Dinner with the Shimshalis

The following short story took place during a trip to Pakistan’s Karakorum range in 2008. Click here for more trekking notes and logistical information from my various hikes in the region:

Shimshal Pamir

There is a timeless quality to the Shimshal Pamir; which can be attributed in equal parts to its natural beauty, as well as the fact that no one seems to wear a watch.

Situated in Pakistan’s Karakorum Range, the Shimshal Pamir is a high altitude region known for its snow capped peaks, alpine wetlands and vast pastures.

Its inhabitants are known as the Shimshali, a herding people who shift between residences according to the seasons. Fortunately for myself and Dani – my hiking partner from Switzerland – we arrived at the village of Shuwert (4730 m / 15,518 ft above sea level) just a week before they were due to shepherd their livestock down to lower altitudes.

Shuwert Village.

Our trek had begun some two days before at Shimshal village (3100 m / 10,171 ft), the hub of the region. From there we had followed the course of the Shimshal, Pamir-e-Tang and Shuizherav rivers, before ascending SE to the alpine grasslands of the Pamir itself. Upon reaching our destination, we gratefully accepted an invitation to join one of the local herding families for supper.

Chalpindok was on the menu, a traditional Shimshali dish which consists of a type of chapati bread, combined with a thick cheesy sauce and a liquidy butter. Sounds basic, but the food was delicious. Equally memorable was the kindness of our hosts. Despite the language barrier, we all got along famously, communicating by the tried and true methods of facial expressions, voice inflection and sign language.

Preparing Chalpindok (photo from natgeocreative.com).

As we said our farewells, the lady of the hut gave us both a large chunk of cheese along with one of the most memorable smiles I had ever seen. The beaming countenance was striking for its genuine warmth, infectiousness and for the unmistakable fact that she sported no more than three teeth; a timely reminder that I was long overdue for a dental checkup upon my return home.  😀


Shimshali shepherds tending their flock.

The return to Shimshal village.



Dinner with the Shimshalis — 4 Comments

    • You’re welcome. Thank you for the message. I have great memories of the Shimshal region and its people.



  1. What an amazing experience you must have had; I turn a shade of green just viewing your pics! Thankyou for sharing your story about a part of the world I would love to see one day. A lovely write-up 🙂 Leah

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