UNESCO Heritage Awards 2013: Khaplu Palace receives award of distinction

Published: September 10, 2013
The Khaplu Palace and Residence and is  now managed by Serena Hotels. PHOTO: FILE

The Khaplu Palace and Residence and is now managed by Serena Hotels. PHOTO: FILE


Khaplu Palace in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has received an Award of Distinction in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards 2013 for cultural heritage conservation.

The ceremony was held earlier this month in Bangkok to award initiatives which restored and conserved structures that are at least 50 years old.

The palace, built in the 1840s by Yabgo Raja of Khaplu, is now known as Khaplu Palace and Residence and is managed by Serena Hotels. It also won commendations in Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards’ ‘best for poverty reduction’ category in November 2012.

The selection of the palace for the UNESCO award was made in June this year after a panel of eight international conservation experts congregated from June 10 to June 12 in Bangkok to review and deliberate on 47 entries received from 16 countries across the Asia-Pacific region.

The winning team

“By the grace of God, our project has won this honour,” said Salman Beg, the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The NGO renovated Khaplu Palace which is located north of Khaplu Town, about 400 kilometres from Gilgit.

“Recognition through such awards points to the cultural richness and plural heritage of Gilgit-Baltistan, where myriad influences such as Buddhist, Tibetan, Central Asian, Mughal, Kashmiri, and Iranian combined and brought into harmony a very unique Karakoram culture,” Beg told The Express Tribune.

The winners were selected based on the projects understanding and application of various criteria, such as articulation of the spirit of place, technical achievement, appropriate use or adaption, and the project’s contribution to the surrounding environment and the local community’s cultural and historical continuity.

“The jury highly commends your achievements and hopes you will continue to share the lessons learned from the project to encourage heritage conservation efforts in your country and the Asia-Pacific region,” UNESCO Bangkok Chief of Culture Unit Tim Curtis wrote in his letter to Beg.

The other projects which received Awards of Distinction included ‘The Great Serai, Kabul, Afghanistan’ and ‘Lal Chimney Compound, Mumbai, India’.

AKCSP, which is part of Aga Khan Development Network, won the first international award after it restored the historic Baltit Fort in 1996. Since then, it has won 16 awards, including 11 consecutive UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation, two Pacific Asia Travellers Association Awards, two Virgin Responsible Tourism Awards, and two British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2013.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (10)

  • MJ
    Sep 10, 2013 - 3:29AM

    No offence but this is not the prettiest building of historic nature that I have seen preserved in Pakistan.


  • blah
    Sep 10, 2013 - 10:25AM

    Finally, something good coming out of this terror stricken area! all the best!


  • Naveed
    Sep 10, 2013 - 11:06AM

    The conservation project by UNESCO is considered for the difficulty of terrain, the influence of the project in the preservation of the local culture and traditions, the impact of conservation on the community, safeguarding the community from the external influences and projecting the place as a potent tourist resort in order to financially help the people of the village or town, for awarding any particular project.


  • Wajahat ALi
    Sep 10, 2013 - 1:13PM

    @MJ were you expecting a prettiest building like Taj Mahal in this difficult mountain terrain? Given the toughest situation of such terrain, where only indigenous materials and techniques would work and where mobility of materials and skills were not possible, this vernecular building reflects the sensitivity of the craftsmanship! Rather than just pleasing eyes with the prettier appearance, Khaplu Palace has transformed the local economy and this is something unique and in other words “pretty”. We tend to value the appearances even if something is shallow but look at the mechanism set by Aga Khan Development Network where they use cultural heritage as a trampoline for development.

    Wajahat ALi


  • Hkamal
    Sep 10, 2013 - 2:20PM

    I’ve been there and stayed for 2 nights in this fort. I have just two words for this place .. “awesome”.


  • Gemini
    Sep 10, 2013 - 3:17PM

    @MJ: Yes I am agree with you, but this palace is in the right hands of right people that’s why have gained enough attention. There are thousands of places here in Pakistan which needs serious attention other wise they will be finished in more 3 to 4 years.


  • Gemini
    Sep 10, 2013 - 4:58PM

    @MJ: And there is only 1 organization I can see in this world with the name Aga Khan Development Network who are reviving Islamic and local cultural architecture in the world. You can check their work in different parts of the world.


  • Abid P. Khan
    Sep 10, 2013 - 5:09PM

    “@MJ: Yes I am agree with you, but this palace is in the right hands of right people that’s why have gained enough attention. There are thousands of places here in Pakistan which needs serious attention other wise they will be finished in more 3 to 4 years.”

    No doubt the innumerable sites, be it building or other milieus need our immediate attention before they are lost for ever to the greed of developers.
    @Wajahat Ali: is right in pointing out that Khaplu Palace has to be appreciated on its own merits. As an aside I may mention, that some architecture critics are not convinced that Taj Mahal is that exquisitely beautiful. The minarets of the building have the look of having been whacked from the top. On the other hand Masjid Wazir Khan’s minarets in Old Lahore are examples of great perfection.
    @MJ: Ought to be aware of that ugliness too lies in the eyes of the beholder.


  • Sep 15, 2013 - 1:22PM

    Khaplu Fort : A 19th century historic palace
    By Sumara Shaheen
    Khaplu Fort is one of the unique historic palace of 19th century, situated at the upper side of the Khaplu valley ; capital town of the Ganche district of Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan. Khaplu town is 103 kilometers(64 miles) away from Skardu city , also known as Khapalu , which was second largest kingdom in old Baltistan. Its altitude is 2,560 meters above sea level

    Visit: http://tajjee.com/?p=368 for details Imran Khan’s visit to Khaplu Palace


  • Oct 16, 2013 - 5:05PM

    I love all these pictures from khaplu pakistan.i am from kharkoo.baltistan.


More in Gilgit Baltistan