Desis, do you want to know about the magical valley of Hunza? It’s no secret that people in Hunza live longer and healthier lives. Today we’ll share some facts that will leave you astounded!
Hunza valley is said to be the heaven on earth. It is enveloped in the Karakoram mountain ranges at a distance of 100 kilometres from Gilgit. It has been a great tourist attraction for many years because of its beauty and standards of living. In the early 1970s, National Geographic published various articles about the longest lifespan of people around the world. Surprisingly, the inhabitants of Hunza made the list because of their healthy lifestyle.
Following are the facts that make them stand out around the world:
1. Exercise Through Trekking
Exercising is key to an active lifestyle. While people in metropolises head towards gyms, people of this valley don’t need one!
In Hunza, there are many buildings that are nearly a thousand-year-old, built on the sharp cliffs of the Karakoram mountains. Unlike other people, they don’t use vehicles for travelling. Instead, they move from place to place by walking through small passageways in mountains. Through daily trekking, people have established the habit of exercising. This keeps their immune systems strong and helps them combat health conditions and diseases.
2. Priotrizing Female Reproductive Health
Over the years reproductive health has become a priority for everyone. However, for the people of Hunza, it has always been important. They believe that the health of a child gets better because of the mother’s healthy dietary practices. Therefore, women of Hunza avoid pregnancy for at least three years after giving birth to a child and maintain their health to conceive properly.
Women breastfeed their babies without any interruption for a minimum of three years because they believe it helps in making the immune system of the baby stronger and helps ward off diseases. Due to these practices, the women of Hunza can give birth to a child even at the age of 60.
3. Eating Healthy In Hunza
Eating right and eating on time is mandatory for the human body. While we desis tend to forget this, the people of this valley make sure to consume nutritious food. Everything is locally sourced, from the vegetables to the meat.
Food in Hunza is freshly made with ingredients containing all the essential vitamins, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, etc. They minimize the use of spices and also do not consume any processed foods! Moreover, they mostly include boiled ingredients in their meals to avoid problems like acidity, etc.
Check out this Stuffed Apricot Stew Indigenous To the Hunza People
- ½ a leg of mutton or a kilo of stewing lamb
- 250g/9oz hunza apricots, or organic, unsulphured dried apricots
- 2 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
- 3 large carrots , peeled and cut into 2cm/¾in chunks
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- 6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- a few small pieces dried ginger root (or1 tsp powdered)
- pinch of mace
- lamb/mutton stock or beef stock, in a pinch
- 1 glass white wine
- 125g/4½oz good fruit chutney
- salt and freshly black pepper
- boiled rice, cooked to packet instructions
- 5g/1 tsp whole cumin or caraway seeds
- Bone out the leg leaving the very tough meat at the end of the knuckle on the bone. As the meat is to be cut into pieces, no great subtlety is required in taking it off the bone just try and keep the pieces as large as possible to begin with. Trim any major fat and gristle off the meat and cut into large (5x5cm/2x2in) pieces. Most meat for stews is cut too small.
- Roast the bone and the knuckle in a hot oven for ten minutes, put in a pan with a few stock vegetables (carrots, onion, celery) and a bay leaf, bring to the boil and then simmer very gently for 1½-2 hrs. Strain the stock through a fine sieve.
- Rinse the apricots well in cold water then place in a bowl. Pour over enough boiling water from the kettle to barely cover them. Leave to soak for at least an hour (if you are using hunza apricots, better make it two).
- Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and carrot and sweat for a few minutes until softened. Add all the spices, and fry for a few more minutes. Transfer to your tagine or stockpot. Turn up the heat under the (now empty) frying pan and add the rest of the oil. Brown the meat quickly in small batches and add to the vegetables. Pour over the juice from the soaked apricots, the glass of wine, the chutney and enough stock to just (and only just) cover the meat.
- Bring to the boil, then reduce immediately to a very slow simmer. Cook like this, uncovered (or in a low oven with a lid on if you prefer) for 1½ hours. Add the apricots at this point (any earlier and they would get too mushy) and cook for a further ½ hour. By this time the meat should be extremely tender. Taste a bit and if in doubt cook for a little longer.
- Serve with boiled rice, into which you have stirred the whole cumin or caraway seeds.
Recipe sourced from BBC Food
4. Productivity Takes Centre Stage
Often we find ourselves complaining about boredom and being lethargic but people in Hunza are never bored because they work all day in order to keep their body active! They are passionate about working at every age which keeps their mind and body functioning well. From young adults to very old individuals, everyone is occupied with business and working activities for the day.
Moreover, they empower the people in their community and support each other towards betterment with zero bias towards gender or age. The inhabitants of Hunza are highly educated and make sure that every individual evolves with time. Furthermore, they are highly adaptive towards positive changes and sensible enough to cut off negative influences.
5. Breathe In, Breathe Out
We city folk have considered pollution as part of our lives, whereas the people of Hunza are highly against it and have settled for pure air as much as they can! They are very keen on cleanliness and greenery and the Hunza valley boasts lush gardens and farms bountiful with nature’s blessings.
Due to the high level of plantation and use of cultivated fresh fruits and vegetables, people breathe fresh and pure air. Almost every house has a small garden with plants and trees. Moreover, limited use of vehicles also prevents air and noise pollution. Biologically, they have less risk of contracting any lung disorders because of keeping their surroundings clean and green.
To conclude it all, the people of Hunza have evolved throughout their lives and conserved an effective approach towards a healthy lifestyle. The pollution-free life in this valley ensures the longevity of its inhabitant’s lifespan. Also, its customs and rituals play a vital role in inculcating healthy habits from a young age that are passed on through multiple generations.
Want To Know More About Hunza?
Hunza Dastan/ہنزہ داستان is a travelogue of Pakistan’s very renowned Urdu writer Mustansar Hussain Tarar. It was published back in 2004 by Sang-e-Meel Publications. In this book, Tarar Sahab has described the beauty and nostalgic lifestyle of the picturesque valley and it has all the answers you’ll be needing about the valley known as “Heaven on Earth”.