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Some places are so idyllic and unspoiled that it is almost unbelievable. One such locality is the picturesque, tranquil and pollution free (and undeveloped) boarder village Domail Nisar in district Chitral. The very sound of the name is musical. This village is located near the Pakistan Afghanistan boarder. Dir-Chitral Road bifurcates near village Mir Khanni and a jeep able track along Kunar River leads through Domail Nisar and onwards into Afghanistan.
Gateway to the South Asia, the Chitral valley has been centre of activity since ancient times. Macedonians advanced through this region in fourth century. In 1338, Timur subdued the area on his way to the plains of Punjab. Mughal King Akbar garrisoned here in 1587 and the British in 1897 in Chakdara on Dir side of Lowari Pass. Among soldiers who served here in Chakdara then was young Winston Churchill who later became Prime Minister of Britain. So far about the past importance of the valley but the little hamlet got the international fame during Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. It remained in the news and was commonly called as 'BBC Baby'.
Domail Nisar is set up on the bank of Kunar River flowing into Afghanistan. Terraced fields of wheat, barley, maize and fragrant orchards of walnuts, apricots, grapes, apples and mulberries are strung up the valley like flags, at the feet of bare or thinly forested mountain walls.
The 3118-meter Lowari Pass is normally open to vehicles from June to October. You can sometimes cross the pass on foot in May or November, despite the snow. You can also reach this small hamlet from Peshawar to Chitral by air and then by road to Domail Nisar or from Afghanistan. Though taking flight to Chitral is not everyone's cup of tea because the Fokker Friendship can cross the Lowari Pass only if weather permits. It rarely does particularly once the valley is landlocked in winters. First time, I landed in Chitral after three attempts by Fokker. Flying above the clouds, I had a window seat on the West Side of the small and noisy aircraft and could see the sighs of Hindu Kush where clouds allowed. Chitral to Domail Nisar via Drosh along Kunar River is easily one of the prettiest drives in the valley.
The village is midway between Mir Khanni and Arandu. Chitral Scouts have kept this fort in very good shape. And, when ever I happened to pass the fort conducting 'travellers' from down country or alone, I was always given a warm welcome and send off by Pinion Shah, a local who has the biggest store cum tea house on the road side. He also has arrangements for Trout fishing in Kunar River near his store. After zig zagging on a difficult road, one can spend a good day at the riverbank fishing and relaxing, with supply of tea from the Pinion Shah's teashop. And, to me Pinion Shah used to present, every time I visited him, a gift of pure salageet - an oozing black paste from rocks. After Afghan refugees and occasional travellers, this road is used by herd of goats lead by a lonely Gujars to and from greener pastures. That is the place, which I use as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life and that is where I go to reminisce about fairy Jia Ku. She is there somewhere? While the entire Chitral Valley is breathtaking in its splendour and beauty, one of my most enduring memories of Domail Nisar is watching the sunrise over the hills. And, when you devote enough time to look at the mountains, it becomes a bit chameleon - clouding over, changing colours, cliffs turning into convex and concave according to the slant light.

Domail
Nisar has red roofed grand mosque. Four makeshift provision stores there are stocked in summers when Lowari Pass is open to road traffic. There is also a water mill for grinding grain. Lot of tracks interlaces the area that is frequented by Mazdas or pedestrians.
At night, lights glow in this isolated village. But, the village women still do not know the use of simple electric appliances of modern age. Thanks to community hydroelectric system that has been installed on a stream nearby. The system allows only few bulbs per household. I found men spending their quality time sitting on the retaining walls along the razor edged roads and tracks while women (mostly with enlarged thyroid glands due to lack of iodine) working in the fields, homes or collecting woods from hills in conical wicker baskets. Even in their fifties men carry guns along with a belt of ammunition. The fact is that I found them friendly and at peace with themselves.
There are side valleys that yawn on both sides of Kunar River for hiking in its upper reaches. Friendly people of Tajik origin who had came from Badakhshan in Afghanistan only a few generations ago, to manufacture matchlock rifles for the Mehtar of Chitral populate the area. Mir Khanni-Arandu Road is an ideal place to study the effects of land erosion: how it ruins the land and clogs waterways. And, there are some beautiful geological formations along the road. Besides scenery, there are many well-used camping grounds on both sides of the road and river, which run side by side.
Isolated from the rest of the country because of the remote location, Chitralis live a primitive rural existence without any civic amenities. Even the TV transmissions, telephone and electricity only in some parts of distract are a recent phenomenon. "Why would anyone want to live in a country like that?" Pinion Shah smiled and said, "I guess we like it here because we like to be left alone. Oh, it is nice to have people visiting. And we like people all right. But we like them on our own terms." And, he was right. I could hear him, murmuring sitting on his old stool: a freedom that meets other people only on its own terms - and yet forces you to care about every one of your neighbours scattered across the hillocks. Most of the Chitralis whom I asked confessed, "We like and want our own way of life.
Sometime back, National Highway Authority had proposed the construction of a low-cost all weather road from Nawan Killi in district Dir up to Domail Nisar in district Chitral avoiding Lowari Top. The 30 kilometres intended road would save about 15 billion rupees: estimated cost on the Lowari Tunnel project. The work of the tunnel was undertaken some 16 years back but it was never completed due to low priority accorded to the project by successive governments. This route, if approved, may connect Chitral with main land and open the district to tourists from all over the world.

 

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