Travel Worn Satchel

Skardu: call to prayer, glorious landscapes and football

Skardu, Northern Pakistan

I arrived in Skardu a city in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Northern Pakistan on a Thursday evening after an almost nine hour drive across the remote and desolate Desoai Plains.

I ate in the hotel and went to bed quite soon after as I planned to get up very early the next morning to explore the city before heading off for the day towards Shrigar. However just after 3 am I woke up to a deafening noise. In my startled state I initially thought it was either an air-raid siren or at worst the end of the world.

As I came round it I realised it was nothing so dramatic. It was the first call to prayer on Friday from the mosque, and it’s extremely powerful loudspeaker, right behind the hotel. I really like hearing the call to prayer so grabbed my recorder and sat out on the balcony in the cool still night to listen. Soon other muezzin were joining in from up and down the valley which produced an eerie echo as the sound bounced off unseen mountains. The whole call to prayer lasted over half and hour. Below is five minute sound clip from that night.

Needless to say I woke up late that morning.

3:20 am Friday morning call to prayer in Skardu

Skardu is the gateway to the Shigar Valley and the Karakorum Peaks of K2 and Gasherbrum. There is a vast desert on the valley floor which seems incongruous against the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains that surround it .

To get a sense of scale the orange fleck in the bottom left of the image is a hut roof

The desert is also known as the ‘Cold Desert’ as it is one of the highest in the world at about 2,300 metres. And like many other deserts there are large wind blown sand dunes which are often covered in snow during the winter.

I got back to Skardu late afternoon with just enough time to visit the Unesco protected Amburiq Mosque. I joined the all male spectators for the last few minutes of a football match between two teams that nobody seemed to know.

I planned to have a look round Skardu the next morning before leaving for Gilgit. However, a landslide had blocked the Gilgit-Skardu road. So we had to leave early to re-cross the Desoai Plains for another 8 hours in the jeep.

I would have liked to have spent more time in Skardu but was so happy that my last image from the city was of the sunrise over the mountains.

Sunrise over the Indus river at Skardu

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