Zanskar, a high altitude valley close to Ladakh with the capital Padum is surrounded and partioned by mountains up to 7.000 m high. With an average altitude of 4.000 m above sealevel it is one of the highest inhabitated places in the world, a former kingdom of the 1000 years reigning of Namgyal-Dynasty with a unique culture.
Politically it belongs to the northindian state of Jammu und Kashmir and has around 10.000 inhabitants mostly from tibetan origin, who live in the tradition of tibetan buddhism. Only in the capital Padum is an islamic population of 75% out of 700 inhabitants. Only in 1974 Zanskar was opened to visiting foreigners, but remaining closed due to geographical and climate conditions, so that until today just few hundreds tourists yearly arrive in Zanskar. An untarred road goes from Kargil to Padum (the drive takes around 14 hrs.), but is closed for 7 months a year due to heavy snowfall on the passes.
The area is aride, but touched from global warming as the monsoon climbs moreoften over the southern Himalaya range and damages with its heavy rainfall the houses which are built just by adobes. The period for vegetation takes around 4 months; cultivated as staple food is barley, some wheat (due to early winter it can’t be harvested in some years), green peas and mustard (for oil). For husbandry they have cows, sheep, some goats, rarely yaks. Horses are used for transportation. There are very few trees (just some willows and poplars can stay alive when taken good care of). Water is a lot from the melting glaciers, but it has to be led in irrigation chanals to the fields.
Due to geographic reasons Zanskar was isolated for centuries, so that people could beware their cutural and social high standards, but stand sometimes a little confused and helpless towards confrontation with the modern life.
One could think that time stood still in this remote part of the world. But when having a closer look, time is flowing like everywhere. That is especially obvious, where new and old world meet.