About 200 kilometers northeast of Mandalay is the valley of Mogok—renowned worldwide for its rubies and yet notoriously guarded, with only permit-holding foreigners allowed to enter.
For three days at the end of March the small city celebrated its 800th anniversary with an extravaganza of performances and events. Ethnic people including Lisu, Palaung and Shan flocked to the small city to enjoy the festivities, which included singers, traditional dance, and thousands of monks collecting donations around Mogok Lake, a former mine pit from the colonial era.
Mogok is known to produce the world’s finest rubies and gemstones, including the pigeon’s blood ruby and blue sapphire, but the celebrations also focused on the city’s diversity: along with the ethnic people already mentioned live Nepalese Gurkhas, Burmese, Pa-O, Chin, Kokang, Karen, Chinese and Indians—all together harmoniously. Although the city continues to produce precious stones, many residents hope to attract more tourists to the area, to enjoy treks in the surrounding mountains and the historical and religious draws of the city.