All of us are well aware of the fact that there are Seven Wonders of the World but none of us is aware of the wonders of our beloved country Pakistan. The foreign visitors have also stated that Pakistan is one of the most beautiful lands on the Earth. No doubt! We acknowledge this statement and thus, we consider the northern areas of Pakistan as the wonders of our country. However, it will be an injustice to talk about one of those wonders, but this wonder has made me courageous to talk about it in this writing.
I can’t find a single person who hasn’t ever heard of such a paradisiac place on the land of Pakistan. Swat Valley. Indeed, is the land which is expert in owning the feelings of all the tourists as well the residents. The lush green surroundings amidst the huge mountains make this valley to act like a magnet for the visitors.
The Swat valley has a historical background which tells us that the names of Swat, Udyana and Suvastu have been found in the ancient record for the scenic beauty of the valley. The evidence of these are the historical and cultural remnants, giving a description of the activities of the people at that time. When Alexander the Great came here in 327 BC through India and conquered Bazira and Ora, at his departure the people of that area threw off Greek Yoke and enjoyed independent status. During this time, Buddhism began to pick pace of penetration in this territory and thus this civilization changed into Buddhist or Gandhara civilization. In early 10th century, Muslims got hold of Swat and then Afghans from different tribes came and settled here. This land is free from any of the neighboring powers or governmental pressures as it is the part of Provincially Administrated Tribal Area (PATA). However, it is the part of KPK Province.
Geographically, Swat lies between 34⁰-40′ to 35⁰ N latitude and 72′ to 74⁰-6′ E longitude. The Valley is an important part of the strategic and significant region where South Asia, Central Asia and China meet.
It was the time when my brother and I were having summer vacations. Both of us were passing these days with extreme boredom. Observing this thing, my Father tossed an idea to plan a tour to Swat Valley. The joyous feeling passed all over our souls and without thinking of anything else, we started making preparations for it.
On 8th of August, year 2000, all of my family set out for the Swat valley. The weather was too hot in Lahore but we were glad that our destination was a cool place with the most pleasant weather. The climate of Swat is mostly inclined towards cold so the months of June to August are the best to go there if you neither want to get stranded inside blankets nor to feel the warm humidity in the atmosphere.
The distance of Swat valley from the capital city Islamabad is about 247 Kilometers and it almost takes 5 hours to travel. However, as I was travelling from Lahore so its distance from Lahore is almost 687 kilometers which made us to travel for around 11 to 12 hours by road. Going by air will be time saving if you want to go directly. The flight lands on the Saidu Sharif Airport. I went by road so that we could visit other spots as well on the way. Due to this reason, it took around 2 days to reach Swat valley.
As we reached Mardan, we stayed there for a while and then began our journey towards Mingora which is the district headquarter and commercial center of Swat. The history of this site goes back to 1000 BC and the remnants show that Buddhists used to live here for long. The area is located at an altitude
of 984 meters. This city welcomes the largest number of tourists with a number of accommodating luxurious hotels.
Mingora is best for shopping a variety of everything which is available inexpensively. All the stuff depicts the cultural richness of this valley. The Swat River links all the cities, making it the most beautified territory. There is a cable car sort of a thing passing over the River which links two cities. I really enjoyed sitting in it but at the same time I was holding my breath all the way assuming that this cable car may just now consign me to the river.
The place we visited next was Swat museum which was located between Mingora and Saidu Sharif. The museum had the fine art and cultural pieces of the Gandhara civilization which were worth seeing. We saw everything there which was in use of the Buddhists. There was beautiful sculpture work and different miniatures. The statues related to Buddhism religion were also displayed. One of the showcases had beautiful jewelry with the excessive use of stones in it. Other items included pottery and clothes along with some display cases that had an arrangement of statues of Women and kids depicting the living style of the people of that time.
Now we set out towards Saidu Sharif to visit the shrine of Saidu Baba who was an influential Mullah, and began to reside at this land named as Baligram. The followers of Saidu Baba renamed the city as Saidu Sharif due to him. The street to shrine had a small market having flowers and bangles there. I bought some bangles for which he charged me only Rs. 2. Wow!! Isn’t it amazing?? After reciting Fateha there, we found a hotel to stay there.
Next day, we traveled to Malam Jabba. Malam Jabba is known as the only home to Ski Resort in Pakistan. When there is a heavy snow fall in this area, tourists rush towards this spot to enjoy the skiing over the snow deposits. Down the skiing spot, there was a luxurious hotel named as PTDC. The stylish outer view of this hotel enhanced the charm of this zone. We stayed there for lunch and then continued towards Kalam. On the way, we stayed at two beautiful small cities i.e. Madian, which is a small summer resort. Next to this city was Madyan which was a simple resort not as much beautiful as Madian but had a wide variety of antique jewelry, beautiful shawls, carved wood and a lot more stuff.
Feeling tiresome, we decided to make Kalam as the resting spot. Kalam is known as the most beautiful region of Swat valley. The land with almost 150 hotels, water falls, lakes and site for hiking along with glaciers make it a “precious to stay” spot. The mountains in this area give a view of lush green carpeted huge humps. One of the specialties Kalam has is its strawberries.
The trip we planned for, was of 5 days which passed so quickly because there was not a single day we felt bored on. I really didn’t want to come back from there but I promised myself to plan again for a long trip next time to visit even more places.
For me, Swat valley is a gift to the Pakistan territory and without any doubt it can be named as one of the wonders of our country.