DIR AND CHITRAL REGION
Chakdara is an important town of Dir, located on the bank of Swat river. It is about 130 km away from
Peshawar and 48 km away from Saidu Sharif. The Mughals built a fort here in 1586, which was later occupied by the British
in 1895, who built the present fort in 1896.
The Chakdara Museum is situated about one km from the fort. It has an excellent collection of Buddhist
Gandhara Art, from first to seventh century AD. It helps people to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the area.
Close to the Chakdara Fort, a picket crowns the hillock towards the west. This is
known as the Churchill Picket because Winston Churchill came here during the Pathan Revolt of 1879. This place was used by
him for sending reports. He was then a war correspondent.
Dir is a big trading centre. It is famous for knives and daggers. The royal graveyard is also situated by the roadside
in the town. Shortly before reaching Dir, a road leads towards east, taking the travelers to a wonderland, known as Dir Kohistan.
It is the western extension of Swat. The lush green valley of Dir Kohistan is about 100 km long. It has many villages including
Shringal and Kalkot. The mountains are covered with thick forests. This area has still not been fully explored.
This pass is 3200 m high, situated in the famous Hindu Raj Range and forms the boundary between Dir and
Chitral. The road to Chitral passes through this Pass which is closed between November and May due to heavy snowfall.
The world famous Kalash People live in the three valleys of Birir, Bumburet and Rambur. The Kalash are
an ancient tribe and have a religion and a culture of their own. They have many festivals around the year during which the
men and women perform colourful dances. The major festivals are Chilamjusht, Phool and Chawas.
The famous town of Chitral is situated about 322 krn from Peshawar. It is also connected to
Peshawar by air. The whole area is rnountainous, having green valleys and the towering Trichmir Peak (7700 meters) of the
Hindukush. The Chitral Fort is one of the famous monuments of the town. There is also a palace inside the fort and a beautiful
mosque outside the fort. All the foreign visitors to Chitral must register with the police on their arrival. A permit from
the Deputy Commissioner is required to visit the valleys of Kafir Kalash.
Also known as "Hot Springs". The village by the same name is about 45 km to the north west of Chitral.
The jeep journey takes about 3 hours. These hot springs contain sulphur in their water which is good for healing skin diseases,
headache and other pains and gout. The village has a big market, where the caravans from Badakhshan bring precious stones
and other products. The town gives a look of "Caravan Sarai". It is also famous for "Patti" a typical woolen cloth.
The world famous Shandur Pass is about 3738 m above sea level and lies midway between
Chitral and Gligit. The distance from both Chitral and Gilgit is about 168 km. These areas remain snow- clad in winter and
turn into a green heaven during summer. There is a big lake in the area. One can approach the Shandur Top by jeep from either
side. The traditional Polo Tournament between the Gilgit and Chitral teams is held here every year in the month of July. Foreign
tourists and natives come to see the festival.
Chitral has pleasant summer and extremely cold winter. Spring weather is unpredictable with frequent rain and
snowfall. Autumn has mild and pleasant temperature.
Chitrali or Khowar is the local language whereas Urdu and English are also spoken .
Chitral is famous for its soft hand-woven woolen material known as "Shu" available in white black and grey
colours, embroidered woolen rugs, embroidered household linen, bags, watch straps, belts, shoes and sandals, musical instruments
like sitar, antique weapons and precious gems. Kalash Valley is important for hand crafted chairs with leather seats, baskets,
crude wooden effigies of men seated on horseback. Kalash tribal garments and headgear with studded cowrie shells, and buttons.
HOW TO GET THERE
PIA operates daily flights subject to weather conditions between Peshawar and Chitral. The flying
time is 50 minutes. To reach Chitral from Peshawar by the 365 km long partly metalled, partly gravel topped road, it takes
12 hours. It goes via Malakand, Dir and the 3200 m high Lowari Pass, open during the summer from June till the end of October
which may close earlier in case of snowfall. Chitral can also he reached from Gilgit,in 27 hours by jeep via Shandur Pass
by a 406 km track. An alternative route is the 200 km track from Swat. Permits are required by foreigners from the Deputy
Commissioner Chitral to visit Kalash valley. There are many private jeeps, cabs and mini buses travelling from Dir and Peshawar.
Joshi or Chilimjusht (14th and 15th May) This festival is held in spring, when girls pick first
flowers of the year. The days are marked by dancing, visiting each other and exchanging flowers, milk and milk products.
(Mid July) It is celebrated to mark the harvest of wheat and barley. The celebration lasts for two days, which includes dancing,
singing, and feasting.
Phool (20th to 21st December) The festival is to mark the reaping of grapes and walnuts
harvests. (Subject to weather conditions).
Chowas (18th to 21st December) Chowas is a winter festival celebrated to welcome
the New Year. The entire population remains indoor. It is celebrated by feasting, drinking and merry making until the elders,
who sit on hill top watching the sun reaching the orbit, then declare the advent of the new year. They come down from the
hills, light their torches, perform their dance and sacrifice goats at the altar.
Nauroze (21st March) It is celebrated
in ltkuh, Mastuj, and Turikho Mulkho by Ismailis, followers of His Highness Prince Karim Agha Khan.
Chitral Festival The
date for celebrating the Chitral Festival is fixed every year. The eminent features are Polo matches, equestrian sports, wrestling,
tug-of-war, colourful folk dances and music by the Kalash with exhibition of the local handicraft.