Kalash cultural preservation project launched in Pakistan

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Little Kalasha girls in their traditional dresses. (File photo)
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The Kalasha community during a festival.(File photo)
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The Kalasha community during a festival. (File photo)
Updated 03 February 2018
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Kalash cultural preservation project launched in Pakistan

PESHAWAR:The Directorate of Archaeology and Museums in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province launched its “Presevation and Promotion of Kalash Valley” project over the weekend.
Nawazud Din, research officer at the directorate, said the Rs60 million ($543,000) project aims to promote and conserve the unique culture of the ancient Kalash community — an endangered minority in the Hindukush mountain belt of Chitral in northern Pakistan — as well as to attract tourism.
“Kalash has a great deal of tourism potential,” he told Arab News, saying both local and international travelers would find the area had much to offer.
Kalash architecture is a unique mixture of ancient woodcraft and the medieval traditions of figure art. Kalash buildings typically feature magnificently carved wooden pillars and beams decorated with human and animal figures and effigies — each one depicting a certain myth and superstition.
The area — divided into three main sub-valleys: Barir, Bamboret and Rumbor — is also known for its local handicrafts, including the spinning and weaving of rugs, carpets, belts and headgear. Sayed Gul Kalashi, manager of Chitral Museum, said the valley’s population is currently a little over 4,000. And Kalash activists have been raising concerns over the speed with which that number is shrinking.
The Kalash tribe has been settled in the valley for centuries. The people are widely believed to be descended from Alexander the Great’s soldiers. Indeed, Kalashi told Arab News that when a group of Greek nationals arrived in the valley a few decades ago, the locals were shocked at the resemblance between them and their guests.
The later Greek visitors, she said, “worked for the welfare of the locals” and earned their respect. They launched education and health projects “because the area is underdeveloped and lacks basic amenities,” and also set up a museum in Bamboret.
Chitral’s deputy commissioner, Irshad Sadhar, told Arab News that local authorities have banned the purchase or sale of land in Kalash valley in order to protect cultural heritage sites.
“We are preserving their places of worship, graveyards and where they usually dance during their festivals,” he explained, adding that they are also “creating places for tourists too.”


Dhaka relishes traditional ‘Dhakaia iftar’ in Ramadan

Chawak Bazar Iftar market vendors on a busy Wednesday afternoon. (AN photo)
Updated 53 min 44 sec ago
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Dhaka relishes traditional ‘Dhakaia iftar’ in Ramadan

  • While much has changed in Dhaka, its tasty Ramadan dishes have stayed the same in the 400-year old city established by the Mughal dynasty.
  • The exquisite variety of kebabs attracts food lovers from far and wide, reminding them of the existence of Mughals through different food menus — offering tikka, shutli, jaali, shami, irani and other kinds of kebabs.

DHAKA: “To me it’s like a festival. During Ramadan, all of us friends regularly gather at my house and have the ‘Dhakaia Iftar’ together,” said Abdullah Alamin, 48, a city dweller of old Dhaka.

While much has changed in Dhaka, these tasty dishes have stayed the same in the 400-year old city established by the Mughal dynasty.

“Chawak Bazar Iftar market of old Dhaka has a history of more than 100 years. Many things of the area have changed with the passage of time but the Chawak Bazar Iftar remains unchanged,” said renowned historian Muntasir Mamun, a professor at Dhaka University.

Chawak Bazar became the city center of Dhaka during the Mughal regime in the early-16th century. The iftar bazar is a continuity of the retail market set up since then, Muntasir said.

During Ramadan, people from all over Dhaka get something more to add to their regular iftar menu.

In Chawak Bazar, vendors in makeshift shops offer a variety of iftar items. These include “boro baper polai khai” (only the son of an influential father eats this), shahi jilapi, shahi paratha, beef, chicken, mutton, pigeon, quail roast, keema roll, keema paratha, doi bora, borhani.

The exquisite variety of kebabs attracts food lovers from far and wide, reminding them of the existence of Mughals through different food menus — offering tikka, shutli, jaali, shami, irani and other kinds of kebabs.

Boro baper polai khai is the most popular iftar item among the locals. People from old Dhaka can simply not complete their iftar without having a piece of it. This is an exclusive food of the city made of chicken, minced meat, potatoes, brain, chira, egg, spices and ghee.

“This is a traditional food of old Dhaka. I saw my grandfather enjoying eating boro baper polai khai,” said Hajji Joinal Molla, 79, who has been living in the Lalbag area of old Dhaka for many years.

“We love to treat our special guests with this dish,” Joinal said.

Most of the 200 vendors at the market are second- or third-generation businesses. 

“My 11-year-old son is very fond of shami kebab at Chawak Bazar. Today he has invited some of his friends to our house, which brought me here to this iftar market,” said Shamsuddin Ahmed, 55, a resident of Uttara, new Dhaka.

“These traditional Iftar items have become an integral part of our iftar culture,” Shamsuddin said.