Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Debunking the Myth of the Silk Road

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Eos on December 3 carried an article on the journey of some people along the Silk Road. Some parts of this series were printed earlier and I admit I did not read any. In fact, I do not read anything written on the Silk Road by the average Pakistani. The simple fact is we have no clue about the geography and history of the classic Silk Road.

The old trade route dubbed the ‘Silk Road’ by 19th century German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen
One of the accompanying images in the mentioned article has a man and a woman standing in front of a sign saying ‘Old Silk Road’. The location of this sign is somewhere between Gilgit and Hunza. That the classic Silk Road ever entered what is now Pakistan by way of Hunza is patent rubbish. But if people repeat the same falsehood a few times, let alone over decades, it becomes established truth.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 10:29, , links to this post

The Tree of Life

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I first saw the tree in May 1992 just after I had walked from Thandiani to Dagri en route to Nathiagali. Standing right by the trail, it was impossible to miss the green sign nailed to its massive trunk. ‘Monomental (sic) Tree’, it announced. Below the misspelled line were the scientific and local names Quercus semecarpifolia and Brungi. The sign also noted that the girth of the massive tree was 252 inches, or 21 feet, height 140 feet and age approximately 1,500 years.

The Dagri rest house looks pristine but its ceilings collapsed in the October 2005 earthquake
Three years later, my friend Kashif Noon and I retraced my earlier path and we stood in awed reverence below the towering monument. Shortly, when Kashif was ensconced in the nearby Dagri rest house reading, I returned to the tree to fill our water bag from a spring by it.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 10:25, , links to this post

Our invisible trains

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Accidents between trains and motor vehicles trying to run across approaching trains are very commonplace nowadays. Decades ago when we had horse drawn rehras and tongas to transport people and goods and bicyclists instead of crazed moped riders, one read of fewer chance meetings between road transport and speeding trains.

The thing was that a bicyclist or a rehra driver knew their respective limitations and they never crossed speeding trains. But by the mid-1990s, motor vehicles and drivers had grown exponentially. In fact, their numbers grew so fast that our industrious traffic police being unable to cope with the rush of applicants simply dispensed with the driver’s licence formality.

Men who earlier had to pedal hard to get around or trundle along slowly as their emaciated, ill-fed nags towed their carts were now capable of speed with the twist of the handle bar or a little pressure of the right foot. With the help of the phrase ‘Allah malik hai’ – God is my Preserver – our trains suddenly became invisible to fatalistic man who relies equally on God as on the power of his rickety machine.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 10:32, , links to this post




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