The Kalash The White Tribe of Pakistan is very different from their neighbors. In the mountains of the Hindu Kush in Pakistan, six thousand or so people live who look and sound Fascinating to say the least:
They claim to have lived in the area for thousands of years and they look to all intents and purposes, European. Some believe that that they are descendants of Alexander the Great's army though their true ethnic origins are still unproven.Taking in to account genetic drift it was then thought that the Kalash blood line originated in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Caucasus.
They live in Kalasha Desh which translates as the three valleys of the Kalash and that is the limit of their people's range. There are only around five thousand speakers of the language, KALASHA, left which in terms of a language means that it is critically endangered. However, it is thought that the language probably never had more than a few tens of thousands of speakers at any one time.
As their numbers are very small the cultures of the people who surround them have had an impact. Many of the Kalash in two of the valleys have converted to Islam. They still practice many of the traditional aspects of Kalash life though the non-converts call them sheikhs. A third valley, known as Birir, still clings to the traditional way of Kalash life.
By some standards the Kalash are very poor and it is true that they are subsistence farmers. Kalash houses are typically made from Deodar trunk to an ancient design. They appear singly or stacked up against each other up vertiginous hillsides.Yet even though the houses often look precarious, they are built on solid stone foundations. Many have inbuilt beehives, given the villagers access to honey close by.
In stark contrast to the culture of Pakistan the Kalash do not separate the sexes or disapprove of contact between men and women of different families. Elopement is regular in Kalash society and strangely it occurs often among married women. The woman herself will write to the prospective groom and offer her hand, informing the new man how much her previous husband paid for.
The Kalash are protected by the government of Pakistan but their future is uncertain particularly if the religion declines in to theocracy. There have been recent Taliban incursions and a Greek aid worker was kidnapped in 2009 (she was returned unharmed four months later after an outcry). However, their relative isolation may well ensure the Kalash survive.
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