The Vale of Kashmir has long been celebrated by poets and painters as a stunningly beautiful terrain – a miniature heaven on earth. What is often overlooked is that in addition to its natural beauty, the valley hosts a culture that has been shaped by one of the subtlest philosophies known to mankind – the teachings of Sufism, the inner heart of Islam. This wisdom honours appreciation of nature and the artistic impulse as paths to ultimate truth, and celebrates music, poetry and the arts as ways to experience and celebrate the Divine. It thus represents the fusion of spiritual and material, seeing creativity and empathy as means of refining the soul.
Qayaam Gah - ‘The Abode of Peace’ – was created with the aim celebrating this legacy to offer a retreat for the sensitive traveller. A chance to immerse themselves in a subtle ambiance that permeates the shrines, forests and mountains of the valley.
Kashmir has always been a place where the teachings of Islam and Hinduism have transcended their differences and found common accord. Among the many saints and philosophers who have lived or visited Kashmir, are Adi Shankara the renowned Hindu Vedanta theologian of the 8th century, and the great Sufi saint Nund Rishi, the 15th century mystic, poet and preacher known by his honorary title “Alamdar-e-Kashmir” who was among the founders of the Rishi Sufi tradition of the region that influenced many spiritual teachers and saints, including the 19th Sufi mystic Shamas Faqir.
As a place where the veil normally obscuring the ‘Real’ is very thin, the valley has been a constant theme of great poets, such as the 14th century Lal Ded (‘Mother Lal’), also known as Lalleshwari and creator of the mystic ‘vatsun’ school of poetry. Her fifteenth century successor, Habba Khatoon ‘The Nightingale of Kashmir’, was the wife the last Emperor of Kashmir.
Located in the midst of this rich cultural past, a visit to Qayaam Gah will offer not just the pleasant distractions of a normal holiday but an opportunity to connect to a living source that nourishes the body, mind and soul.
Meeting and assistance at Srinagar Airport and take a comfortable car to the foot of the Breian Mountains, where guests transfer into one of our open top 4WD Thar jeeps for a ten minute drive to Qayaam Gah. Those who prefer to stretch their legs can do this last part of the journey on foot, a twenty-minute walk through lovely surroundings. The property is set in the lap of the Zabarwan mountains and offers sublime views of the lake far below and the surrounding peaks above. After a traditional welcome of refreshing kehwa tea in our reception area made in the local style of chawed wood and stone, you will be escorted to your accommodation.
Once you have settled in, high tea, accompanied by traditional Sufi music, will be served on the Qalb terrace while watching the changing hues of the valley tinged by the rays of a magical sunset. Alternatively, you can just relax by the heated infinity pool where tea will be served in the peace and quiet of the poolside area as the evening gently descends.
Dinner will be served in the Ruh restaurant, a charming space embellished by the craftsmanship for which Kashmir has long been famed: intricate wood carving and sumptuous handmade carpets. There is an excellent library with books on local wildlife and history, and the whole place is warmed by a traditional Bukhari wood stove.
Wake to a day of new possibilities with fragrant ‘bed tea’ embellished with fresh mountain flowers served in your room. After enjoying an expertly supervised yoga session on the Qalb terrace or a guided thirty-minute hike in the early morning freshness, a nourishing breakfast awaits you in the Ruh dining hall. Then we shall take a leisurely guided walk through the meandering lanes and vibrant atmosphere of the old city of Shrinagar, with highlights of Sufi shrines and the ancient spice market. Lunch will be in a local restaurant, before a visit to the hilltop Shankaracharya temple, named after the great philosopher and commentator and spiritual teacher. During our journey we will take the time to stop off at a local workshop and see the production of the beautiful soft Kashmiri shawls that are coveted around the world. Back at Qayaam in time for a refreshing dip in the pool and high tea before an evening of live music and a delicious dinner.
‘Bed tea’ with fresh flowers is becoming a delightful habit, followed by your yoga session or morning walk with its pristine views of this beautiful wilderness and the chance to do some great birding. After breakfast the new routine of relaxation continues, with a languid ride on the local shikhara boat on Dal Lake and exploring its winding side canals. The trip culminates with lunch on Sukoon, the most stylish houseboat in the valley. After visits to lakeside family workshops specialising in local arts and crafts, you will return to Qayaam for high tea, live music, conversation and dinner by the fire, whose flickering flames illumine the way to dreamland.
After early ‘bed tea’ we embark on an open jeep safari to Dachigam National Park, accompanied by a local guide, where a Kashmiri style breakfast awaits: eggs to order, freshly made local breads and jams and jellies and assorted fruits, all washed down with fragrant kehwa. Then a walk along the beautiful stream as it flows through a wide meadow carpeted with wildflowers. Various types of birds abound here, and you may even get a sighting of the rare black bear that is native to this area.
After Dachigam, we continue our excursion with a drive along the Dara mountain range and enjoy a picnic lunch that only Kashmir could offer - fresh trout cooked in delicious local spices. Our return journey includes the stunning Mughal Gardens of Shalimar and Nishat, laid out overlooking the lake by the Mughal emperors in the seventeenth century. These dramatic spaces were the scene of courtly enjoyment and refined entertainment, as befitted what were conceived as the earthly models of Sufism’s paradise garden.
Dinner tonight will be a Kashmiri Trami feast prepared by prepared by our local chef Ms. Tabasum, who comes from a Waza family, cooks specialising in celebratory cuisine. The menu includes Rogan Josh, Tabakmaaz, kebabs and local steamed pumpkin mixed with raw honey and yogurt – traditional dishes for wedding receptions and private parties.
After ‘bed tea’, yoga and breakfast we shall bid farewell to our heavenly retreat and transfer back to the Srinagar Airport. On the journey back home, we shall already be making plans to return!
• Assistance on arrival and departure.
• Complimentary airport Pick and Drop by Jeep or comfortable Car.
• Bed Tea served in room with flowers.
• Breakfast as per your choice.
• Fresh Juices and Fruits available throughout the day.
• Lunch, High Tea and Dinner.
• Complimentary 45 minutes Yoga for beginners in the morning.
• Gradually uphill walk about 45 min through apple and cherry orchids to the Rishi village and the Sufi shrine.
• All Transfer.
• Check-in 1200 hrs and check out at 1100 hrs.
• Smoking is prohibited.
• Any information found to be wrong during the making of booking, the hotel reserves the right to cancel the booking even at the last moment.
• Mandatory supplement of Rs. 1000 per person over Christmas and New Year.
• For reservations made within 30 days of the arrival date, the hotel should receive the voucher/deposit within 48 hours of making the reservation, failing which the reservation will be released without prior intimation.
• Date change will be considered as no show.
• Extra bed will be provided only for children below 12 years old.
Nearest Airport: Srinagar, (daily flights from Delhi, Amritsar, Mumbai, Bangalore).
Nearest Railway Station: Udampur railway station 200Kms/ 6hrs the drive from Udampur to Srinagar is breath taking scenery of the lower Himalaya, surrounded by gentle hillside slopes with villages and pine forest.