Chitral town, Pakistan - June 2006
Chitral or Chatrāl (Urdu: چترال) basically translated as field in the native language Khowar, is the name of the tribe, town, valley, river, district and former princely state in the Malakand Division of the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. Chitral Town, capital of the Chitral District, is situated on the west bank of the Chitral (or Kunar) River. The town is at the foot of Tirich Mir, the highest peak of the Hindu Kush, 25,289 ft (7,708 m) high. It has a population of 20,000, while the district (of 14,833 km² or 5,727 sq mi), has a population of 300,000. The altitude of the valley is 1,100 m or 3,700 ft (1,100 m).
The easiest access to Chitral is in the southwest along the Chitral/Kunar valley towards Jalalabad. This route is open all year and provides direct access to Kabul. However the Pakistan–Afghanistan border (Durand Line) prevents this being used as an internal route to Peshawar and the south. The other routes are over mountain passes. To the south, the Lowari Pass (3,200 m or 10,499 ft) leads 365 km (227 mi) to Peshawar. In the north, the easiest route during summer runs over the Broghol Pass (3,798 m or 12,460 ft) to Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor, however during winter this route is usually closed. To the east, there is a 405 km (252 mi) route to Gilgit over the 3,719 m (12,201 ft) Shandur Pass. And in the west, the Dorah Pass provides an additional route to Afghanistan. The territory is home to rare falcons and the snow leopard, and is cut off by snow from the rest of the country for six months a year, a problem soon to be relieved by the completion of the Lowari Tunnel which will reduce transit time to Chitral as well as allow the district to be connected to the rest of the country even during the cold winter months.
The main languages spoken in this area of Pakistan are Khowar and about 13 other dialects. Urdu and to some extent Pashto are also spoken
The main tribe, the Khow, speak Khowar (or Chitrali), one of the Dardic languages, which is also spoken in parts of Yasin, Gilgit,Ghizer and Swat. Pashto language is also spoken and understood by some in the city. Chitral is known for the famous Kalash tribe native inhabitants that ruled the region for centuries later invaded by "Khow", Kalasha resides in three remote valleys west of Ayun, which is ten miles (16 km) down from Chitral town. The culture is Islamic due to its proximity to Afghanistan and contrasts considerably with the urban cities of Pakistan as well as the adjacent district of Gilgit. Women are nearly invisible except to their male relatives and other women. They do not walk the streets of town, so men or children do the shopping. Travel requires the company of a close male relative and sometimes the wearing of a burqa. There is also a sizeable population of Nuristanis, Tajiks and Uzbeks most of whom arrived from Afghanistan in the late 1980s.
Chitral is a sport loving town. Unlike the rest of the country, Polo is most popular sport with football being the most played sport. A number of sport festivals and tournaments are held throughout the year. This includes the famous Shandur polo tournament held at the highest polo ground in the world, around 15,000 people travel to Shandur for the tournament which lasts around a week. Chitral has also produced some national players such as Muhammad Rasool who plays for the national football team.
A British garrison, sent from Gilgit to oversee the smooth transition of power to the heir apparent after a ruler was murdered, was besieged in Chitral Fort for over a month in 1895.