forgotten, and the village men and women proudly posed for photographs and allowed us into their homes. Once again, the contrast to the Pashtun Muslims in Swat and greater Pakistan was tremendous. The conservative Muslims of Swat had women's quarters in their houses where no outsiders were allowed. Here the women were free and dressed in beautiful folk costumes that seemed to belong to a different era.

During our stay we hiked up into the mountains overlooking the Afghan border and were taken to the Kalash people's outdoor temples. There they made sacrifices of goats to their ancient mountain gods. Sadly, most of their ancient wooden idols had been stolen or defaced by neighboring Muslim iconoclasts who found them to be heathen abominations. We were also told that one of the local leaders who fought in the courts to protect the Kalash from such problems had recently been assassinated. On many levels we sympathized with the Kalash -- who were losing numbers to conversion to Islam -- as a dying race facing an existential threat. And I must say that after the heat, pollution and crowds of Pakistan proper, we found this pristine mountain enclave filled with incredibly hospitable farmers and shepherds to be a veritable Shangri La. Over and over again we were invited by smiling Kalash into their simple wooden houses for meals, where we talked about life beyond their remote valley. Most Kalash had only left their valley a few times in their life, usually to go to a neighboring Kalash valley for a marriage or to celebrate a great festival.

On our final evening in Rumbur, the villagers held a great feast for us. We celebrated with the famous Kalash red wine. My most endearing memory of the mystical night was of Adam doing a snake dance with a local elder, snapping his fingers in rhythm and dancing lower and lower to the ground in the center of the clapping audience.

The next morning we were woken to the sound of cows being led by children through the misty village. We said our goodbyes to everyone and drove out of Rumbur. As I looked back I saw several Kalash girls standing on a terraced hill above us and waving to us in their bright costumes. With our driver, a Pashtun Muslim who had never drunk before, recovering from the previous night's festivities, we took leave of our hosts and left this fragile mountain enclave to make our long journey out of the mountains. It was now time to reenter Pakistan proper, a land that seemed far removed in space and time from the ancient rhythms of the Kalash.

Top 10 most Expensive Paintings

1. The Card Players $273 Million

Concept of Sacrifice in different Religions

Abraham Sacrifice

Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals to a higher purpose, in particular divine beings, as an act of propitiation or worship. While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering (Latin oblatio) can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts. For offerings of liquids (beverages) by pouring, the term libation is used.

Judaism.

The centrality of sacrifices in Ancient Israel is clear, with much of the Bible, particularly the opening chapters of the book Leviticus, detailing the exact method of bringing sacrifices. Sacrifices were either blood sacrifices (animals) or bloodless offerings (grain and wine). Blood sacrifices were divided into the burnt offerings (Hebrew: עלה קרבנות) in which the whole animal was burnt, guilt offerings (in which part was burnt and part left for the priest) and peace offerings (in which similarly only part of the animal was burnt and the rest eaten in ritually pure conditions). The prophets point out that prayer and sacrifices are only a part of serving God and need to be accompanied by inner morality and goodness.

Escape story of 14 year old Kevin Lunsmann

Kevin Lunsmann

The nightmares still come sometimes, yanking Kevin Lunsmann back. He forgets he is safe in his own bedroom, guitar leaning against the wall, cats curled up asleep, in his family’s little yellow ranch house in Lynchburg. He forgets classes at Brookville High School, football games with his friends, learning to drive, all the normal routines of a typical Virginia kid.

In his nightmares he’s back in the Philippines, hungry and afraid, a prisoner of Islamic terrorists.

Kevin was 14 and on summer vacation with his mother when they were kidnapped.

They didn’t know at first who their captors were. They didn’t know that the men in camouflage fatigues who surrounded them on a beach barking orders in a language they didn’t understand were part of an al-Qaeda-linked group known for beheading its victims.

But as they huddled at gunpoint in a boat speeding south, a full moon glowing over a sea empty of even a single fishing boat that might send up an alarm, Kevin’s mother looked at her son, and she began to pray.

Kevin and his mom, Gerfa, had been in the Philippines for two weeks in 2011, on an island near where she had grown up, lapped by clear blue water and white sand, behind a tangle of mangroves.

