I’d always been a bit sceptical about the Kalash people’s claim to be descended from the invading armies of Alexander the Great. The famous Macedonian leader passed through what is now northern Pakistan more than 2000 years ago. Nice idea, that some of his soldiers, had left behind their DNA giving rise to a tribe of blonde haired, blue eyed mountain people. But could it be true?
I know this is hardly conclusive proof, but during a visit two weeks ago, I found myself sitting on a balcony with a glass of a rather powerful mulberry spirit and a plate of almonds, picked from trees dotted around the neat village of Karkal. For a moment I could almost have been in northern Greece, rather than northern Pakistan. Until that is, my host explained that the Taliban were no more than a 10-hour walk away.
Northern Pakistan is a land of rugged mountains, of tough, warring tribes, and where women are never seen – except from time to time as ghostly, blue shadows hidden beneath their billowing burkas.
So I couldn’t help but stare at the creature making a beeline for me….