Known as the valley of Rubies, Mogok is located 200 kilometers north of Mandalay, nestled in a valley between a numbers of large mountains where, due to its altitude (1170 meters), a cool temperate climate can found all year round. The area that is said to be home to 90% of the world’s high-grade rubies. Located in Mandalay Division and bordering Shan State, the Mogok area hosts a diverse ethnic population, including Bamar, Shan, Lisu, Palaung, and Karen ethnic groups, as well as Chinese, Indians and Gurkhas (descendants of a Nepalese group).
The mythical city of Mogok has excited many imaginations since French writer and traveler Joseph Kessel’s adventure novel Mogok, the Valley of Rubies was first published in 1955. It hit the headlines in May when the 25.59 carat ko-thwe (pigeon-blood) Sunrise ruby found in the area was sold for a world-record US$30.33 million at auction in Geneva, proving – if evidence were needed – that the market for precious stones is still booming.
The narrow twisting road that leads to the city snakes through densely forested hills and up into the clouds. Mogok’s scenic valley is surrounded by golden pagoda spires sat atop lush green peaks. The mist around the valley lends an air of mystery which is immediately striking to visitors. Jesuit missionary Giuseppe di Amato, the first European to live in the area from 1784 until he died, wrote, “It is surrounded by nine mountains. The soil is uneven and full of marshes, which form seventeen small lakes…It is this soil which is so rich in mineral treasures.”