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When the city goes to sleep, Kartarpura awakes

January 04, 2013

The Kartarpura area of Rawalpindi lights up at night. – File photo by APP
The Kartarpura area of Rawalpindi lights up at night. – File photo by APP

RAWALPINDI, Jan 3: Old Kartarpura, a food market in downtown Rawalpindi is perhaps the only place where life comes to full-swing, when people in the rest of the city, including Islamabad, go to sleep.

It is a food street that dates back to pre-partition and is considered by many residents as the best place for a hot dinner on a cold winter night.

Residents in the vicinity of Kartarpura have a famous phrase for the food market, literally translated “it is cold, lets go to Kartarpura.”

Kartarpura has been a food market offering traditional food in Rawalpindi, since 1946, offering traditional nihari and tikka.

While Kartarpura is famous for all kinds of meat dishes but beef nihari and mutton tikka are its mainstay. Plus red Kashmiri tea is the ideal after-dinner-drink that visitors enjoy.

Located at a five minutes drive from Asghar Mall intersection, on Benazir Bhutto Road, the only drawback being that the streets are narrow and finding parking space is always a hassle.

But that does not deter visitors as after 10pm in the evening, one can hardly find a place to sit, in any of the restaurants that line the street.

Compared to Rawalpindi Food Street on Stadium Road and Melody Food Market in Islamabad, where waiters offer table to visitors, in Kartarpura it’s like musical chairs: visitors have to just sit on the first available chair. Restaurants are always packed.

“Kudos to the chefs as they are familiar with the taste buds of their clients. Other markets offer good chairs, tables and plates but in Kartarpura, its all about the food,” Aurangzeb Khan, a frequent visitor to the food market opined.

Nazir Mughal, for whom serving beef nihari is a family business — his family has been serving nihari since 1947 — struggles everyday to offer the same taste to his third generation clients.

“Everyday we make beef and chicken nihari twice, due to the demand. We parcel it to people living in Islamabad and cantonment area, besides serving it to customers in the market,” Mr Mughal said proudly.

He said that demand for nihari peaks during December and January, when its cold, adding that approximately 1,000 plates of nihari is the average sale. “Our regular customers are just addicted to its taste,” he claimed.

Similarly, Iqbal Tikka House has been serving chicken and mutton tikka, since 1949 and is a regular pit-stop for visitors to the food street.

“During partition time, there were only two hotels in Kartarpura offering food and green tea. Now the street is full of eateries,” Naik Mohammad, manager at the restaurant told Dawn.