Once a Silk Road connector to China and Central Asia, valley in Kashmir aims to milk internet and air connections
Asia travel
  • In Indian Kashmir bordering China and Central Asia, Gurez, once a stop on the Silk Road, has been reinventing itself since going online and gaining an air transport service
Asia travel

Once upon a time, the Gurez Valley was on the Silk Road connecting Kashmir with China and Central Asia.

Trading posts such as this were melting pots where merchants, traders, scholars, and travellers interacted and exchanged goods, and ideas.

Silk Road outposts like Gurez declined in importance with the discovery of sea routes in the 17th century.

With the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, Gurez ended up on the Indian side of the border. Subsequent India-Pakistan conflict and the resultant border restrictions have had lasting consequences for the region’s economy, culture and society.

Abdul Salam Lone, 53, fetches winter feed for his cattle in Chorwan in the Gurez Valley. The temperature can fall to minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) there in winter. Photo: Umar Altaf
Ghulam, 70, a tailor making traditional clothes, talks with friends outside his shop in Chorwan. Photo: Umar Altaf
Fata Begum 70, makes traditional “pakol” woollen caps. Photo: Umar Altaf

The people here have always dreamed of showcasing their unique entrepot of culture and tradition, and with the internet finally reaching the remote region four years ago, and the launch of a helicopter service, potential tourists can access information about, and plan trips to, this hidden gem in the Himalayas.

Valley residents wait to board a helicopter flight to the nearest town. With snow reaching a depth of over four metres in winter, air transport is a lifeline for the people of Gurez. Photo: Umar Altaf
Asif, 21, and Arif, 25, from Achoora village, Gurez Valley, find an internet signal amid the winter snow. They have harnessed the internet to promote the unspoilt beauty of Gurez to the outside world. Photo: Umar Altaf
A group of men gather to watch a winter cricket match in Dawar in the Gurez Valley. Photo: Umar Altaf

As travel ramps up after the coronavirus pandemic and with regional tensions having mellowed for now, what this former Silk Road commercial hub does now it is digitally connected will determine Gurez’s progress towards a new kind of prosperity.