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January 23, 2020

Edgware Road: Second home for Pakistan's rich and elite


Thu, Jan 23, 2020

LONDON: The global elite's prime choice has been London as the city has much to offer. But of course not all places are created equally even in this global centre of power.

Packed between Marble Arch on one side and Hyde Park in the front, Edgware Road, known as Little Arabia and more recently as Little Pakistan, holds a deep significance for the Pakistani diaspora as well as visitors from Pakistan to London.

Politicians, retired generals, businessmen, bureaucrats and anyone who has a claim to wealth can often be seen straddling about the quiet road, enjoying exquisite Lebanese food or smoking Sheesha outside one of dozens of cafes. Edgware Road has something to offer for everybody, regardless of their taste.

For Lebanese-style shawarma in London, you cannot go wrong with the dozens of kebab shops and restaurants that have existed for decades and are open all night for the 'night owls' of West London. If Persian cuisine is what tickles your fancy then a small family-owned restaurant with excellent Iranian music is the place for you. In fact, there are at least five such establishments only on just one road. If you're willing to go to a more formal Iranian restaurant then there are two other restaurants - a must-visit for every Persian food lover.

A delightful venue for a quick lunch or a memorable evening, the famous Maroush places boast traditional Lebanese food. The vibe is so original that you almost feel the warm air of Beirut passing you by as the aroma of the succulent dishes mesmerises the air.

It was also in the news lately for famously hosting two meetings of senior PML-N members, who enjoyed a wonderful meal there.

Then there is a whisky bar, which serves sheesha and also has excellent Desi food (wink: biryani). It is claimed that this trendy spot is co-owned by an eccentric federal minister, who owns several properties in London.

Two Marrakesh restaurants with sheesha bars and Morrocan vibe offer authentic Morocan food as loud music is played and even live dancing is offered on certain weekend nights. There are countless sheesha cafes across the road with outdoor seating options to enjoy the cold London nights.

Unlike most Pakistanis, the rich and famous can not only afford to delve in the opulence of these delightful places but also choose to live on this thoroughfare where Knight Frank, an estate agency, is marketing a five- bedroom penthouse for sale in Water Gardens with a guide price of almost £5 million or 1 billion rupees — pittance for those with deep Pakistani pockets.

Just the minimum price for a two-bedroom flat in this prestigious street can cost upwards of £1 million, which is more than the value of a huge mansion in the poshest of DHA or Bahria Town neighbourhoods.

Former army chief Pervez Musharraf owns a luxury flat there. Former interior minister Rehman Malik also owns a property on Edgware Road and often hosted the late Benazir Bhutto during her exile in London. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's cousin Tariq Shafi also has a three-bedroom flat there, while the PML-N leader's sons live just five minutes away.

Some of Imran Khan’s closest advisors, too, have their businesses and houses at a walking distance. Dozens of businessmen from Karachi and Lahore have their apartments on the side streets of Edgware Road. Faisal Vawda’s house is only about three minutes from the main road, while one of Aleem Khan’s several London properties is at a mere 40 seconds walk from Edgware Road.

Oh and Shehbaz Sharif has owned a place here for more than a decade.

It seems as if owning a flat in London and on Edgware Road, in particular, has become a status symbol for those Pakistanis that boast of spending their summers in London.

Quadrangle, Sussex Gardens and Norfolk Crescent have been the primary investment choices for Pakistanis with cash to splash. Even as the pound sours to the sky, members of the elite continue to invest in and spend time in London — a welcoming and far more forgiving home away from home.

You just need to walk on Edgware Road for about 20 minutes and it’s certain that you will find Pakistanis going about on the streets. The place picks up especially during summer when hundreds of rich Arabs and Pakistani make their way to London for holidays. It's around this time that Edgware Road does its best impression of Little Pakistan.

So the next time you are in London, don’t forget to visit Edgware Road, for the high chance of bumping into a cabinet member or an opposition firebrand casually smoking Sheesha or even enjoying the odd drink or two.