GoZest Returns

Posted September 13th, 2017 at 12:13 am (UTC+0)
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Written by Niala Mohammad

 Swat, the Switzerland of Asia

Popularly known as the Switzerland of Asia, Swat Valley was the heart of tourism in Pakistan, tucked amid the Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges. However, in recent years Swat became synonymous with terrorism and extremism. It is the very same place where Pakistani Nobel Laureate, Malala Yusafzai was shot by the Taliban. Deathly battles between the Taliban and the Pakistani military left Swat Valley in shambles, ultimately damaging its once flourishing tourism industry.  Although efforts have been made to rebuild the infrastructure of Swat Valley, the image of the Taliban remained locked in the minds of people. Youth in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa shattered this terrorist laden rhetoric by inviting the rest of Pakistan to #RediscoverKP, Swat.

 

Participants of #GoZest2017 visited Kalam, MalamJabba, Mahudand, Behrain, and Mingora

After the success of GoZest, #GoZestReturns to rediscover Swat Valley; Kalam, MalamJabba, Mahudand, Behrain, and Mingora. GoZest2017 received over 500 applicants from all over Pakistan.  However, due to limited space only 130 applicants were chosen to take part in the 5 Day, 4 night expedition. Applicants aged 18 to 36 were chosen through a rigorous selection process to ensure that proper representation of all ethnic and religious groups within Pakistan were demonstrated.

Gozest participants hailed from over 55 districts throughout Pakistan 

Day 1: GoZestReturns

Participants arrived at the Grand Hotel Season, located in Fizaghat, Swat.  Fizaghat is a popular hill station in Swat, Mingorara that took an economic dive when Taliban insurgents overtook the valley. Gozest management ensured that they gave preference to local businesses to help re-boost the tourism economy in Swat.

Swat is tucked amid the Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges

GoZest2017 participants were greeted at the entrance of the hotel with a creative visual aesthetic, by Pakistan’s 1st 3D artist Mr Ahmad Waqas.

Pakistan’s 1st 3D artist Mr Ahmad Waqas created a visual that prompted several photo opps

Registration and Opening ceremony were commenced with a broad range of social and political personalities to include; District Nazim Swat Muhammad Ali Shah, District Member Irshad Ahmad, District Officer 1122 (Rescue) Mr Arshad Iqbal, and KP Coordinator BISP (Benezir Income Support Program) Miss Naseem Akhtar. The initiative was cheered by Ziauddin Yusafzai, Reham Khan, Ali Muhammad Khan, Nazia Parveen, Maya Khan, and other  known personalities.

The reality in Pakistan is not as bad as the perception of it.”-Abid Atozai (Chairman of PYA & Mardan District Nazim)

Participants enjoyed high-tea along the Swat River in Fizaghat once GoZest registration was completed and welcome packets were distributed.

Participants enjoyed high-tea along the Swat River in Fizaghat

Day2: GO GO Malamjabba

Participants were divided into 8 groups, each group had 15 members and an escort from the management team supporting GoZest. The management team purposely diversified the groups to include individuals from all areas of Pakistan. The teams departed from Mingora to MalamJabba, on a two hour scenic drive.

MalamJabba is home to the only ski resort in Pakistan

Upon reaching MalamJabba, participants were transported to the peak of MalamJabba via the newly installed chairlifts offering a 9,200 feet-high, breathtaking, panoramic views of the Hindu Kush mountain ranges.

 The Austrian government installed chairlifts in MalamJabba that offer a 9,200 feet-high, breathtaking, panoramic view of the Hindu Kush mountain ranges

At the peak, trainers put participants through a motivational session activity which included ice breakers, including an acoustical activity of shouting into the mountains to release emotion and energy.

 “You are in the native town of Malala Yusafzai, a nobel peace prize winner. Be witness to this peaceful environment, become ambassadors of peace, and encourage others to view the beauty of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.” -Kashif ur Rehman (TEAM)

 

After the ice-breakers, participants embarked on a day filled with vigorous physical activities such as a male vs female uphill 200 meter race on MalamJabba’s famous slopes normally used for skiing in the winter months. MalamJabba is home to the only ski resort in Pakistan.

 

Girls WON the male vs female uphill 200 meter race

Later the participants were booked into their hotels where they were given a taste of local “melmestia” (hospitality) with dinner accompanied by traditional rabab music.

