The beauty of who we are

The beauty of who we are

If you have plans for exotic travel, then book a flight to South Asia, Pakistan, in particular. Once you arrive in Pakistan, prepare yourself for an interesting road trip on the famous Karakoram highway, where you will be surrounded by serene nature and breathtaking mountains all the way to the Gilgit Baltistan region. From Gilgit Baltistan, take a shorter ride to Hunza Valley, the land of apricot orchards, peaches, apples, mulberry, walnuts, and grapes. The land of glacial streams and forests of poplar trees. In Hunza Valley you will get to meet the famous Shukrat Bibi, the protector of Hunza cultural heritage and one of the guardians of its identity.

Ms Shukrat Bibi’s shop at Karimabad.
Photo credit: Eman Said Omran

Shukrat Bibi is an 86-year-old artisan who uses her needlework to preserve the cultural heritage of Hunza Valley. She owns a small shop in Karimabad, the capital of Hunza Valley. The shop looks like a safe cave made of rocks. At the shopfront, one can see colourful handmade products, decorated with exquisite embroidery hanging on the door. An enchanting sight that lures you into the shop where you will find many more treasures of meticulously handmade beautiful embroidery. Shukrat Bibi uses her magical needle to sew traditional dresses, handbags, colourful caps and festive accessories.

Ms Shukrat Bibi in front of her shop at Karimabad
Photo credit: Eman Said Omran

At the entrance of the shop, Shukrat Bibi sits with her needle in hand. Dressed in the traditional Hunza attire and wearing a colourful Hunza cap, she welcomes national and international visitors into her world. She has a warm and friendly demeanor, an air of serenity. Hanging on the wall behind her a newspaper article is displayed about her precious work. She sees the article as a sign of appreciation and acknowledgement that she is keeping her Hunza heritage alive and flourishing (The Express Tribune). Inside the shop, one sees the Presidential Pride of Performance Award, an award granted by the President to recognize people with “notable achievements in the field of art, science, literature, sports, and nursing”. Shukrat Bibi’s award clearly acknowledges Pakistan’s gratitude for her hard work in “keeping the delicate art of do sutti karhai (embroidery) alive in the region”.

The Presidential Pride of Performance Award, 1992.
Photo credit: Eman Said Omran

At the age of 10, Shukrat Bibi’s mother taught her the art of embroidery. Now, Shukrat Bibi at the age of 86 has passed her skills and talent to hundreds of women in Hunza. The skills which she has passed on to them have contributed to their financial independence and they have become  members of her cavalry fighting to preserve Hunza culture. Shukrat Bibi takes great pride in her efforts to keep the culture of handmade embroidery of Hunza alive and hopes that her students will continue this tradition.

Nowadays, the world has become a village. Today, the exotic Hunza Valley is a famous touristic spot not only for Pakistanis but for international travellers alike. Visiting Hunza brings benefits not only for the travellers themselves lucky enough to see it but for the district itself and for Pakistan as a country. However, it is important that the Hunza Valley retains its identity and unique charm in this age of globalization. Hunza Valley is blessed to have inhabitants like Shukrat Bibi and all of her students. A talented group of women who love their culture and identity and are proud to share their timeless history in our modern, globalized world.

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