Altit Fort – History

During the 14th & 15th Centuries Northern Pakistan consisted of a number of small independent states.

 

Among them were Hunza and Nager two traditional rival states, situated on opposite sides of the Hunza River. The rulers of these two states, known as the Thámo or Mir built various strongholds to express their power.

 

Altit Fort was the first of these strongholds to be built with Altit Khun and the Fort being renowned as the original capital and birthplace of Hunza. However later as a result of a conflict between the two sons of the Mir of Hunza, Shah Abbas and Ali Khan, they shifted the capital to Baltit Fort.

 

Ayasho II, Tham / Mir of Hunza in the early 15th Century married Princess Shah Khatoon from Baltistan. As part of her dowry she brought with her architects and tradesman from Kashmir and Tibet. At the time Baltistan (previously known as ‘Little Tibet’) had very strong cultural and ethnical relations with Ladakh in Northern India. The structure of Altit Fort was therefore influenced by the Ladakhi/Tibetan architecture, resembling elements of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

 

Altit Fort was originally built as a palace, yet some time after its construction, in 1548 A.D a defensive watch tower was added transforming it into a fort. It is believed that the Fort was built in 6 different phases making the most of the various different levels of natural rock from the very high cliff top it is positioned on.

 

Altit Fort was surrounded by the settlement of Altit Khun, once a bustling town for traders and caravans travelling along the Silk Route. The historic village forms an integral part of the core cultural enclave of Hunza.

 

In the aftermath of far reaching socio-political changes in and since 1972 the Fort lost its glory of being the centre of traditional cultural festivals and village life. After this time the ruling family no longer had the power to collect taxes to support the up keep of the fort and it was abandoned and left to deteriorate.

 

In the late 1990’s a prince of the former ruling family of Hunza donated Altit Fort to the Aga Khan Foundation who through the Aga Khan Cultural Services, Pakistan spent the arduous task of restoring and rehabilitating both the fort and the surrounding settlement of Altit Khun. In 2007 the Fort opened as a tourist museum and culture centre for the community.