Tourists camp in mosques, parks as hotels reach full capacity
GILGIT- With the influx of tourists in the region, people are seen setting up camp in and around parks, playgrounds and mosques in Gilgit. Hotels are at full capacity owing to the unprecedented number of guests.
Though there are no official figures, hotel managements say large numbers of domestic tourists have been visiting the area in record numbers. They say tourists are coming up north to escape the heat.
“There is an unexpected rush of tourists this year and we don’t have vacant rooms this week,” said manager of a hotel located in the heart of Gilgit district.
After a slump in visitors, triggered by a deadly attack at the base camp of Nanga Parbat that killed 10 foreign mountaineers in 2013, a new wave of sightseers might save tourism in the scenic region, home to the world’s second highest peak – K2.
“The weather is pleasant and we are enjoying ourselves,” said a tourist from Lahore.
The main hotels, including Park Hotel, Jamal Hotel, Rupal Inn, Madina Guest House and Shaheen Hotel, already had rooms reserved, forcing visitors to make their own arrangements in the area.
“I saw over a dozen families in City Park,” Habib Khan, a resident of Gilgit said. “Though they didn’t have camps, they had small mattresses to lie upon and spend the night.”
Tourists are also seeking shelter at mosques such as in Gilgit town’s Nagral area and also, a mosque in Sonikote area. “They are our guests and it is our duty to help them,” said another local, Imtiaz Sultan. “Offering them to stay at the mosque is just a friendly gesture.”
However, staying at mosques is not the only option for these tourists. Locals are also offering them their own homes as a place to stay. According to tour guide Hidayatullah, most of the tourists are Pakistanis. “They come with their children and spend some time basking in the beauty of this mountainous region.”
Hidayatullah said international tourism was once a popular industry in G-B. However, it slowed down after 9/11. The Nanga Parbat attack further added to the industry’s collapse.
“Growing peace in the country, and especially in G-B, is reviving tourism in the region,” added the tour guide. “Domestic tourists from areas such as Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar can be seen everywhere in the city.”
Originally published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2015.