Luxury hotel – open for just one guest

Nadene Ghouri laments the collapse of Pakistan’s most famous tourist destination while spending time as the only guest in a 50 room luxury hotel.

A valley as green as the emeralds that lie beneath the mountains. Cold and clear rivers flowing from the snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush. A brilliant blue sky – it’s hard to describe the Swat valley without getting carried away.

It feels like one of the most beautiful and magical places on earth. But it’s also extremely dangerous as Pakistani security forces take on Islamic extremists.

Until recently Swat was a tourist destination, popular with both Western backpackers and Pakistani honeymooners. Here you could go trekking or ride a horse along mountain passes, ski pristine slopes, view ancient Buddhist sites or shop in bustling bazaars selling brightly embroidered shawls, folk jewellery and locally produced honey.

But today the sound of nightly gunfire echoes across the mountains, the hotels and bazaars are boarded-up, and the tourists long gone. The ancient monuments are at risk – caught in the crossfire of clashes between the Pakistan military and Taleban fighters.

The area is now deemed unsafe for Western tourists because of the fighting and threats of kidnap.

One of those classic British tales “from our reporter” – in this case, Swat, Pakistan.

Read through and imagine what you’ve missed by not visiting this lovely region. Before it became a center of confrontation with religious nutballs.

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