Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
employment and income

community activities
culture and customs
environmental knowledge
family life
food security
social change
social institutions
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spiritual beliefs
traditional skills

introducing the area


 quotes about tourism
 key testimonies featuring tourism

trekkers on a mountain in Shimshal, PakistanThe Northern Areas (NAs) of Pakistan have a history of tourism and mountaineering. K2 and Nanga Parbat are two of the eight peaks in the world over 8,000 metres and are both internationally renowned mountaineering challenges. In addition to mountaineering expeditions, the NAs have attracted trekkers and cultural tourists. However, the events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan have undoubtedly, at least in the short term, reduced the number of tourists (trekkers and cultural tourists rather than mountaineers) visiting the NAs. Most of these testimonies were collected before that date and therefore many narrators were positive about the future of tourism in Shimshal, which until then consisted of several trekking groups and a small number of individual tourists each year.

group of trekkers in Shimshal, PakistanThe positive and negative impacts of tourism cited by the narrators echo people's hopes and fears over the road - both are to do with interaction with the outside. Income opportunities and a chance to improve English skills are recognised as significant advantages; picking up bad habits and diseases from foreign visitors are cited as some of the main negative effects. One woman explains: "…the influx of tourists is beneficial to the community; it provides the opportunity for the unemployed people to earn their subsistence. It benefits the people but at the same time there are some disadvantages associated with tourists; if some of them are carrying some disease that could be transferred to the healthy people. As our youth are more associated with them they also borrow some bad habits and culture from them. But the advantage is that our children learn English language from them" (Pakistan 17).

porter in Shimshal, PakistanIn relation to tourism, Shimshal has two key assets: the environment - pastures, glaciers, high peaks etc; and skilled human resources - high altitude porters, guides and mountaineers. Given the lack of alternative income sources, many households depend on the income generated from portering or guiding and it represents a large proportion of Shimshal's overall income. Porters from Shimshal are not restricted to the Shimshal area and many work elsewhere in the NAs during the trekking/mountaineering season.

The prevalence of portering as a form of male employment means men leave the village during the summer months, increasing women's workloads as they take on agricultural tasks previously done by men. However, there are also concerns that young men are becoming less interested in agriculture. For example, Muhammad Baig (Pakistan 10) claims: "…instead of timely watering of their fields they go on treks with tourists and the crops die for lack of water… they prefer to carry loads (work as porters) in order to earn more money so that they can get tea and expensive clothes…" He believes that this is risky because: "agriculture is more profitable than tourism because tourism is seasonal and is not year round and is also dependent on the socio-political situation of the country. Whereas, agriculture is like a fountain that gives a uniform flow all year round." Rajab, Shimshal's most successful mountaineer, echoes this concern: "Most of the community is economically dependent on tourism and any effect on tourism can have a bad effect on villagers' income" (Pakistan 23). Bari, a high altitude porter, admits that "this year (2000) I am in trouble due to fewer expeditions" (Pakistan 7).

Although portering is generally viewed positively in terms of the valuable cash income it provides, some dislike the demeaning nature of the work and would prefer their children to concentrate on their education instead of portering. There are also concerns over the lack of regulations and organisation. One man compares the system in Passu with that in Shimshal: "… in Passu…everybody has got to go according to their turn…with the tourists… They don't create any fuss or quarrel with each other. But it is not the case here in Shimshal. Everyone who is a tourist guide tries to hire his relatives... It is very vital to make some law and rules to govern the trade" (Pakistan 28). There is a feeling among some narrators that tourism should bring benefits for the entire community, as well as providing individual incomes.

