Feeling as though I am the luckiest traveller in the world this year! Travelling has always been a dream, exploring the variety of cultures, traditions or taste what the locals have to offer. Did I mention it was free?!
On 11th of August, I flew from Delhi to Leh, north of India, Ladakh – Kashmir. Better yet, I did not know of this beautiful place until this point! Flying into Leh at 3500 meters altitude, there was not much of a descent but one hell of a view over the Himalayas. Plunging to minus two on landing, I collected my bags from the single conveyor belt at the baron airport arrivals and off I go to the unknown.
The view Meters away from the gate of the l Leh local airport
Leh is the capital of the region of Ladakh, and up until recently, it was one of the most remote places in the world. Ladakh was a Tibetan kingdom founded in 9th century in middle of Himalayas Mountains
The people are ethnically Tibetan, mainly Tibetan Buddhists with a significant Muslim minority. Their language is related to Tibetan and somewhat mutually intelligible with Central Tibetan. Like most of the Himalayan plateau, it’s basically a desert, combining the harsh beauty of a desert with the natural appeal of high mountains. Leh is in the valley through which the mighty Indus river flows, although even having left China it’s still not that mighty at this point
It is known that Buddhists were found in these mountains at the beginning of 4th century and during 13-16th century when these mountains were ‘Safe heaven’ for Buddhists running from persecution, similar to the persecution of the Chaldean people from 1884 to 1915.
87 Years old Buddhist monk inside Thakise monastery
During my stay, I met some monks at the monasteries who had been living there for decades. The oldest was 87 years old and had been at the same monastery for sixty years! The walls were covered in murals paintings of Buddha and other things like the wheel of life
wheel of life. The upper levels symbolise life and heaven
One of the monks was kind enough to show me many places including some of thee oldest Buddhist manuscripts (dated back to the 4th century). I felt privileged as even most of the locals do not have access to them.
All the monks and people of Leh were intrigued and asked where I was from ? Then I responded back ” I’m Christian from Iraq” and as predicted, they didn’t believe me because it’s assumed world wide that are no Christians in Iraq. I commented further and said I’m Chaldean, once upon a time used to be a “Babylonian” and there it was! They knew exactly who I was and where I came from. They are familiar with the Hanging Gardens, one of seven wonders of ancient world have been built in the ancient city of Babylon!
I guess they never saw a Chaldean before! So I said to myself “I’m the first Chaldean to visit Ladakh”.