Akhtar Bakery, bed knobs, bread, broomsticks, dhoklas, fresh butter, homeware, jalebis, Karachi, malai khaja, mayonnaise, mazaar, mehendi cones, Meher Masala, old-fashioned shopping experience, pakoras, pao, plastic buckets, Raj, samosas, Shagufta Naaz, shoes, shrine, Soldier Bazaar, tea leaves shop, used clothes
Soldier Bazaar, once patronised by the wives of British soldiers during the Raj, may have lost its lustre in the face of all the glitzy malls sprouting up throughout Karachi, but the Bazaar and its surrounding areas still have a great deal to offer those looking for an old-fashioned shopping experience.
Mazaar-bazaar… The front of the Bazaar is an exuberant display of colour with handcarts laden with used clothes, shoes and assorted home-ware, all sheltered under the generous shade of century-old trees. An enterprising vendor even uses these trees to string up a clothesline and display his wares. The interior of the covered Bazaar is dim but once your eyes get used it, you can shop for anything from fresh meat and groceries to mehendi cones, plastic buckets, bed knobs, broomsticks and much, much more. The rear exit opens at the gates of a small shrine – complete with a green dome and flags – and an old woman tends a pottery shop around the corner, adding another quaint element to these slightly bizarre but charming environs.
Sugar, spice and samosas… If you belong to the dying breed who eschews packet spices, Meher Masala, next to the main market, is your kind of place. With huge bins of freshly ground red chillies and bright yellow turmeric, tubs of whole peppercorn and cinnamon sticks and even some neon pink paan masala, the shop is a feast for the senses. Serious foodies need to cross the main road and explore the bustling back lanes where they will find everything from the decadently rich malai khaja to the feather-light, savoury dhokla. Mounds of pakoras of every size and type, glistening jalebis, piping hot from the karahi, and what may be the crispiest mince samosas in town are some other treats in store.
It’s personal… The main footpath near the Bazaar is home to Akhtar Bakery that offers crispy bread (pao in local parlance) fresh from the oven. The dairy next door still churns fresh butter and makes mayonnaise by the kilo. Around the corner the tea leaves shop will sell you its own blend or mix one according to your taste.
In a nutshell… In the age of packaged convenience, Soldier Bazaar harks back to a simpler, friendlier age. This is why long-time residents wouldn’t dream of moving away and why those who have, make a trip back every so often to stock up on samosa pattees and crispy pao. n
– Shagufta Naaz
First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 15, 2013.