Kalash which separate Chitral valley from Afghanistan, chiselling out well-concealed canyons that have for centuries been the refuge of a tribe quite distinct from the rest of Pakistan. They have their own language, dress, customs and religion and because they are non-Muslim they have been historically known as Kafirs (Infidels), and this tight little land of theirs as Kafiristan. Today they are better known as the Kalash (black) after the colour of their clothes, despite the incidence of light skin, fair hair and blue eyes, which some say marks them out as descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers.
The Kalash ladies who peer so frankly at us, often dissolving into giggles at what they see, wear wide black dresses, tied with woolen scarves with multicolored threads attached and strips of coloured ribbon on hems and cuffs. Their hair, which they never cut, is braided or plaited tight against the scalp and a long headdress, decorated with beads and cowrie shells, runs down from their crown to below their waist. The women till the fields in traditional costume while the men look after the livestock. Mothers must give birth in the hut and remain there for 20 days afterwards. Only after undergoing a purification ceremony can they return home and rejoin village life. The bodies are never buried and the tops of the coffins are often left open to let the souls escape. That’s the Kalash way of death.