World’s ‘rooftop’ readies for polo festival

World’s ‘rooftop’ readies for polo festival

Islamabad: The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Chitral district administration have taken elaborate measures to facilitate the large number of tourists arriving to attend the three-day Shandur polo festival beginning on Sunday.

Foolproof security arrangements have also been taken to make the event a success. A special village has been set up for the festivities and to accommodate the large number of visitors.

Residents watch a polo match from hill tops at the start of the annual Shandur Polo Festival last month. The festival, played at an estimated altitude of 3,700 metres, has been running annually since 1936. The Shandur ground lies midway between Chitral and Gilgit. The pitch was first used when the reigning royalty decided to have a polo match in the 1920s
Image Credit: Reuters

Besides tourists, the traditional rival teams of Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan have also reached the venue to spice up the event.

Shandur polo ground is considered the highest polo field in the world at 3,700 meters (12,149 feet) height from sea level at the Shandur Pass located between Chitral District and Ghizer District in northern Pakistan.

It is often called the ‘Rooftop of the World’. The top is flat, a plateau and can be crossed between late April and early November.

Every year the festival is celebrated on July 7-9.

The annual traditional sporting event has become a global attraction and brings in a large number of tourists as well as revenue for the provincial government of KP and the Chitral district administration.

Special flights are operating to and from Chitral, especially for the foreign tourists expected to visit the festival. Pakistan’s national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will operate two special flights from Islamabad to Chitral, taking tourists there. The flights started here Saturday and will continue during the three-day festival.

Facilitation desks have been set up at the Chitral, Peshawar and Islamabad airports.

According to KP Tourism Minister Atif Khan the Shandur Polo tournament will see four teams participate from the Chitral side.

Chitral teams are always challenged by the neighbouring Gilgit teams and the traditional rivalry spices up the matches during the tournament.

Atif urged tourists to book their seats in advance and directed the Chitral Deputy Commissioner to adopt special measures for facilitating tourists.

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