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Blog: Five minutes with…Sheikh Nazir


Jul 2013

Five minutes with…Sheikh Nazir

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We chew the fat with our man on the ground in Delhi, India.  Trek and tour guide extraordinaire, Sheikh Nazir shares his thoughts on trekking the Himalayas, whistle-stop Delhi, fishing and Kashmir.

How long have you been a tour guide?

I have lead more than 100 treks and expeditions across Indian and also Nepalese Himalayas. I started leading as specialist trek guide in 1977 and even now I make sure I do at least, one or even two treks a year with my close friends/clients who have been trekking with me over the last 30 years plus.

Among people who have trekked with me or asked for my services is Hollywood director, Bob Rafelson. He didn’t let me run as per the schedule, which is of the utmost importance for any trek, but he ended up respecting my advice and making friends with me! After the trek, he very kindly invited me to the US where I also met with the famous Hollywood actor Mel Gibson.

If you had just one day in Delhi, what would you recommend doing?

Delhi is huge! It’s a state in itself. It’s never possible to see Delhi in one day as it has numerous Mughal monuments, museums, temples, mosques etc.

However, if someone just had one day in Delhi (that’s what people have who are in India for 10 days or 2 weeks tours!), I would recommend them doing a full day sightseeing of the Old and New Delhi to experience and appreciate the contrast between the two cities within the City. I would like them to visit Jama Mosque and Red Fort in Old Delhi and also do a cycle rickshaw ride in the famous Chandni Chowk Bazaar to see those narrow lanes and amazing wiring system. And later, see a bit of Lutyen’s Delhi visiting India gate, Presidential Palace and Parliament building.

What’s your favourite local dish?

My favourite local dish is “Rogan Josh” from the Kashmiri “Wazwan” cuisine. Rogan josh (or roghan josh) is a staple of Kashmiri cuisine: originally it was brought to Kashmir by the Mughals.

It is one of the main dishes of the Kashmiri multi-course meal (the “Wazwan”). It consists of braised boneless lamb chunks cooked with a gravy based on browned onions or shallots, yoghurt, garlic, ginger and aromatic spices (cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon). Its characteristic brilliant red colour traditionally comes from liberal amounts of dried Kashmiri chillies that have been de-seeded to reduce their heat: these chillies (whose flavour approximates that of paprika) are considerably milder than the typical dried cayenne chillies of Indian cuisine. The recipe’s spiciness is one of fragrance rather than heat, and the traditional dish is mild enough to be appreciated by Western palates that may not have been conditioned to tolerate the heat of chillies.

In addition, dried flowers or root of Alkanna tinctoria are used in some variants of the recipe to impart a crimson colour. Saffron is also part of some traditional recipes.

What’s your favourite trek?

My favourite trek is “Zanskar Trek” up in the Ladakh area of the Jammu & Kashmir region.

You’re from Kashmir originally, how safe is it for tourists nowadays?

For the past six years and over Kashmir has been totally safe for tourists. In fact, domestic tourism has been enjoying a boom, especially for last two to three years with hotels and flights booked to capacity.

Very recently at the end of 2012, the United Kingdom withdrew its travel advisory against travelling to Srinagar (summer capital of Kashmir). Now, the majority of insurance companies do cover the region.

If you could recommend one experience in Kashmir, what would it be?

I do not think anyone coming to Kashmir should miss spending a couple nights in one of the beautiful house boats which float still at one place on the famous “Dal Lake”.  A house boat is literally your own hotel (well, much better than a hotel) with bedrooms, toilets, drawing room, sitting, dining, veranda, terrace and a kitchen. Your own hotel floats on the lake with mesmerising mountains and only natural noises surrounding you.

Tell us about the trout fishing in Kashmir…

Kashmir is a land traversed by wild mountain streams and high altitude lakes where rainbow trout and salmon thrive in abundance. It is rightly called an Anglers’ Paradise. The best season of the year is from May – October.  A permit, issued by the Department of Fisheries, J & K Government, against a fixed tariff is a pre-requisite.

Fishing is big business in Kashmir through spring and summer. The British introduced the brown and rainbow trout to the streams of Kashmir, where they have thrived. At the same time they introduced the system of anglers reserving ‘ beats’ on their favourite river. Reservations for beats should be made before one arrives in Kashmir.  Only artificial flies are allowed and each license entitles the angler to keep six fish a day, none being shorter than 7.5 cm. Beats may be reserved for a day or a week at a time in one of the three basic types of streams. Larger rivers like Sindh or Liddar are full with snow, melting from May to July, with an occasional pool under boulders. Spinning is allowed here, but the wet fly and weighted cast tests the skill of the angler and will produce good results. In April, August and September these rivers are quieter, and the bigger fish are said to lie in the stiller waters.

Tributaries and water channels near these mainstream beats provide another type of fishing throughout the season. These are the smaller streams where only flies are allowed, with wet fly fishing good all season. The third type are the small spring fed streams and high altitude lakes suitable for both dry and wet fly tackle.  You can always bring in your own equipment if you are specially coming for trout fishing and if you just decide once you are there then no problem. You can always hire equipment like fishing rod, flies etc. there as well.

And finally…what’s your opinion of yaks versus zopkios?

Well, you will find more Zopkios than the Yaks in the Indian Himalayas but by far the Yaks are the real high-altitude beasts of burden!



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