The Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), also known as the “New Silk Roads”, is a work in progress that raises many questions. Yet in Pakistan, the Karakoram Highway, commissioned in 1979, may provide us with some answers. Parallel to the challenged sovereignty of the country, it could be observed, until these last months, a religio-patriotic discourse with a questionable consistency and an expensive open or latent state of war seeming to assure a form of national cohesion.
Chapursan Valley, Pakistan, between Hindu Kush, Pamir and Karakoram ranges is mostly inhabited by Wakhi people, a small minority living in China and in Afghan or Tajik Wakhan. Not surpringly this population share a same faith and same religious traditions regardless the recent (on an historical point of view) borders.
In this Ex-Libris are some selected readings about history, traditions, religion, way of life and geographical locations of Wakhi people in High Asia. It was prepared for the travelers who intend to visit the Gojal Valley (Upper Hunza, Pakistan) or Wakhan Corridor (Tajikistan & Afghanistan). It could, also, be a post-travel tool to organise ground observations and to see them in a wider perspective.
Remote and isolated Zoodkhun, the high mountain village of Gojal in Gilgit Baltistan, is a remarkable place to observe and to photography night skies.
The last act of the “Great Game” or “Большая Игра” (Bolshaya Igra), was played where the Tsarist Empire, the British Empire and the Chinese Empire joined in one of the highest and, at that time, one of the most inaccessible places of the planet. There, bristling with giant mountains, Pamir, Hindu Kush and Karakoram ranges converge.
Même s’il connaît un exode, parfois temporaire, vers les grandes villes du sud du Pakistan, le village de Zoodkhun (également orthographié Zuwudkhoon) est toujours bien vivant. De nos jours, de nombreuses maisons sont construites ou agrandies. Il est possible d’y observer une structure pamirie datant des Atash-Parast (adorateurs du feu, zoroastriens). Cette permanence pourrait être due aux religions (y compris anciennes) mais aussi à une parfaite adéquation avec les contraintes environnementales et les ressources disponibles dans ce secteur reculé de la vallée de Chapursan.
Even though it experiences a, sometimes temporary, exodus to the big cities of southern Pakistan, Zoodkhun Village (also spelled Zuwudkhoon) is still well alive. Nowadays, numerous houses are being built or being enlarged. It is possible to observe a Pamiri layout dating back from Atash-Parast (Fire worshippers, Zoroastrians).
At the top of Upper Hunza in an area called Gojal, Zoodkhun stretches in Chapursan Valley. Staying almost at the highest limit where vegetation of mountain oasis grows up, it is a village having numerous characteristics in common with other Wakhi settlements of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and, likely, China (though, not directly observed in this last country).
At an altitude of 3,300 meters, Zoodkhun, the last hamlet of Chapursan Valley, is granted with less natural ressources and a more difficult access than most of other Wakhi villages of Hunza Valley. Although it creates harsh conditions for its inhabitants it means a pure, peaceful and clean environment in a pristine landscape.
Zoodkhun in Chapursan Valley, due to its difficult condition of access, preserved most of its authenticity and its community values until today. Expected improvement of communications, development of a Pakistani middle class, increase in foreign visitors might lead to deep changes which should be monitored to contain a cultural and patrimonial alienation.