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Shimshal شمشال (in Urdu) is a village located in Gojal, Hunza–Nagar District, in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan formerly known as Northern Areas of Pakistan. It lies at an altitude of 3,100 m above sea level, and is the highest settlement in Hunza Valley of Pakistan. It is the bordering village that connects Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan with China. The total area of Shimshal is 3,800 km2 and there are around two thousand inhabitants with a total of two hundred and forty households. Shimshal is made up of four major hamlets; Farmanabad, Aminabad, Center Shimshal and Khizarabad. Farmanabad is a new settlement that comes first on reaching Shimshal. Aminabad is announced by vast fields of stones hemmed in by dry stone walls, and fortress-like houses of stone and mud. As you approach Shimshal look for a glimpse of Odver Sar (6,303m) also known as Shimshal Whitehorn. Shimshal has hydroelectricity from Odver stream for five months (June–October) of the year (when the water isn't frozen). Non availability of electricity for seven months is a big problem of the local community because during this period they have to rely on kerosene oil, firewood, solar plates and compressed natural gas in cylinders as an alternative .
The village was inaccessible by motor road until October 2003, when a new road from the Karakoram Highway at Passu was constructed. The construction of non-metallic Jeep-able road started in 1985 and completed in 2003. Eighteen years (1985-2003) of handwork finally become successful because of hard work, dedication and self-help. It become possible to connect Shimshal with rest of the world by mutual cooperation of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, Government of Pakistan and the local community. It now takes maximum three hours to reach Shimshal by jeep from Passu. Self-help or Nomus ( in local Wakhi language) is the major factor for infrastructure development in Shimshal. Brock University Canada has recently launched a new project A Critical Ethnography of the Shimshal Road.
Shimshalis use numerous seasonal mountain grasslands, located several days walk from the village, to sustain herds of yaks, goats, and sheep. The area was founded by Mamo Singh and his wife named Khudija.They have the only son Sher. According to Shimshal's history and tradition, their first child won the local polo game from Kargiz (Chinese) riding yak while the Chinese rode horses.The Shimshal River comes from this area and then transforms the shape of Hunza River, which mixes with the Indus River below the capital city Gilgit.
The people of Shimshal are Wakhi and they speak the Wakhi language. They belong to the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam.
The entire community is the follower of Aga Khan as their 49th spiritual leader who is the direct descendant of Muhammad. The Ismaili Community
Two books by Pam Henson about Shimshal, "Shimshal" and "Women of Shimshal" have been published by the Shimshal Trust. Henson is a teacher from New Zealand and wrote these books based on her experiences teaching and living in Shimshal. Details about her books are available on Shimshal Trust website. شمشال بے مثال written by مستنصر حسسیں تارڑ Mustenssir Hussain Tarrer is one of the best books on Shimshal in Urdu.
Shimshal Pass (Ṣ̌ʉw Wʉrt)
Shimshal Pass (Ṣ̌ʉw Wʉrt) (4,735 m) rises above the village. It lies on the watershed between the Indus River and Tarim River basins, and leads to the valley of the Shimshal Braldu River, a tributary of the Shaksgam River on the border with China. Francis Younghusband was probably the first Englishman to reach the pass (1889). At the time it was used by raiders from Hunza to attack caravans traveling between Leh and Yarkand. There was a fort manned by Hunza soldiers, or raiders, or both. The pass is not part of Khunjerab National Park, but the Shimshal community has set an organization called SNT (Shimshal Nature Trust) which oversees the entire region and takes care of its own land. It is a community-based organization and is registered with the Government of Pakistan.
Annually, in the last week of July or the first week of August, there is a festival at Shimshal Pass, where locals partake in a yak race, followed by singing and dancing. In Wakhi language it is called Woolyo. This yak race is the only one of its kind, and is a unique event organised at high mountain settlements of Pakistan .
Shimshal Nature Trust
Shimshal Nature Trust is a community-based development organization.
Shimshal Nature Trust - Fifteen Year Vision and Management Plan (1994-2009) The Science and Practice of Ecology & Society Award (SPES) was granted to Shimshal Nature Trust in Pakistan. Details available here, SPES Award to Shimshal Nature Trust also see Report on Shimshal Nature Trust
Navbahar Educational, Welfare and Development Organisation (NEWDO) is the most active organisation working for the educational development in the valley by constructing educational facilities. Navbahar Secondary School, Shimshal is one of its kind educational institution in the village .
Shimshal Health Care Center was recently constructed with the financial help of German donors.
Shimshal Mountaineering School (SMS) is the best mountaineering school in Hunza valley. It is owned and managed by Shimshali mountaineers.
Nomus (Self-Help Village Development Programme)
Nomus is a Wakhi word commonly known in Shimshal valley. It is a unique social philanthropic( showing concern for humanity ) system of the local community. Details are available here Nomus and Oral testimonies from Shimshal It is one of its kind model of participatory community development in Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan.Self-Help Village Development Programme
Samina Baig from Shimshal First Pakistani woman to scale Mount Everest]
Tourism in Shimshal
Shimshal valley has its largest adventure area in Hunza and is a major attraction for tourists. Its mountains like Distaghil Sar (7,885 m), Shimshal White Horn (6,303 m) Minglik Sar (6,150 m), Lupghar Sar (7,200 m), Yazghail Sar (6,000 m), Kunjut Sar and others are well known among mountaineers. Gigantic glaciers include Malangudhi, Yazghail, Khurdopin (5,800 m), Braldu, Odver, Ver Zharav, and main passes are Chafchingoal, Khurdopin, Mai Dur, Braldu, Boi Sam and others. Shimshalis are to Pakistan as Sherpas are to Nepal. More than twenty well known mountaineers from this valley have made Pakistan proud in the field of tourism. Some people call it " The Valley of Mountaineers". Some of them are Rajab Shah, Mehrban Shah, Shambi Khan,Aziz Ullah, Qudrat Ali, Sarwar Ali, Shaheen Baig, Ali Mussa, Amr Uddin Shah, Amin Ullah Baig, Sajjad Karim, Aziz Baig, Qurban Muhammad, Tafat Shah, Farhad Khan, Wahab Ali Shah, Fazl Ali, Hasil Shah,Yousaf Khan, Muhammad Ullah, Ezat Ullah, Muhammad Bari, Shafa Ali, Muhammad Abdul,Saeed Ahmed,Jalal Uddin,mehrban karim and others. Rajab Shah has the distinction of scaling all five peaks more than eight thousand meters located in Pakistan. Rajab Shah and Mehrban Shah have received Presidential Award for Pride of Performance in recognition of their extra ordinary achievement in the field of tourism and mountaineering.
Some useful links that may provide good information about tourism in Shimshal are;
- Way to K2 Adventure Tours
- Shams Alpine
- Shimshal Mountaineering School
- KET Pakistan
- Pakistan Youth Outreach