Shah Alami

by - July 29, 2015

Since having  graduated, I have had perhaps ten friends from overseas visit me or come to do research in my native Lahore. Of course, I took them to the usual places to indulge in the food and culture, but it took me a while to show them old and even perhaps the not-so-nice parts of Lahore. There was an element of fear since I was putting them in some peril (or myself!). But then, as we all say in Pakistan, "sab ki likhi hui hai" and eventually I decided to take them to some of the older and slightly dilapidated parts of Lahore, beyond the historical places to the business centers, bazaars and awami (for the locals) places.

 I decided to take them to Shah Alami, since one of them wanted to buy something. When it comes to Shah Alami, I take my mother, the Queen of Shah Alami (a title rightfully bestowed by my cousins).My mom is very good at bargains. Maybe all South Asians are. But she is relentless. When she had to buy bulk items, mostly for her business, she would take me to Shah Alami market, which was a city in itself. Shah Alami Market is one of the oldest markets in Lahore. When Lahore was simply old Lahore, it used to be the vehicular approach into the walled city. It was again rebuilt and developed under the 'Punjab Development of Damaged Areas Act, 1952' by the Lahore Improvement Trust to compensate for the loss of building stock due to Partition Riots.

Within the market are NUMEROUS sub-markets. An analogy would be the Grand Bazaar, expect Shah Alami is a hundred times larger, uglier and cheaper. But hey, that is real Pakistan. It also has some shady items you can buy, so do not buy any medicines, tonics, herbs or food items. It is however, excellent for costumes, antiques, second hand Disney and Apple products, Chinese smuggled good, sketchy tonics, historical remnants that might be worth a fortune but are being sold at almost-free prices.

Within Shah Alami, you will come upon a place called 'Suha Bazaar' which means 'gold market'. It is almost like a gold consignment market where you can get second-hand gold. Around the gold market is Kasaira Bazaar where pots, pans and utensils are sold. This was always an exciting place for me for some odd reason because I would love looking at the display of brass utensils. You will also come across some craftsmen working away on pieces of metal.

Anyways, they also have an excellent music store where they sell local drums and dhols and sitars. Some are antique-ish and ridiculously inexpensive (a sitar for $10).

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