The ‘Empress’ of all markets

Write up and Photos by Hamna Iqbal Baig

In the heart of Saddar, a Victorian era building catches your attention. The regal exterior of this 19th century building, the Gothic styled windows and green steel gates distinguishes this bustling marketplace from others. This marketplace is a one stop shop for hundreds of customers who visit it to get everything they need from one place for running their household.

After parking the car, as one glances around, he is welcomed by a plethora of vendors shouting at the top of their lungs to sell their items ’10 10 rupya 10 10 rupya’ (10 10 Rs 10 10 Rs) , one of the most commonly heard chants coming from a vendor on the right who sells all miscellaneous items for Rs.10 each.

hamna infographic

As one makes their way into the market, they witness bright colored tents providing a shade to the vendors but sunlight pierces even through these tents.

Broken clock on the tower of Empress market
Hustle bustle at Empress market.

A small gate leads to the slaughter house. Lights hanging from a steel rod and casting its shadow on the meat being butchered. This slaughter house looks no less than a war zone with blood splattered all around. All one can hear are sounds of ‘Kut kut kut’ and see men carrying heavy meat on their shoulders to weigh it.

Customers buying meat from slaughter house.

This market is the ‘Empress’ of all markets because it exhibits commodities ranging from fruits, vegetables, chicken, meat, utensils, shoes and pets. This is not only convenient for customers who come to the market from different parts of Karachi but the affordable prices of these items ensures that a happy customer leaves the market.

Fresh and colorful vegetables being sold.
A woman buying food items from a shop.

It is interesting to see the way these items are exhibited – variety of red chilli’s, colorful pastas in sacks, fresh vegetables and fruits in baskets, poppadom packets hanging, mugs displayed on shelves as if they are inviting the customer to buy them.

Poppadom packets on display at a shop.
Different types of pulses being sold.

One can see many helpers roaming around Empress market who offer to carry your ‘samaan’ if you pay them some bucks. One has to be careful while strolling through the market as workers carrying heavy items on their shoulders in the scorching heat are in a rush.

A helper waiting for customers to offer his service.
A vendor carrying heavy boxes on his shoulders.

Nevermind the hustle, nevermind the broken clock or the rusted metal or the reek or rotten meat. The place with all its colonial history has survived the desi touch and is here to stay. And for customers, empress market will never lose its charm.


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