Khaplu Palace is the best example of royal palaces in the Karakoram in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.–Photo Courtesy http://www.whitr-ap.org.

SKARDU: The 19th century Khaplu Palace, which has been renovated and turned into a residential building, has won the international award in poverty reduction.  

The palace, built in the 1840s by Raja Yabgo and renamed as Khaplu Palace and Residence (KP&R), won the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards in poverty reduction on November 7, 2012, according to a press release. The palace, managed by the Serena Hotels, embodies Tibetan, Balti and Kashmiri styles, and welcomes guests to experience an upscale authentic heritage.

Work on the renovation of the palace is an example of the pre-eminent cultural heritage surviving in Baltistan,  the renovation process was initiated in 2005 and was completed in 2011.

Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP), an affiliate of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), carried out the renovation and restoration work.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan has already conserved and brought into reuse Baltit and Altit Forts in Hunza and Shigar Fort in Baltistan. Generous funding for restoration was provided by the ministry of foreign affairs of Norway through the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad and AKTC.

USAID under the title of ‘USAID small grants and ambassador’s fund programme (SGAFP)’ has also set up the ‘Balti Folk Exhibition Centre’ in Khaplu Palace, putting on display Balti folk artifacts, local handicrafts and other traditional items. The exhibition centre occupies two-third of the space of the palace.

These artifacts are the centre-piece of the attraction of the palace. The SGAFP has taken all out efforts to ensure conservation standards and authenticity of the items, which describe the history of the area, and also to spur social and economic benefits in one of the remotest and poorest regions of Baltistan.

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