City Guide – Thank God It’s Ramzan
Festive guide to Muslim Delhi.
[Pictures and text by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Trnnnnnnnnn. The siren is booming from Matia Mahal to Ballimaran to Jamia Nagar. It’s sunset, time to break the roza. Good evening Delhi. Good morning Jama Masjid. As the day is preparing to sleep, some parts of the Capital are waking up. That’s Ramzan.
In a city with no shopping destinations open through the night (CP closes by 9 pm, Khan Market by 8 pm, Pacific Mall turns off the lights at 11 pm), Ramzan’s special bazaars are like PWD puddles on an otherwise smooth, dry highway. The Delhi Walla presents a guide to Delhi’s month-long special nightlife that boasts no malls, no nightclub, and no fine dining, yet so much fun.
Matia Mahal Market, Jama Masjid
In the night, no control. Forget the waistline and gorge on mithais and snacks. Kalan Sweets, opposite Jama Masjid’s Gate No. 1, is a mithaivore’s delight. Everything is cooked in desi ghee. Paneer ki jalebi is out of this world. Besides, there are there different kinds of samosas: aalo-samosas (for samosa conservatives) and qeema and khoya samoas for others. The guy at the counter promised that the mithai shop would be open 24/7 during Ramzan. So, come whenever you like – 2 am or 2 pm.
For size zero aspirants, there are stalls selling pineapple chaat. Try the special iftari that has patta bowls of papaya, apple and banana slices along with pieces of khajoor. Chicken lovers needn’t go beyond Al Sahi Chicken Corner, a short walk from the Kalan. Juicy murgas, poked through iron rods, are roasted right in front of you. “Around 100 chickens go off daily during Ramzan nights,” says the guy behind the counter. For veggies, there are pyaz/aloo/gobhi pakoris on offer.
Er, want to pack sewai for momma back home to cook in milk? There’s a stall next to Al-Jawahar. The roasted variety, called sewai, is for Rs 30 but the fried, called pheni, is Rs 70 per kg. Make up your mind, quick.
Matia Mahal is also about pajamas, jeans, jootis, bed sheets and even jewellery. Shops like Amaan Garments and Fashion Zone stock cargo trousers, T-shirts, track pants, and kidswear. Prices range from Rs 150 to Rs 500. Bargain recommended. Though these shops, too, remain open quite late into the night, I suggest that if you want to buy clothes, come when the night is still young. I’m told that these are still early days of Ramzan, and nightlong shopping would take place only after a week or so.
Another place to hang around in the Jama Masjid area is Shahi Galli, a tiny lane that faces the Red Fort. Go there after a week when the mood is in full swing.
Do you love burra meat (buffalo meat)? Try Lalu Kababi’s bhais ka tikka, in Urdu Bazaar. Lalu claims to sell 2,000 kebabs each night during Ramzan. He is open till 4 am.
If street fare is not your style, there’s always Karim’s – at your service from 5 pm to 5 am!
Ballimaran, Near Chawri Bazar Metro Station
China is everywhere, including in Mirza Ghalib’s Ballimaran, recently re-immortalised by Aishwarya Rai’s Kajra re Bollywood number. Quite a few ‘chowmeen’ stalls here! However, I suggest you head straight for Phatak Hakim Mehmood Khan. Just opposite it is the paan stall of Yamin. His Rs 5 meetha paan finally made me forget the meethi memories of Lucknow’s Hazratganj ka paan. During Ramzan, his stall remains open till 2 am.
Once you have chewed the paan and swallowed the juice, walk straight and then turn left to Galli Saudagaran. It’s a lane that has shoe stores, and shoe stores alone. The shoes come from Karol Bagh, Anand Parbat, Seelampur as well as from the leather workshops of Agra. The ‘ladies’ sandals’ will make cute gifts for your girlfriend with their white lace, fake gems, purple colour and Mickey Mouse imprints.
Warning: Galli Saudagaran will remain open till morning only during the last week of Ramzan.
Jamia Nagar, Okhla
Those who live in South Delhi may not have to go all the way to purani Dilli. Just cross New Friends Colony and you’ll find yourself in Jamia Nagar. Fussy ladies will find much to content themselves with at the garment stores at Batla House: cotton salwar suits, chikan work from Lucknow and kurtas with intricate gota work. A store called Fashion Gallery at Jogabai sells ‘designer kurtas’ ranging from Rs 300 to Rs 1,000.
Once done with shopping, try the famous chawal ki kheer of Pehelwan Bhai, on the main road of Zakir Nagar, next to the local Jama Masjid. Don’t skip Unique Bakery, which has meethi double roti and bun specially made for the Ramzan season. If it’s almost sehri time (the last meal before daybreak, if you are keeping roza), take a detour to the nearby Friends restaurant to end the ‘day’ with their delectable nahiri.
Iftar time approaching
A tale of three samosas
Grab ‘n’ run
With extra onions, please
Is she tempted?
Burra meat for me!
Can you say ‘No’?
Are you diabetic?
Forget not the prayers
Also, forget not the sewai