Gerfa had moved to the United States as a teenager when an older sister married a U.S. naval officer, but she loved to visit her family in the Philippines. They stayed in a small hut on stilts next to relatives’ homes on a remote part of Tictabon Island, toward the southern end of the string of islands that make up the Southeast Asian nation.

Monocolored Towns around the World

Ever seen the movie Pleasantville? Or imagined living in a place where everything is the same color? Well this concept actually exists. Except for it's not in black and white. It in blue, yellow, and red! Here are 8 cities and towns which are of the same color.


1. Juzcar, Spain

 Juzcar, Spain

2. Izamal, Mexico
Izamal, Mexico

Even Roses have Thorns


Written By: Maida Naeem
Falling in love?
Having a broken heart?
Having feeling for someone?
These are just some terms related to an unknown relationship of heart and mind that make you do things you never could have possibly done.
People talk about “Love” a lot.
Some are dying from broken heart and some just want to make up for it.
Some don’t believe in it but still talk about it. And some are just head over heals with it.
I know I’m not the first one to write about this but I was just thinking about it so I thought I should write.
It’s a myth that you fall in love only one time in your life and other are just ummm flings maybe.
So, as we are familiar with the term “falling in love” and everything that falls breaks eventually.And this comes with a cycle. Breaking and mending and breaking and mending and on and on and on it’s just a never ending cycle..
Well, In my opinion there is no falling in love once in your life. Because in your first experience or like I call it a “fling” you break your bones and decide not to do it again and let it heal or what so ever. But in that mending process you start missing the things you use to do when you were with someone. You would want to forget it in anyway possible. Most probably you will try making new friends or spend more time with your family. But in between you will again think of giving it a try again. And that’s when another regret of your life makes it’s roots strong. Strong enough to hold you back for your life. Anyways this process goes on until your adult life when you’re mature enough to stop getting yourself hurt or give it a last go that will finally reach your heart. And break it into so many pieces that then there is no mending or breaking anymore.
That the only option you are left with is being strong enough to let go of your past and move on. And then time comes when your sitting on a couch and just thinking about your past and analysing it and trying to figure out that in all this did real love ever existed? Or they were just attraction? may be you’ll never find out the answers.
People leave for a reason come in your life for a reason. It’s part of the process. So, If it’s mean’t to be it’s mean’t to be. There is no point of crying over them for ages.
And yes love do exist in shape of relations we get we are born. Or may be before that when we were just a plan a plan that ALLAH made for our parents. But than he loved us in the way no one else could. So be thankful for what you have..

All Apologies


Written By: Saniya Ahmad 

Dear person who had a bad eye,

I apologize for my rude behavior. I should not have stared at you so incredulously for having a bad eye. I should not have stared at you because you were different. It wasn't you fault that you were born with it. You did not ask to be this different. I’m sure you must have had a difficult time going about, with people awkwardly looking at your eye, just like I did.

You were so polite, helping me buy the Converse I had come to buy. You even went out of your way to give me a 10% discount. You even told me I could replace my Converse if I didn't find them too comfortable. You told me to come back soon for the new stock. You told me to have a nice day. Basically, you were nothing short of a perfect gentleman.

But I kept staring at your eye. While on one hand, I was trying my level best to pretend you were just as normal as I was, on the other hand, I couldn't stop thanking God it was you and not me. I felt ashamed of myself for ostracizing you from my definition of normal but I couldn't help it and I want to apologize to you for that.

I’m sure you must have met a lot of people in your life who mocked you or jeered at you because of your eye. You must have experienced people cringing at you when they see your face. You must have faced rejection while making friends, while applying for jobs, while just trying to live your life as normally as you possibly could. And I apologize for that. You see, us, normal people, we have a disability too, of the mental kind. We just can’t accept people who have physical disabilities. We can’t “hang out” with people who have a defect of any sort, because some time or the other, we end up letting them know we think they’re abnormal, they’re peculiar, they’re weird, that they’re just not like us.

All I want to say is a sorry and a thank you. A sorry for being so rude, for making you feel like you weren't, when actually you are more normal than most of us “normal” beings. A thank you for being kind and polite even though I was technically very rude to you. I don’t have much to say because I am not able to express my feelings into words but in the words of Nirvana:

What else should I write
I don’t have the right
What else should I be
All apologies


Sincerely,
Me.

