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Mustang (kingdom)

Mustang (Mustan) is part of the Kingdom of Nepal, in the north-east of that state, bordering Tibet on the Central Asian plateau between the Nepalese provinces of Dolpo and Manan. It is roughly 80 km long (north-south) and 45 km at its widest, is at an elevation of over 2500 m and is largely dry and arid (annual precipitation is in the range of 250-400 mm) due to its position in the rain shadow of surrounding mountains. The population is around 9,000, spread between three 'cities' and around thirty smaller settlements, the people are either Thakalis or Tibetan.

The main feature of Mustang is the Kali Gandaki river, its valley and tributaries. It runs north-east to south-west towards Nepal Terai, bisecting the territory. The river was once the major trade route between Tibet and India, especially for salt. Part of the river valley, the Thak Khola, is the deepest gorge in the world. Most of the population of Mustang live near the river, 2-3,000 m above sea level, but the tough conditions cause a large seasonal migration into lower regions of Nepal. The administrative centre of the district is at Jomosom (Dzong Sampa), population 5363 (1998), which has had an airport since 1962 and has become the main tourist centre since the area was opened to tourism in the 1970s.

Mustang was once an independent kingdom, although closely tied by language and culture to Tibet. The monarchy still survives as the Kingdom of Lo in northern (Upper) Mustang, capital Lo Manthang, where the Raja (or Gyelpo) traces his lineage back to 1450 and Ame Pal, the warrior who created the Buddhist kingdom.