Shabnam Bashir Gojar, a young tribal girl in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, is a passionate hiker. Her obsession of exploring offbeat places led to bringing Ketsen, a picturesque valley in the district, on the tourism map. She is making strenuous efforts in highlighting other unexplored places as tourist attractions.
Hailing from Aloosa village of the district, Shabnam is a tourism student. She succeeded in bringing the Ketsen area of the district on a tourism map after continuous efforts of four years.
Ketsen is one among seventy five tourist destinations recently identified by the J&K government because of its historical, picturesque beauty, and cultural significance.
Soon after its inclusion in tourist destinations, J&K tourism sought applications from residents of the area for homestay registration thus creating employment opportunities in one of the most far flung areas of the district.
Ketsen, a picturesque meadow in the district has been witnessing a good number of tourist arrivals after getting figured on a tourism map with tourists thronging the area for trekking, horse riding, sports and many other activities.
Shabnam, a 22-year-old girl studying tourism, told Rising Kashmir that she had a dream since childhood to bring the unexplored tourist spots of her area to limelight.
She said her trekking journey started in 2019 after she took the tour of the area and started analysing the tourism potential of the area.
Initially, she used social media to highlight the picturesque spot and to gain the attention of netizens. "I posted many videos regarding the Ketsen, its beauty, and other basic information so people who would come here didn’t have to face any difficulty", she said.
Continuing the promotion through social media for two years, Shabnam authored the book ‘Unexplored Kashmir “in 2021 in which she scripted the Ketsen and many other places in detail for their tourism potential.
Shabnam said she used primary as well as secondary sources in her research for the book including personal experiences gained by visiting these places, interacting with tribal community besides conducting interviews of elder tribal people who narrated the oral history of these places.
She said the main motive of compiling the book was to present a guide to the people of Kashmir about these unexplored areas so that adventure lovers get attracted to these places.
“Kashmir Valley is not all about Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Dal Lake. Tourism is beyond these clichéd places as well,” she said.
“My main motivation is that I find myself duty bound to give back to the community and to the meadows I belong to,” she added.
“The aim of my debut book is also to put forth the pain and miseries of the residents of these places, including tribal community, in the public domain,” she added.
Shabnam did her three year diploma in tourism and is currently studying bachelors in tourism.
"I have made tourism a goal of my life and my efforts shall continue to bring many more hidden tourism destinations of Bandipora in the public eye", she said.