 

GoZest’s melmestia included dinner & traditional rabab music

Day 3: GO GO BEHRAIN & KALAM

After breakfast, participants headed towards Behrain on a 3 hour scenic drive along Swat River. Partakers enjoyed a traditional “karahi” picnic in Behrain. After the river-side picnic and numerous selfie sessions, the groups set off towards Kalam on another 3.5 hour scenic drive spiraling alongside the snow topped mountains.

 “The best part of the event was traditional food and flavors of KPK”-

Fayyaz Ali

“Participants enjoyed local specialties such as karahi, barbeque, chapli kebab, and fresh trout indigenous to Swat. GoZest also ensured that the dietary needs of their Hindu, Sikh, and Christian participants were met respectably.”-GoZest2017 Management 

Upon reaching Kalam, participants were treated to a Bonfire & Barbeque night.

“We met individuals from all over Pakistan and established life-long friendships.”- Umair Khan 

The evening was filled with performances around the bonfire by participants who were given the opportunity to display their artistic talent.

“GoZest gave us a platform to display our talent.”-Sheraz Mehmood

Day4: GO GO MUHADAND LAKE & JHEEL SAIFULLAH

GoZest set out early in the morning to Muhadand Lake and then onward to Lake Saifullah. The lakes are located in the upper Usho Valley, approximately about 40 km from Kalam. The area is only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles due to the rugged terrain.  Twenty-three vehicles set about on a 2.5 hour long safari jeep excursion.

Muhadand Lake and Lake Saifullah are located in Pakistan’s upper Usho Valley, 40km from Kalam

Participants were taken aback by the breathtaking scenery of Usho Valley. Lake Saifullah, or Jheel Saifullah is nestled between mountains and surrounded by plus green forests.

“This place is heaven on earth”- Ali Ibtesham 

The group was dispersed into ten teams and handed arts and craft supplies, which included paint, paint- brushes, and individual metal boards. Participants were encouraged to write messages or words of wisdom on the boards for onlookers to read. The boards were then nailed along the trees of the forest surrounding Jheel Saifullah.

Participants were encouraged to write messages or words of wisdom

After lunch participants headed back towards Mohadand Lake, were they had the opportunity to snap photos, go horse back riding, and participate in a cleanliness activity.

Local horse breeders offer horse rides along Mohadand Lake

GoZest provided participants with cleaning supplies and initiated a community service project at Muhadand Lake which was greatly appreciated by the local municipality.

Participants were heartened to GOGREEN at Mohadand Lake

Participants headed back to the State Continental Hotel in Kalam where participants took part in a cultural exhibition. Participants displayed their Sindhi, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Balochi, Balti (Gilgit), and Pashtun ethnic attire and performed their traditional folk dances.

GoZest Cultural Cat Walk

Day 5: GO GO HOME

The closing ceremony of #GoZest2017, awarded certificates of appreciation and shields among the management, partners and participants.

GoZest2017 was a joint effort sponsored by several local and national organizations whose purpose is to educate people and change negative perceptions associated with Khyber Pukhtunkhwa 

Participants were sent off to Mingora’s Daewoo Bus Terminal…and said goodbye till #GOZESTRETURNSAGAIN

The event helped wash away the stigma of Swat Valley being affiliated with terrorism and the Taliban

The event allowed an opportunity for youth within Pakistan to remove negative stereotypes associated with Pashtuns and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province. It also helped wash away the stigma of Swat Valley being affiliated with terrorism and the Taliban. The tourism initiative by GoZest not only helped the local economy but it allowed participants that are not affiliated with the province to gain a level of comfort and familiarity with the region.

GoZest2017 also served as a leading networking event in which participants engaged with individuals from various fields throughout Pakistan and established life-long connections.

Participants that are not affiliated with Khyber Pukhtunkhwa gained a level of comfort and familiarity with the province and its people 

More information about GoZest can be found on their official Facebook page, or simply look up trending hashtags on social media – #GoZest #GoZestReturns or #GoZest17 to catch a glimpse of the epic adventure.

The initiative was cheered by Ziauddin Yusafzai, Reham Khan, Ali Muhammad Khan, Nazia Parveen, Maya Khan, and other internationally known personalities. 

 

Photo Credits: Concept Corporation, Fayyaz Shots by Fayyaz Ali, Neeky’s Photography by Naima, AJ Studios, Saad Khan Photography, and GoZest2017 participants. 

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