Ishkoman valley

The Ishkoman valley lies in the north of Pakistan in Gilgit-Baltistan, bordering Afghanistan and the Pamir Wakhan Corridor. It is located at a range of altitudes, from 7,000 to 12,000 feet (2,100 to 3,700 m). The valley consists of 20 villages, with a total population of 30,000 inhabitants.

Ishkoman is endowed with lurking glaciers, calm and serene lakes and the Karambar river on whose left bank is situated impressive Immit which rises in Afghanistan and joins the Ishkoman river below Immit village. The Ishkoman River joins the Gilgit River at Gahkuch. One has to cross the town of Gakuch to enter into the valley of Ishkoman.

Fom Chatorkhand, which is the headquarters of Ishkoman valley, a road leads to Immit, which is about 25 km from Chatorkhand. Before getting to Immit, one passes by the scenic and picturesque villages of Dain, Pakora, Ishkoman and so on. Immit is gateway to Afghanistan and the Pamir Wakhan Corridor.

Ishkoman, an important tehsil of Ghizer district, is noted in the region for the production of a fine quality of apricots. The fruit grows in abundance in various villages notably in Pakora, Dain, Chatorkhand and Immit. Of these, however, the apricots of Immit are most valued and consumed. Some of the people of Immit village sell their apricots in the nearby market of Chatorkhand. A majority sell their apricots in Gilgit market as they get substantial amounts of money there as compared to Chatorkhand market.

There are many peculiarities of Immit, one being a hot spring and the other being the identity of the village as a melting pot of different cultures.

The hot spring of Immit is invariably filled with locals and people from nearby villages who come to take a bath in the hope of receiving healing from the waters. People of Pakora, Dain and Ishkoman villages frequently come to the spring along with their family and sometimes stay a night there. Separate rooms have been built for men and women. In their leisure time, the people of Immit come to the hot spring – not always to bathe, though. Sometimes, they go there to sit by the side and gossip.

There is a thriving population of yaks in Immit village, which are used for threshing the crop. Young children give a helping hand to adults during the threshing process. The children also help their parents in other agricultural activities.

Immit has retained its cultural diversity. It is known as a melting pot of Gilgit-Baltistan in general and Ghizer district in particular. Nowhere else in Gilgit-Baltistan are so many ethnic groups concentrated in one village as in Immit – Kyrgyz, Wakhis, Kohistanis, Pakhtuns, Gujjars and many others  reside in the village with each maintaining a distinctive way of life and upholding centuries-old customs. Interestingly, every tribe has preserved their oral history in narratives that they fondly narrate to visitors. They take great pride in their oral tradition. Storytelling is one of the main pastimes in the village. When the harvesting season comes to end and there is no work to be done, the only activity for amusement is often storytelling.

The people of Immit speak Khowar, Shina, Wakhi and Gujjari languages.

In general, these inhabitants of Immit are an industrious population. At the time of sowing, both men and women work together. Women of Immit enjoy an important role and have their voice in decision-making. They participate in a wide variety of agricultural activities: irrigating, weeding and guarding crops in the fields from predatory birds and hungry livestock, cutting and carrying grain, gathering kindling, fetching water and herding goats. They also accompany men when they take their livestock to high pastures. Women reside in high pasture camps and do most of the work there, including all the dairy activities. However, it is mainly men who go to collect wood or to check on the flocks.

Kyrgyz, Wakhis, Kohistanis, Pakhtuns, Gujjars and many others reside in the village with each ethnic group maintaining a distinctive way of life

In their leisure time, the women do embroidery. In fact, embroidered caps of Ishkoman in general and Immit in particular are very famous in Ghizer district. These caps have no match in terms of refinement and elegance in all of Gilgit-Baltistan save for Hunza. Caps are also made in other villages of Ishkoman notably in Pakora village. The fine needlework of a local woman constructs her identity and her work is easily recognized by other celebrated embroiderers. Needless to say, any embroidery by these women is always in great demand.

Before the onset of winter, people of Immit store food items for themselves and fodder for their livestock as the village receives heavy snowfall, which disrupts the patterns of life severely.

As one enters the village of Immit the first thing that attracts the visitor is the sublime scenery. Spectacular views of valley from many local houses leave the visitor spellbound. The majestic mountains that surround Immit are quite stunning. In winter, these mountains remain snow-capped. In former times, people used to cross these mountains to reach their destinations. In the past and particularly during the reign of the Rajas (Khushwaqat princes of Chitral) people used to go Yarkhun valley in Chitral through Karambar Pass. In order to go to Nomal, Naltar and Gilgit, people had to use the Pakora-Naltar pass to reach these valleys. Ishkomanis (people of Ishkoman) also used to go to Chiporsan valley via Ko Sar Pass.

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