By Arif Noor
In the heart of the old city of old Gwadar lies a street lined with decaying buildings, eroded walls and locked doors. This is the historic Shahi Bazar of Gwadar that was once the most visited place in the area. It had shops that sold imported goods. Shahi Bazar remained the centre of trade and fashion for a long time before losing its splendour. Now the ruins tell the story of its glorious past and culture.
As times changed, it lost its hustle and bustle and now it’s completely uninhibited and deserted.
A reputed local scholar, Hassan Ali Sohail told Pak Voices about its past. “Most of the shops in Shahi Bazar belonged to Hindu and Ismaili tradesmen. They sold everything from groceries to imported items. This used to be the only marketplace in the area.”
The buildings in the bazaar have unique design and style. According to Mr. Sohail, “The two-story buildings housed both shops and families of the traders. The lower story would be the shops and the upper story was reserved for a family residence.”
He lamented, “We can see artistic carvings on wooden pillars in front of shops. But these pieces of art are fast decaying for lack of care.”
Explaining further Sohail said, “Goods were imported from Iran, Sri Lanka and India by big ships. Shahi Bazar used to be the main exchange point of these goods. Of course, there were no customs duties and taxes.”
According to the locals, the youth of city used to gather in Qehwa Khanas (tea houses) in the Bazaar where they would listen to music on a gramophone, gossip and narrate stories.
The old guys would gather on in front of shops where they would enjoy meeting each other and discuss various issues.
As there was no concept of banks in the city, the fishermen would give their savings to the shopkeepers in the bazaar and in times of need they would get it back from the shopkeepers.
“When Pakistan came into being, the Hindu traders migrated to India abandoning their properties and businesses,” recalls Mr. Sohail. That triggered a process of decay in the bazaar, which over the passage of time has led to complete desertion.
Arif Noor is working with PakVoices as a citizen journalist from Gwadar.
All photos by the writer