web analytics

“The Empress of Its Kind”

What now stands as a dusty, dilapidated and worn out rusty old building, was once the British Raj era’s most glorious of buildings and was named to commemorate Queen Victoria, Empress of India. The Empress Market, constructed in a Mughal-Gothic structure was established somewhere in 1884-1889. The foundation stone being lay down by the-then Governor of Bombay, James Ferguson.
The Empress Market was one of the seven markets in Karachi when it was constructed, the grounds it was established on has a historical significance of its own, prior to its construction it used to be the place where a number of native  Sepoy were brutally executed after The Indian Rising (1857).
The Empress Market used to be one of the most beautiful, well maintained and spacious of sites since the arrangement of the building was around a courtyard that was 130 ft by 100 ft, with four galleries each 46 ft wide. The galleries that housed up to 280 shops at that time have now expanded to up to 400 shops.
Situated in the heart of Saddar, Empress Market is easily recognized by the looming clock tower that can be viewed from a long distance.

Shopkeepers who work here, have been loyal to this place since generations, there is something about the Market that doesn’t allow these shopkeepers to move out anywhere else, “My great grandfather used to own this shop, and someday my son will, I can’t leave this pace, this is home to me.” says Rashid, a spice merchandiser who sells the little mountains of cumin and red chilli powder at his shop.

Initially when the market was constructed, any encroachment along the walkways was strictly forbidden, ensuring that Empress Market remained organized and clean, but now with the population boom, it has become one of the most congested places of Karachi, with street vendors, dry fruit stalls, and fruit/vegetable walas are seen carrying on about with their trade.

It is no wonder Empress Market is perhaps one of the most sought after markets of Karachi where commodities sold here range from fruits, vegetables, dry fruits, condiments and meat to stationary material, pet shops and textiles. Fruits and vegetables available here are one of the freshest produce of the country and are sold at the most nominal prices as compared to the rest of the markets in Karachi, other various difficult to find items such as mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, fennel or avocados are easily available at reasonable prices too, “I come here almost every week, I go nowhere else, this is like heaven for me, whatever vegetable/fruit I want, they have it!” says a very excited customer, Rubina. A lot of restaurateurs, culinary experts and food enthusiast are seen here purchasing the freshest of lemons, mint, tomatoes and other supplies, strolling around, famous cooking expert Ms Shireen Anwar was seen purchasing ready-made puff pastry and lemons.

Another most attractive feature of this Market is that it now houses its own meat and butchering area, where almost everything is offered, from cow feet to liver, to tongues, eyes, brain every item is available at whole sate rates, when asked regarding the recent price hike in the country, Amjad, a butcher who works there, replied, “Yaha say gosht Afghanistan smuggle hota hai, isliay itna mehnga milta hai!” which kind of does make sense as most of the merchandise available at Empress Market does gets smuggled to Afghanistan and surrounding countries.

A lot of foreign tourists are usually seen huddled around an exotic tea selling shop, where a variety of teas from Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey and Kenya can be found here at Empress Market, with prices according to the taste and quality.
Another most attractive feature of the market is the availability of the most exotic pets, from a wide range of variety of cat breeds, dog breeds, exotic birds, poultry and even reptiles, Empress Market has it all, the prices range from over a mere 2k to 2 lac considering the specie that is being sold.

Though Empress Market isn’t what it used to be, the place still holds magic, when strolling around the various shops, one feels as if they are in the spice market of Istanbul or the Crawford Market of Mumbai, there is still some royalty left in it, a strange sense of grace and power, as if the building speaks with you once you enter into its belly, the air of Empress Market communicates and tells thousands of unspoken tales, tales of the gazillion characters that walk through it every single day.

From royalty to ruins…the journey of the place is long and spectacular and there is no debate in the fact that Empress Market will rightfully remain the Empress of its kind.

Facebook Comments