Karakoram: Hidden Treasures in the Northern Areas of Pakistan

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Stefano Bianca
U. Allemandi for Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 2005 - Art - 322 pages
Situated at a height of 2000 metres along the course of the Indus, in the heart of the Karakoram chain, Hunza and Baltistan are two valleys rich in natural treasures: peaks of more than 8000 metres like the Rakaposhi and K2, never-ending glaciers, unique examples of flora and fauna, alongside cultivated terraced fields fed by ingenious irrigation systems, proof of the effort of centuries to reap benefits from such harsh lands. From the beginning of time mankind has left traces of its passage in these areas: from the 'sacred rocks' with still-to-be-interpreted graffiti, to the Greco-Buddhist centres of Gandhara and Taxila, the cities of Iran and Soghdia, settlements in Kashmir and in Tibet. Stories of Alexander the Great's passage, returning from his unsuccessful mission to India, are still part of oral tradition in Hunza. At the end of the nineteenth century, this valley was strategic in the confrontation between Russia, China and the British Empire. Today the area is characterised by confrontation/conflict between an archaic mentality (until 1974 feudalism prevailed in the mountain territories) and advancing industrialisation and a market economy. Perhaps the impact of modernity can be absorbed without destroying traditional values, and local communities, instead of being ignored or oppressed, can become protagonists of controlled development. This volume addresses these issues through the description of a series of interventions of territorial planning, environmental protection, recovery of historic buildings and traditional villages and the improvement of living conditions. These projects were carried out over the last twelve years by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (Aktc) through its Historic Cities Support Programme (Hcsp).

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