The simple lives of Broghil’s Wakhi people

Photos and text by Tabish Sethi

While thousands all over the world continue to move towards modernity and urbanisation, I often wonder if true happiness lies in living a simple life. This thought takes over my mind whenever I travel to the beautiful northern region of Pakistan.

Out of my numerous explorative adventures, the lives of the Wakhi people of Broghil is what fascinated me the most. However, this is a difficult journey not everyone is able to embark on.

Located in the Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Broghil Valley is situated in the extreme north-west of Pakistan, approximately 250 kilometers of travel from Chitral.

Though this might seem like a short distance, the deteriorating condition of the roads from upper Chitral onwards make this journey a trying one. The last 150 kilometers of the road are so rocky, that it takes about 9 to 10 hours of travel time to reach the destination.

Now, when you enter Broghil the first few villages might not impress you because they aren’t as green as the rest of the north. But I suggest you continue your journey since what lies ahead is a mesmerising view. Honestly, I don’t think there is a place as green and beautiful as Broghil in the entire country.  There are rivers, streams and green hills all around you!

The first thing I noticed when I entered the region was the dozens of horses roaming the area. Being the only means of transport between the different villages, the lives of the residents is dependent on the donkeys, horses and ponies of the region. Other animals that you might also spot include yaks and the golden marmot.

Also keep in mind that upon reaching Broghil, it is a requirement of all visitors to hand in their ID card to the Chitral Scouts at the prescribed checkpoint. Luckily travellers no longer need to obtain a NOC from the Pakistan Army since the condition was abolished in 2019.

The simple life

The people of the Wakhan culture living in Broghil have a tough life due to a scarcity in resources and harsh weather conditions. The villages there are covered in snow most of the year and manage to pull in tourists only from June to mid-September.

The fact that further adds to the problems faced by the Wakhi is how far Broghil valley is located from Chitral. This means if the villagers ever need anything, they have to travel for over 15 hours.

However, even with constant hurdles in their day to day life, it is admirable how hospitable the people of the region are.

Reliance on dairy products

Since Broghil is located at a high altitude, growing crops in the region is extremely difficult. Hence, the people of the area rely on consuming dairy products provided by the herd of cattle being raised by farmer. During my time in Broghil, I noticed people eating chapattis with curd or malai for breakfast, whereas porridge was eaten for lunch.

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Are you wondering why they don’t eat the meat of the cattle? Its because they need livestock for milk all year long. The only time they kill these animals for meat is during an important festival or when a guest arrives.

The unique interior

Since the valley is so far away from a developed town, the lifestyle of the people there is simple and traditional. For instance, the houses don’t have toilets and there are more natural ways the residents can relieve themselves such as a designated area in the field.

The interior of their houses is modest too with one large lounge divided into four portions. This includes a portion for men called loopraj, a portion for women known as uthraj, a kitchen, and a region for guests called taraj. Each region of this typical Wakhan household is separated by chaddars.

Many of you may be wondering why I’m urging you to visit Broghil though it doesn’t offer the basic resources those of us living in cities are used to. Its because the peace you feel in a region where there is no technology or distraction is more relaxing than you can even imagine.

Believe it or not, just participating in the struggles of the simple life can really purify one’s soul.

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