It is indisputable that every Kashmiri wants to be remembered for providing the best hospitality on the planet! You will notice it right away, after getting off the plane, bus, or train. However, there is something that sets the Kashmiri people apart from many other parts of the world. They will approach you not with the intention of selling goods or hounding you for business, but rather to invite you for tea or to learn about where you come from. After decades of relative isolation, the people here are eager to prove that they have a tremendous amount to offer. You will no doubt learn to appreciate 10 cups of tea per day while enjoying some of the freshest, most delicious cuisine in the world.
One thing that every visitor must realize is that Gulmarg does not offer the luxury of a resort like Vail or Chamonix. Sometimes, electricity might go out for hours at a time, or pipes might freeze, or the gondola might be down for many days due to maintenance downtime. Almost all of these instances are beyond our control and sometimes it takes quite a bit of patience to accept the realities of this gorgeous place. Sometimes it takes a few hours in the dark next to a fire with great friends to really feel alive again ? Please be aware of such possibilities when deciding to come to this raw, but beautiful, place.
It is worth it to note that the majority of the population in Kashmir is Muslim, as opposed to Hindu which is much more popular in the rest of India. The reasons for this is rooted in the history of Kashmir. During the unification of India during the middle of the last century, the ruler of the kingdom of Kashmir decided to side with India as he himself was a Hindu. However, even then, the majority of the population was Muslim. This political maneuver was a big reason for the ensuing conflicts that lasted for many decades. Today, while Islam is the major religion of the region, Kashmiris warmly welcome people who follow any religion. It is a great place to view some of the most unique mosques in the world, such as the magnificently domed Hazratbal, where thousands of birds occupy the trees at night and keep the air electric with chirping. There are even extremely old, Buddhist structures to experience, such as Shankaracharya Temple which was originally built around 2500 B.C.
If there is one thing that you will not get enough of (even on your days not skiing!), it is the Kashmir cuisine. Whether it is the delicious Kashmir Palaw or the almost impossible to finish meat mania that is Kashmir Wazwan, you will quickly acquire a taste for the freshest ingredients in the world. You will become very discerning, and even picky when it comes to the type of saffron that is being used as an ingredient. You will even start eating directly with your hands! The locals take great pride in their food, and our chef is no exception. Mustang will likely boast about his dishes, but when it comes down to it, you can’t go wrong with anything!
Here in Gulmarg, you will also experience a local favorite drink called Kashmiri Kahwa. Kahwa is a saffron infused tea that often includes crushed almonds, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and of course sugar. There is nothing better to wake up in the morning too!