Pakistani cultural preservationist Didar Ali (pictured above) will receive the 2019 Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal for the conservation of culture and nature in his mountainous region of Hunza.
Ali is a native of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan, and has been active in preserving the heritage of the Wakhi peopple ancient town of Gulmit set amid mountains and glaciers. The language they speak is related to ancient Farsi, and is spoken by a shrinking cohort in the Pamir region of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and China.
After completing his studies in Vienna seven years ago, Ali has dedicated himself to the promotion of Wakhi culture and language with a range of projects ranging from a cookbook of traditional recipes to the first Wakhi language primer for school children; both of these projects were sponsored by the Aga Khan Rural Support Program.
As CEO of the non-profit Mountains & People Didar Ali has been a leader in community tourism, environmental protection, and development of modern employment opportunities for Wakhi youth through training in computer science and Internet marketing. His Bulbulik Heritage Centre is involved in conserving traditional Wakhi music and dance, offering a safe place (despite strong taboos) for instruction of girls as well as boys.
Ali will receive his medal at the International Mountain Museum in Pokhara on 11 December, which is also International Mountain Day.
Said Ali: “Sir Edmund Hillary’s contribution to socio-economic development, environmental protection, and promotion of the value of adventure is colossal. He will live forever as an inspiration for all of us to challenge ourselves to get out in the world, and to make it a better place.”