Kha Basi Cafe
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan

Kha Basi Cafe

The Kha Basi Café is a unique restaurant located under the shadow of Altit Fort in the ancient royal garden called “the Kha Basi” – a gorgeous and very well-kept-up fruit orchard full of apricot trees – located on the edge of the Altit town in Hunza Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

The café has in the past served as a summerhouse of the royal family of Hunza. It was a nice piece of simple old-fashioned architecture almost falling to decay. It was recently renovated and turned into a classic restaurant. Standing at the verge of the royal garden, overlooking the majestic mountains of Hunza/Nagar and the Karakoram Highway running along the Hunza River, the Kha Basi Café has both majestic views and a traditional taste.

For the tourists visiting the town and the fort, the Kha Basi Café is the top choice that proudly presents traditional Hunza cuisine as well as light snacks and refreshments. Although the range of choices is quite extensive, the real specialities indeed are the top of the line local traditional dishes. Dawdo, Chap Shuro, Burus Shapik, Diram Phitti, Berikutz, and Tumuru Chai are some of the recommended food choices that one must taste at the Kha Basi Café.

The café is run solely by local women and remains open 7 days a week. The staff is trained by Serena Hotels and the property itself functions under the administration of Serena Hotels. The cafe has a small indoor dining space and an “L” shaped veranda providing majestic views of the orchard and surrounding mountains. There is no better place to enjoy traditional Hunza food and relax and enjoy the atmosphere before or after visiting the nearby Altit Fort.

The Kha Basi Café is not only a place to eat local food in a serene atmosphere, yet it is a place truly representing the traditional warmth and cultural beauty of the Hunza Valley. For tourists seeking to soak into local tradition, there is a group of trained young artists to entertain guests on special occasions. There is also a small traditional house, a unique piece of architecture, offering exclusive accommodation for tourists who wish to enjoy their stay in a traditional house with modern facilities. It was a successful pilot project of CIQAM – a social enterprise of local women – particularly built using indigenous material. The facility provides a serene and sophisticated atmosphere not many had the pleasure to enjoy.

The orchard has a repute for being one of the gorgeous places for photography. During the blossom, the entire garden emanates the romantic fragrance and presenting an exquisite look; during summers, it is lush green and cool; in autumn it turns as a place must visit to see the diverse colours and it wears a white blanket of snow during winters.

Location and Access

There is a single entrance gate to visit the Kha Basi and the café itself, the traditional house, and the Altit Fort. Kha Basi is accessible at the end of the streets of Altit town. The Altit Town is located across Karimabad, on the Ahmedabad road approachable from the Karakoram Highway.

Contact details

Call for booking during the business hour at (0581) 3457012

For further information about the Kha Basi Cafe, Hunza, please visit http://serenagilgitbaltistan.com/altit-fort-cafe/

Altit Fort Hunza
Posted in Forts Gilgit-Baltistan

Altit Fort

Perched on the edge of a 1000 feet high rocky cliff rising sharply from the Hunza River, the epoch-making 900 years old impressive Altit Fort is one of the ancient forts surviving today in Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly northern areas), Pakistan. It has, for centuries, served as a palace to the local Mirs – the hereditary rulers of the state of Hunza – and later as a fort following some subsequent additions. The award-winning Altit Fort is a major tourist attraction not only because of its longstanding rich history but also for its unique architectural design facing the Karakoram Highway and for its strategic location on the ancient Silk Route.

Historic Background

Before its formal accession to Pakistan in 1974, Gilgit-Baltistan was divided into several independent princely states and the kingdom of Hunza was one of the states ruled by the Mirs. The rule of local Mirs came to an end in 1974 when the state system was abolished, and socio-political reforms took away their power during the reign of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Altit Fort was then handed over to the Aga Khan Foundation in 1990 for renovation.

The village of Altit was the oldest settlement (Altit Khun) founded in the 11th century and served as a capital of Hunza. The ancient name of Altit village was Hunokushal referring to the arrival of people from Turkic tribe of Huns from the Persian Empire in A.D 47. However, the name later changed to Burushal – the village of Burushaski speakers who were spirit worshippers before Islam was introduced in the 15th century and eventually people converted to Islam.

