Photographer Matthieu Paley first visited Pakistan in 1999, and has returned many times over the past 17 years. In a National Geographic photo story he reveals what life is like in modern Pakistan, exploring what has changed and what has stayed the same.
Paley focuses on the Gojal region in northern Pakistan, which is surrounded by the Karakoram Range, striking mountains that tower over villages. The people are mostly of the Ismaili faith, a moderate branch of Islam.
Before 9/11, almost 100,000 people used to visit Pakistan each year. After the attacks, tourism collapsed and the country now sees only a few thousand tourists a year. Though Pakistan doesn’t get many foreign visitors, improved roads have allowed for easier travel between different parts of the country. Coupled with modern technology, this has resulted in the exchange of new fashions, foods, and ideas.
Today, some traditions have weakened. Arranged marriages have given way to love marriages, or “arranged love marriages,” in which young people “suggest” to their parents who they want to marry. Other customs remain strong, like the villagers’ welcoming attitude towards guests, and a desire not to offend elders. As Paley says, “Gojal has planted a foot in the modern world while retaining its traditions and ability to inspire.”