Big-eye Bohri, Bohra community, Bohri Bazaar, chaat, Christmas decorations, Cooperative Market, Dupatta Gali, dupattas, Empress Market, Independence, Karachi, Liberty Uniform, Lightning Studio, Marylou Andrew, Murshid Bazaar, Nimco, Saddar
Those who have spent a significant part of their lives in Karachi will probably have at least one fond memory of Bohri Bazaar, whether it was going to Lightning Studio for a family portrait, trotting up the narrow stairway to Liberty Uniform to buy school uniforms, or stopping at Nimco for samosas and pakoras.
The halcyon years… Situated in the heart of Saddar, bordered by Empress Market, Murshid Bazaar and Cooperative Market, Bohri Bazaar was established before Independence. The Bazaar owes much of its development to the Bohra community, many of whom still own shops there and hence the name stuck. Before the advent of malls, Bohri Bazaar was ‘the’ place to shop, whether you were looking for clothes, jewellery or household wares. Although it has experienced its share of tragedy (a fire in the 1950s and a bomb blast in the 1980s) and some of the old shops have permanently shut down, it still remains one of the busiest markets in Karachi.
From dupattas to Christmas decorations… New visitors to Bohri Bazaar are often struck by the sheer diversity of goods on offer. Walk from end to end through one of the main lanes and not only will you be able to get your dupatta dyed at the famous Dupatta Gali, you can also buy any number of items ranging from glass bangles, plastic toys, lawn suits, peanut and walnut brittle, to undergarments, cosmetics, and Christmas trees, fairy lights and ornaments. This lane was once home to the ‘Big-Eye Bohri’, a very loquacious shopkeeper who could have easily taught modern sales people a thing or two about customer service. Although Big-Eye has passed away, his cosmetics shop remains.
Nimco and chaat… No trip to Bohri Bazaar is complete without stopping by Nimco – this is the original Nimco founded in the 1950s, which still states “we have no branch” even though me-too businesses have sprung up all over Pakistan. And where there’s Nimco, there must always be chaat, and Bohri Bazaar has three of the best chaat shops in town.
Keeping up with the times… Household wares have always been a Bohri Bazaar speciality and an entire lane in the market is dedicated to everything from plastic jugs, stainless steel pots and pans, fine china dinner sets to cane baskets and artificial flowers. In an effort to keep up with the times, there has been a massive influx of bakeware to cater to an increasing number of home bakers.
In a nutshell… Clearly Bohri Bazaar is not planning to be outdone by upstart malls and shopping centres.
– Marylou Andrew
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First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 16, 2012.