GILGIT: On a trip to explore the country which has made headlines for all the wrong reasons, a foreigner says she is startled by the hospitality of its people.
“I met various people and found them to be extremely humble, hospitable and cooperative,” said Eeva Kaun, an Estonian photographer, in an interview with The Express Tribune. She said that media reports and commentary about terrorist activities are overshadowing the positives of the country, which has “so much to offer to nature lovers”.
Earlier, Kaun spent some time in India where she heard a lot about the propaganda against Pakistan and its people. “I was warned that I would be either killed or kidnapped for ransom if I visited Pakistan,” she said, adding that in Europe too, she was advised not to venture into the country for security reasons.
However, she now plans to share her pleasant experience of Pakistan with her family and friends who had warned against the visit. “It was mainly these anti-Pakistan and Islam sentiments that tempted me to visit the region just to satiate my inquisitive nature,” she said.
As part of her tour, she landed in Karachi and then travelled to Gilgit by road. Along the way, she visited the Fairy Meadows, a tourist spot in Diamer valley. When she tried to hire a vehicle to traverse the valley, a driver demanded Rs6,000 rent, which she said was too much as she did not have extra money to spend on luxuries.
“After I ruled out the option, some locals turned up and lifted my luggage on their shoulders, guiding me to the destination free-of-cost,” she recalled.
In the Khaplu town of Skardu, a local doctor introduced her to some villagers. “One of the unforgettable things I witnessed in Khaplu was the extreme shyness of the women. They ran away the moment they saw me,” she said.
Kaun said that she was awestruck by the natural beauty of this mountainous region that hosts some of worlds’ highest peaks, including the second highest peak K2. Amidst all of that, she wondered why tourists were reluctant to visit this part of the world. “I was expecting various foreigners to be here but was shocked to see only a few,” she added.
An official in the tourism department said the region has witnessed a sharp decline in tourism this year after Gilgit-Baltistan suffered one of the worst sectarian clashes some two months back. Kaun voiced that these clashes are an internal matter of two parties and expects it has nothing to do with the foreigners and tourists.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2012.
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