Ahmed Sajjad Zaidi

Entrepreneur, trekker, and photographer based in Pakistan

The charming Hazrat Hussein

Hazrat Hussein runs a small tea stop in Bamboret, Chitral. This is the where the majority of the pagan Kalashi people live. However, as evident from his name, Hussein is a Muslim. It wasn’t clear if he was once Kalash himself, but more likely he migrated here from surrounding areas of Chitral or elsewhere in the greater Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. His shop was close to the place we were staying at so we passed by it every time we went out.

Hazrat Hussein Bamboret Kalash

His fair skin, light hair and blue-gray eyes really set him apart from most other locals (as Stuart pointed out, he could easily have passed off as an Irishman). However, it was his kindness and sincerity that won us over. We asked him where we could find walnut bread, a local specialty, to which his response was to have it especially baked at his home and brought to us. Went really nicely with salted milk tea.

Irshad from Swat

This is Irshad, a local boy from Malam Jabba, the more famous of Pakistan’s ski resort. He sells snacks to tourists that are starting to return after years of unrest. Many people I have met from this region have distinct features, such as gray or green eyes.

Swat  Valley local

The resort is situated in the Swat Valley which was occupied by the Taliban in the 2000s. They used bombs to destroy the main hotel and ski lifts and harassed the locals to the point that they asked the government and the military to intervene.

This area was liberated after the 2009 operation by the Pakistani Army and the once booming tourist attraction is open for business again.