Extreme Polo

There are no holds barred at the annual grudge match in northwest Pakistan’s “land of mirth and murder”

At an altitude of 12,300 feet, the Shandur Pass is usually populated by grazing yaks. But once a year it turns into the world's highest polo ground. When teams from Chitral and Gilgit face off—as they have since 1933—tribesmen gather for the mayhem. (Paul Nevin)
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As Sikander hurtles down the field and performs a final thampuk, the ground shakes from the Chitralis' cheering and stomping. Pakistani soldiers armed with assault rifles ring the field as President Musharraf strides onto the ground. Spurred on by flutes and drums, he lifts his arms in the air and performs a traditional Chitrali victory dance with Sikander and his team.

Amid the tumult, Prince Khushwaqt approaches the field with the brisk enthusiasm of a much younger man, but a soldier bars his way. In true Ulmulk style, the nonagenarian thrusts the soldier's gun aside with his walking stick and embraces his victorious son.

Paul Raffaele, a frequent contributor, visited the Korowai of Indonesian New Guinea for the September issue. Sydney-based photographer Paul Nevin is making his Smithsonian debut.


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