Help Me Study Campaign


The Story.

There are things in life which just happen suddenly or just happen because they have to happen and end up teaching you a lot and end up changing your thoughts or the way you perceive things.

It was evening time when I had to rush towards the market, the sun was setting and darkness was taking over when I reached the market I saw a cute little boy sitting on a bench. The shops were about to close so I ran towards them ignoring the kid, shopped a little and then came back.

The boy was still sitting on the bench, I saw he had a poster in his hand with words written ' Help me Study ' , he was such a cute little kid that I couldn't help but stop in front of him and stare. He looked like an Asian (and later on I came to know that he is from Pakistan) When he notice that I was standing near him he said in his cute voice ' A penny please! Help me study please '.

I checked my pockets but I barely had a penny in my pocket after shopping let alone some amount worth giving. So instead of giving anything I just smiled at him and told him that for now I don't have anything but will help him tomorrow if he is around.

I thought about leaving but then don't know why I sat beside him and started talking. Ever since I have been to the UK, this was the first time I was talking with a kid and it made me excited, people are so conscious here usually and don't even let you touch their kid let alone sit and talk.

Education is free for most of the locals here in the UK but most of the kids who come from abroad either study in the schools opened by their own country men, and are a little costly.

He told me that he has no parents (after further investigation I came to know that he lost his parents in a car accident and that none of  his relatives in Pakistan wanted him back, his parents had moved to the USA for completing their PHD) and is living at a nearby place* and he also told that he wanted to study in a proper school so his guardian* left him here to collect some pennies. I had seen few kids asking for pennies for some dummies but I thought that was a new form of begging.

We both kept on talking until his guardian came and took him away, I came back and quickly called a couple of friends and discuss with them an idea that came in my mind. I thought I will try and collect some funds for him, as much as I can.

The next day I went back to the market, helped the kid from my side for now as much as I could, I had already taken the address and information about him from his guardian. For now a total amount of 51000 PKR ( $500) are required to kick start the education of the kid.


The Idea.

I thought I will help this kid first and to be very honest, hopefully once I get the required $ 500 and pay his initial funds later on I will paying for his education on my own but for now for now giving $ 500 for me alone is not possible.

All episode gave me an idea! That I can actually help kids in Pakistan who want to study but are unable to do so. They can be anyone, from our servant's kids to people around us who are poor and can't afford the education of their kids. Why just a on off thing? It has always been an aim to open schools in each of the provinces of Pakistan for kids who can't afford or study due to different reasons, so perhaps this is the chance when I can start doing what I always wanted to.

The Plan.

Next day I went to the University and discussed the idea with few other friends who to my amazement agreed to help me and also have discussed the idea with a few of my friends in Pakistan and in few other countries and for now the response seems to be good. I have asked one of my professor, who was born in Pakistan but has been living in the UK for over 30 years now to help me manage the funds I collect.

The plan is very simple. Identify a kid in Pakistan, estimate his educational cost for a year, collect funds, pay for his education. Few people are already identifying a few kids and you guys can do that too.

I know it is a difficult task maybe, maybe because people say they will help but when the time comes they don't and because everyone earns for their own self and giving away their money for a cause they don't know much about may not be easy for them. I also know it can take time, months or maybe years to gain the trust and make this thing a success but I am sure this is something worth trying.

Making it Possible.

We have named this campaign as Help Me Study.

We will be using the blog's facebook page for promoting the cause as making a new facebook page and asking people to like it will become troublesome and because many people know about the blog and the page already, we will also try and get a webpage for this soon, social networking will be done through twitter once again from my and the blog's twitter accounts and trending.

My friend, Amna Javed will be responsible for collecting funds from Pakistan. She will also be campaigning for it in her university and later on collect funds, this will be our first proper try. Another friend Rabia Nasir from UAE will also campaign for this in her school and hopefully soon people will know more about it. Which ever event takes place in relation to the campaign the pics will be posted on as many platforms as possible. All the money collected, the amount and the spending will be regularly updated on the blog and the page.


Will request you people who are reading this to help in whatever way you can. If you want any more information, want to help, or want to know anything feel free to contact at raafayawan@gmail.com or call at +447881935815 , thank you.

You can send your donations to.

Note: The website link (if we get it), the blog page link, and other contact details will be update here soon.