Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shigar Fort | Hidden Paradise Of Rajahs

Shigar Fort was once home to Mongol princes, today it welcomes visitors to one of the most remote and dramatic parts of Pakistan while helping transform the lives of the local community.

Shigar Fort has been the centre of this community since the early 17th century, when it was built by the Mongol dynasty that ruled the stark Shigar valley until its overthrow in 1840. Even after its fall the dynasty retained influence through landholdings in the valley and its rajahs, the rulers, continued living in the stone and clay building.

Seventy years ago, as the fort crumbled with neglect, the royals took the seemingly drastic decision of moving to what had once been their cowshed, and then to an outbuilding next door as even the shed began to collapse. Then, in 1999, the Aga Khan Development Network, aiming at cultural and economic development, offered to restore the fort and build the rajah a new home, on one condition: the fort became a public trust.

The rajah agreed and the foundation spent $1.4m rebuilding the fort and converting it into an up-market, 20-room resort. The finished product was handed over to the luxury Serena hotel chain last year, with the organisation training the Shigar employees at its other hotels across Pakistan.

Image courtesy: EE.Jay

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