The Kalash or Kalasha people live deep in northern Pakistan, in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The area is famous for the Karakoram Highway (KKH). This is the highest international highway in the world (averaging 4,000 meters in altitude) that meanders over the Karakoram Mountains.
Text: Angelique van Os | Photography & information: Henk Bothof
There are three valleys -Rumbur, Brumbret and Birir- where the Kalash settled, which fall under the Chitral district. Rumbur is the most remote and least visited. The Kalash are extremely friendly people and very hospitable; they are happy to give you a glimpse into their living environment.
Ancient culture of Kalash
The culture of the Kalash has existed for thousands of years and has always been animistic. However, according to historians, this changed because the Afghan king Amir Abdul Rahman managed to convert part of the Kalash population from the neighboring area of Nuristan to Islam in 1895. The increasing conversion to Islam means that there are only between 3,000 and 4,000 animistic Kalash people who struggle to preserve their language and traditions. At one time, the indigenous Kalash population numbered 200,000 people.
Colorful clothes Kalash
In addition to the beautifully recognizable beaded and embroidered colorful clothing that mainly the women and girls wear, the Kalash are known for their ancient rituals. For example, they make sacrifices with small livestock in a temple and worship the mountains and seasons, on which their spirituality is based.
Blue eyes and blonde hair
Some Kalash have blue eyes and even blond hair (see photo boy). The probable reason for this is that Alexander the Great (king of Macedonia and founder of the largest Persian Empire) passed through Pakistan to reach India around 327 BC. His army and descendants still left visible traces there. There is also a tribe in India, Brokpa, which is very similar to the Kalash. Only big difference: they wear headbands and headgear with flowers. Some of them also live in Pakistan.
The presumed descendants of Alexander the Great have left their mark among the Kalash, with blond hair and blue eyes.