Sarfaranga Desert Rally 2023


The 5th edition of the Sarfaranga Cold Desert Rally concluded with a colourful cultural event on Sunday.

The fifth edition of the rally took place in Shigar district’s Sarfaranga desert, the highest cold desert in the world, with the aim to promote adventure tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan and boost the local economy of the remote region. Other than the main race, the event also included a motorbike race, zakh (raft) competition, free-style polo matches, sword dances, musical performances, cultural dances, rock climbing, horse riding, Mayfang, musical night, paragliding, tug-of-war, javelin throw and tent pegging. There were also 135 stalls selling local foods, gemstones and handicrafts.

The event witnessed the participation of over 100 racers from across the country which competed at the 80km-long track. A total of 18 local drivers, including three women, also participated in the race.

Mr. Adil Naeem secured the first position in Prepared Category A by covering the 80km track in 48 minutes. Mr. Qasim secured the first position in Prepared Category B, while Mr. Osama Umeer secured the first position in Prepared Category C. Mr. Zafar Baloch won the first position in Prepared Category D. Around 100 racers participated in event from across the country. Mr. Muhammad Marwat secured the first position in Category Stock A, while Mr. Mikael Ali won the first position in Category Stock B. In Category Stock C, Mr. Rashid Abdullah got the first position, and in Category Stock D, Mr. Falak Sher emerged as the winner.

Gul Naseem, who is Assistant Director in Women Development Department Gilgit-Baltistan, a first-time participant in the rally, won first position in the women’s category. Her husband also participated in the event, which was the reason she was inspired to take part of the event.

On Saturday, 12 men participated in the raft competition that took place at Blind Lake in Shigar. Shigar team won the free-style polo match.

A German tourist also attended the event after travelling from Germany to Pakistan on a bike. “We didn’t have high expectations, but we had a lot of fun and enjoyed ourselves here,” said the tourist.

The event closed on Sunday with a mesmerizing musical and cultural show highlighting the rich local music traditions and heritage of the region. The closing ceremony was attended by the Governor Gilgit-Baltistan Syed Mehdi Shah, GB Ministers, Members of the GB Assembly, officials and a large number of locals and tourists.

At the closing ceremony, the Governor GB Syed Mehdi Shah was the Chief Guest, who paid tribute to organizers, especially Mr. Asifullah Khan Secretary Tourism Department and his dedicated team, for organizing the event a success. He said the event will become the identity of Pakistan at the global level. The governor said adventure tourism in GB will promote economic and tourism activities and highlight the region’s positive image.

While speaking on the occasion, the Secretary Tourism, Sports and Culture Gilgit-Baltistan Mr. Asifullah Khan said the Sarfaranga Cold Desert Rally has become an important means of economic development and tourism activities in the region. He said the private sector managed to do a business of Rs23 million during the three-day event.  He said the rally was not confined to a car racing competition, but many traditional and cultural activities had been included to explore the tourism potential in the region. For the first time local people have been involved in this event to give them ownership of the activities.

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