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Scenic views around Kashmiri Bazaar (Photos: B Khan)

The number of small bazaars scattered throughout the country is astronomical. Some of them are so small that, if you blink your eyes, you are liable to drive past them without even noticing their existence. But to local people they are a major focal point and visiting them is an absolute must.

Scenic vistas and more… Take Kashmiri Bazaar on the N75 between Murree and Bhurban for example. The short rows of tatterdemalion stores lining the narrow road might not look very inviting but it is there that local inhabitants flock to purchase items of daily use and a few luxuries too. The scenic area around Kashmiri Bazaar has seen many apartment complexes, some of them distinctly luxurious, come up in recent years. With panoramic views, they are in high demand.

Fresh produce… The two butchers’ shops do a decent trade although this fluctuates widely depending on the time of year. The handful of fruit and vegetable shops generally have a variety of seasonal produce, although in trying to keep prices down, quality is not always very good as Salman, one such shopkeeper, explains.
“If we get good quality items people cannot afford to buy them so there is no point. Some people cannot even afford what we do offer which is why we keep a couple of baskets of damaged fruit and vegetables too as we can sell these at absolute rock bottom prices. It is sad that we have to resort to this but people need to eat.”

The apartments feature comfortable interiors (Photos: B Khan)

Of bakers, blacksmiths, bankers and barbers… The bakery is surprisingly busy as are the few stores selling basic household items, second hand shoes and clothing, fresh milk and yoghurt. The village blacksmith (who also stocks building materials, paint, buckets and tools) does roaring trade as does the gas cylinder store which doubles as a repair shop for appliances such as washing machines and radios. The bank sees a steady flow of customers as does the barber shop further along the single street.

Traditional food and feel… By far the busiest little stretch is the row of dilapidated buildings housing two dry goods stores, a wonderfully welcoming restaurant which serves up the very best desi food in the area, and hidden away behind these, the local patwari’s (accountant) office in which land maps are still recorded on immense pieces of cotton cloth.

In a nutshell… It is in bazaars such as this that the real business of life and living in Pakistan is conducted.

– B Khan
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First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on November 11, 2012