Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Moola Pass

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Read in Urdu about Moola, the wonderland in Balochistan. This article appeared in newspaper Roznama Pakistan [double click the image below to enlarge].
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Rupal: the south face of Nanga Parbat

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May 1994. Javid Anwer (JA) who heads Green Earth Organisation (GEO), an NGO that ‘cares for the environment,’ asked if I would like to join a cleaning expedition to the south face of Nanga Parbat in August. I had never seen this mountain close up and I did not have to think twice to say yes. In the end the expedition got delayed and it was in the third week of September that we arrived in Rawalpindi to fly to Gilgit.


As expeditions go Nanga Parbat Saviour 1994 was a pretty fancy one – with a name as pompous as that it was bound to be fancy. To begin with, it was to be multi-national, and it had a TV crew to film the operations. Naturally there was going to be an immense amount of equipment and a whole team of porters – just like any old climbing expedition. This meant not having to carry anything but your camera bag and some personal belongings while the food and tents were to be with the porters or the donkeys that were to be hired. After years of mountain walking on shoe string budgets where I had to carry everything myself this was a grand treat for me and I looked forward to it.
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Making a Difference

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It was a right delightful walk from the hill resort of Ziarat (near Quetta) to the valley of Zezri. Through sweet-smelling thickets of juniper we walked where the forest floor was rich with grasses for the rains had been plentiful since spring. Up a ridge and down into a narrow gorge, then up again and down on the far side until the houses of Loi (Greater) Zezri were visible in the shadow of the knoll they call Tor Skhar – Black Rock. But that was one thing. The high point of the walk was the chance meeting with a school master and his wards.


The school house was in the precinct of Orazha – a sprinkling of huts spread over a wide area – but a good way from the nearest houses, nestling in a valley between two ridges. It was a simple hut with its walls of juniper logs and juniper bark roof set in a small clearing. In front, a little to the side of the hut, the teacher sat on a chair with a desk and spread out in front on a blanket on the ground was a bunch of girls and boys poring over their books. To the left of the pupils the national flag hanging limply on its pole in the absence of a breeze declared this school as run by the government.
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Sukkur Barrage, Fife Dream

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When the Begari Canal was first reactivated along “modern” lines in 1847, it was learnt that inundation canals were beset with defects due to their off-take from the river. Water supply remained perpetually erratic due to continual silting at the canal mouth, necessitating frequent maintenance. Moreover, the channel of the Indus – and it had several in the flatlands of Sindh – that fed the canals was fickle in flow and trail.

Sukkur Barrage commissioned on 13 January 1932 as Lloyd Barrage. The sixty-six spans each 18.29 (sixty feet) wide stretch a kilometre and a half across the Indus between the cities of Sukkur and Rohri. It was and still is the largest single system of irrigation canals in Pakistan commanding an area of 8.24 million acres through canals totalling 76,480 kilometres in length
By 1855, the young and energetic Lieutenant J. G. Fife, working with John Jacob of Jacobabad, called for building a scheme of more regular supply for four new canals. Fife wrote several impassioned reports advocating his vision. In five years of studying the irrigation dynamics of existing inundation canals, he observed that paucity of water supply forced Sindhi farmers to sow later in the season, resulting in poor harvests. On the other hand, excess water in the canal frequently led to breaches and flooding. In either event, farmers faced jeopardy.
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The Shaksgam River

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Shaksgam River valley - the view is to the east in the direction of the Shaksgam headwaters

[Image from The Apricot Road to Yarkand - Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore]

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With Hiuen Tsiang to Hund

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Long before Akbar the Great, the third Moghul king of India, built his famous fort of Attock and re-aligned the Royal Road to cross the Maha Sapt Sindhu at that point, the favourite crossing place was some twenty-five kilometres northeast and upstream of Attock. The town that grew on this busy road was called Udabhandapura (Water Pot City). It was here that they crossed the river. For as long as man has been driven by the sublime urge to seek the eternal truth or to know what lies beyond the next mountain; driven by the animal instinct to procure plunder and the women of a vanquished foe, men have forded the mighty Sindhu at Udabhandapura.


Of the many waves of those fair-skinned savages, speakers of Aryan languages, some would have come this way to be awed by the splendour of the cities of the great river slaked plains of the Indian subcontinent. They gave some, but they imbibed more of the superior civilisation of the trans-Indus cities as they became masters of this rich and wonderful land. Then came Alexander of Macedonia, the first hero in classical times whose purpose was not merely conquest, but exploration as well. As he fought and defeated the Pathans on Mount Aornos (Pir Sar on the Indus), his childhood friend and companion Hephaestion came ahead to throw a bridge across the Sindhu at Udabhandapura. His histories give no name for the town, however.
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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days