Given Shimshal's location and the, until recently, treacherous journey to reach it, it is not surprising that it has produced a large number of porters and skilled mountaineers. Muhammed (Pakistan 34) explains: "There are about 12 to 15 climbers in Shimshal. Among these 15 climbers four or five climbers have scaled the highest peaks in Pakistan. They had not only brought about a good name and recognition to Shimshal and the Northern Areas but to Pakistan as well… and they are not only known in Pakistan but also in the world. It is for this reason that our village became famous for quality climbers." Rajab (Pakistan 23) and Qudrat (Pakistan 24) are both world-class mountaineers; Rajab was the first Pakistani to have climbed all five peaks over 8000 metres in Pakistan. They both describe their personal mountaineering experiences and achievements, as well as talking about portering and mountaineering more generally.

quotes about tourism

"The flow of foreigners has both positive and negative aspects, today we are getting benefits in the form of economic stability, but on the other hand tomorrow it will affect our cultural values. The development of tourism is bringing many worries with it, because in the past we were living safely in our area, but now we are worried about our safety, because these foreigners might harm us in one way or another… And I think the benefit we are getting today will create some problems in the future."
Gonik, M/55, farmer/ numayindar, Pakistan 25

"In our society the major part of our earnings comes from tourism. That has caused several youths to abandon their education and take up tourism for earning because they prefer money to education… At present many of our youths work as porters with tourists instead of going to school. This trend has very badly affected the education in the village… There are many sources of earnings… There are many people from our village who got the best education and got good positions (jobs). They are not only supporting their children but also supporting their entire family. Many people in the village possess lots of livestock, which can support them throughout their lifetime. Tourism is important but not vital for the community. It is an easy source of earning that has diverted the entire attention of the people even the students are more attentive to the tourism rather then to education."
Raza, M/37, teacher, Pakistan 34

"With the help of the Alpine Club of Pakistan I conducted training at the Malangudi Glacier for our young people. I had to convince the Alpine Club to conduct these trainings, because as per the rule it is difficult to conduct the training in such a far-flung place, where there is no road. This training was beneficial both for the Alpine club and myself. The Alpine club got many new members and I got respect [within my community]. I have great expectations for these trainees. They will be successful in the future."
Rajab, M/50, mountaineer, Pakistan 23

"…there is too much suffering and difficulty in working as a porter. You earn by taking difficulties on your life… if you cooperate with the group and guides you will get benefits… I think there are some changes that need to be made. For higher altitudes like crossing passes the weight should be reduced… we should demand less weight… it is difficult to carry 25 kg load with your own rations and sleeping and clothing stuff. That is really heavy and difficult."
Rajab, M/50, mountaineer, Pakistan 23

"In this profession no one can think of happiness and excitement, because when you are climbing a mountain, it means you are competing between life and death and happiness comes to your mind very rarely. Mountaineering mostly depends upon the weather and most of the time the weather becomes bad and it hurts your feelings. Or sometimes your physical fitness never remains constant and you have always to take care of yourself. Or there is always the fear that may be I will fall down…"
Qudrat, M/31, mountaineer, Pakistan 24

"…we need to find a new source of income for the community that they can depend on in the future. And we have this tourism we have potential for that… we have got skilled people, some of…the best mountaineers in Pakistan… that is a kind of asset we've got and we have to use them for the benefit of the whole community… we have in our planning to establish a mountaineering school where local trained people can train people from the cities who are interested… But…[some of] the benefit will go to the community as a whole… for development of or the protection of the areas or other things which the community requires such as education… So this is our vision for tourism in the future that it can give a better income to the community as a whole. Otherwise, just working as a porter for companies and groups, we don't feel that will change people's destiny here."
Inayat, M/27, development professional, Pakistan 2

key testimonies featuring tourism

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   10   Muhammad Baig   male/67   farmer/weaver   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   17   Gulshad   female/40   farmer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   23   Rajab   male/51   mountaineer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   24   Qudrat   male/31   mountaineer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   25   Gonik   male/55   farmer/numayindar   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   28   Qurban   male/60   farmer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   34   Raza   male/37   teacher   Gilgit  
Summary Transcript   7   Bari   male/27   mountaineer   Shimshal