According to historical accounts, the rulers of Hunza first resided in the Altit Fort. A dispute between the two royal brothers – prince Shah Abbas (Shabos) and Prince Ali Khan (Aliqan) of the then Mir Sultan- lead to a divide and eventually, Shah Abbas had to move to Baltit Fort which soon became the new seat of power. With the capital shifted to Baltit, Altit Fort began to lose its significance. Prince Ali Khan made Altit Fort his stronghold and launched offensives against his elder brother. The fatal fight ended up with the death of Prince Ali Khan.

When princess Shah Khatoon from Baltistan was married to Mir Ayaaho II of Hunza in the early fifteenth century, she was accompanied by craftsmen as a dowry. The Balti craftsmen made some significant amendments in the fort with a Tibetan touch in its design. During their stay in Hunza, they used two Balti words to refer to the two forts as “Elte” and “Delte” to say “here” and “there”. Later, the term Elte became Altit and Delte was modified to Baltit as both valleys are famously known today.

The fort was purposefully built by the ruling family of Hunza as a display of power, to defend Hunza from external attacks, and to safeguard the predominant feudal system. Altit fort has undergone several ups and downs before it was abandoned. It has been dexterously renovated and now the fort houses a museum, a culture center, and the offices of a successful Social Enterprise.

Architecture

Altit Fort presents an unusual piece of building art and stood the test of time. The building is standing on a pair of rocks – the higher eastern rock and the comparatively lower western one. Its construction was completed in six different stages – the first stage construction, initiated over 800 years ago, was a two-floor building at the lower western edge as level one and another single floor on it as level two; the three-floor watch tower as the second stage construction; the storage space as third stage; the mosque as fourth; grain storage on the eastern side as fifth stage; and the guest rooms as modification of grain storage as sixth stage construction. The rooms at a lower level are accessible through narrow corridors while the upper ones can be accessed via the way to the watchtower.

The main entrance facing Ultar leads through a narrow dark corridor of the ground floor to the rest of the interconnected constructions. The fort has a main space with a rectangular seemingly supporting structure which has its anecdote. A prince is said to have killed by his own father after believing his involvement in a plot against his kingdom and was buried in the structure in a standing position.

The royal kitchen on the first floor decked with dexterous carvings inside is a little piece of interesting patterns to enjoy. Surrounding it are the lobby, the multipurpose traditional royal room, the queen’s room, and the rubble stone masonry.

The watchtower on the top built strategically, to monitor the entire land especially during the time of war or threat, provides a 360-degree scenic view. The tower was sometimes used to throw off prisoners who served their death sentence. The other major constructions including the mosque, the royal throne, and the guest rooms are located to the north of the tower while the storage space is to the south. The royal throne in the front of the mosque has a panoramic view of the whole settlement of Altit Khun.

Restoration

The fort was in great despair and Raja Amin Khan donated it to Aga Khan Cultural Services in 2001. After an extensive restoration work done by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Support Program and the Government of Norway, it was opened to the public in 2007 as a museum. Even since then, several development projects within and outside the premises of the fort have been carried out. Notable developments include the women’s social enterprise, the restoration of the Altit Valley, the Kha Basi Café in the lush green royal garden providing traditional Hunza Food, the apricot orchard, and the new art center cum guesthouse also providing special accommodation services. Special historical tours are organized within the premises running from 9.30am to 5.30pm, 7 days a week.

Access and location

Altit Fort is located on the edge of Altit valley, near the confluence of Hunza and Nagar rivers, about 3 km from Baltit Fort, in Hunza valley of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The main entrance opens into the royal garden – an apricot orchard grown over an irregular plain of lush green grassland – leading through a path filled with sawdust all the way to the fort entrance.

The fort has several locations offering scenic views of Hunza and Nagar. The galleries in front of the royal guest rooms provide a beautiful view of the Altit village with its unique houses packed around each other. Likewise, the galleries hanging from the royal chambers has a scenic view of the Hunza River flowing parallel to KKH besides the beautiful landscape of Nagar Valley. The watchtower on the roof of the fort provides an exclusive view of the whole Hunza and Nagar valleys no other place can provide. Altit Fort also has a great view from the Karakoram Highway.

Awards

Altit Fort is the recipient of 2011 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

Conservation project mainly focused on fixing structural defects, mending and stabilizing existing walls, replacing some rooftops, treating wood decay and supplying appropriate lighting.

 

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