(Clockwise from left): Cattle feed from the troughs in the sacrificial animal market set up on Northern Bypass; two goats stand out in the midst of a herd as they watch curiously into the camera; and standing firm on their ground, camels give each other a reassuring look.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
(Clockwise from left): Cattle feed from the troughs in the sacrificial animal market set up on Northern Bypass; two goats stand out in the midst of a herd as they watch curiously into the camera; and standing firm on their ground, camels give each other a reassuring look.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: The new main cattle market, the Cattle Mandi 2023, is located even farther ahead than the previous such markets at Al Asif Square and Sohrab Goth. It’s at Northern Bypass, which does not list under your regular commute. But driving there you know you are heading in the right direction when you see pickup trucks loaded with sacrificial animals of all shapes, sizes and species, other than poultry and fish, of course, returning from the opposite direction.

There are also empty trucks racing and overtaking you on your track.

Many of the pickup trucks have a makeshift wooden barrier made from fruit crate wood fixed at the back. If you think it is to better secure the animals in transit, its complete use becomes clear after you reach the cattle market and you realise that the barrier can be pulled down to double as a ramp for assisting the climbing of the animals.

The long drive to the outskirts of the city also raises the question of why would anyone want to come here when the city itself has so many cattle markets now? The answer to this becomes clear also after you reach the place. There is the biggest variety of sacrificial animals to suit all pockets here from goats worth Rs40,000 to a lac, from cattle worth Rs60,000 to 10 million.

This year, the market of sacrificial animals is set up on vast swathes offering huge variety

About the market’s moving so far away from the city this time, Zaki Abro of the Cattle Mandi’s media cell explained to Dawn that a cattle market of such a huge size, with six to seven lac animals available at all times, required much space.

“Earlier, it used to be set up at Al Asif Square until the area got populated. Then it moved a little ahead to Sohrab Goth until that place, too, got populated. You find so many housing societies coming up there now.

“People started complaining that the cattle market was becoming a nuisance as it disturbed them, caused traffic congestion, etc. So this time it was moved further ahead towards the Northern Bypass. Spread over 700 acres, with half of it in Gulshan-i-Maymar and half in Surjani Town,” he said.

“A positive aspect of the market’s moving to new destinations is that it is familiarising citizens to areas they have not ventured out to as yet. That’s how the city grows. Besides, no place is too far for us Karachiites. We also drive up to Hyderabad in the name of fun and adventure,” he smiled.

In the name of fun and adventure they were also happily paying for season tickets costing Rs6,000 per vehicle to enter the market in their car as many times as they wished.

That and the fuel they burn is not much when you compare it all to the price of the animals. But then there are others as well who prefer to park in the designated parking areas to get out and explore on foot.

The cattle market has some 13 blocks, including two VIP blocks, which have the farm-bred heavyweight (from 100kg to 160kg) and most expensive animals which may cost from Rs5000,000 (50 lac) to Rs10 million. Most animals have cute names such as Bholu, Sultan, Tiger, Laila, etc.

The other general blocks have more reasonably priced animals. Just so visitors don’t lose themselves in their search for the perfect animal, the blocks have been given names such as the ‘Sindh Block’, ‘KPK Block’, ‘Kashmir Block’, etc. There are separate blocks for cattle, camels, goats, lambs and sheep.

The cattle market, set up for about 40 days, is not just about sacrificial animals though. It is also about livelihoods. You see so many tea stalls, hotels, stalls selling animal feed, animal decoration items, water providers, technical persons, parking staff, all connected to the main business.

There are generators running 24 hours a day, there is clean water, some 20 litres per day for each animal are provided here free of cost to stall holders, who pay a certain fee for setting up the stalls.

With just a few days remaining before Eid, most of the animals making waves here such as the bullfighting star from Spain, the bull with three horns, the bull with ‘Allah’ inscribed on one side of its face, the dancing camel, the beautiful goat Laila, etc, have all been sold by now. Some enclosures also bear the sign ‘Sold out’. But there are plenty more being brought in besides the ones that have not been sold as yet.

The days of Eid, the last three days of the market, are said to be the busiest. It is also when the sellers drop their prices. Perhaps the seller complaining about not having sold a single cow or bull since he arrived here 10 days ago will also see sense then and come down from the Rs400,000 price he was quoting for each of his animals.

The last days are also when you see the butchers, taking the animals off the hands of their sellers, while also offering their own services to other last-minute buyers.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2023

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