The city came alive as its bazaars lit up and Eid shopping picked up despite inflation and security apprehensions
he bazaars of the city picked up momentum mid-Ramazan as residents thronged to the marketplaces to finalise preparations for Eid-ul Fitr, a religious feast celebrated by Muslims around the world.
Reports of a countrywide inflation-induced lull in Eid shopping had surfaced during the first half of Ramazan, the holy month of fasting. But in the provincial capital, economic activity saw a comeback during the later half.
Markets, especially those based in the Walled City, saw a decent pre-Eid footfall. The streets and shops were abuzz round the clock. Shopping districts, in some parts of the city remained open overnight.
In the last few days of Ramazan, Peshawarites rushed to the city bazaars including Karimpura Bazaar, Qissakhwani Bazaar, Gang Bazaar, Shadipeer, Lahori Gate and Kochi Bazaar, after iftar to make final arrangements for the occasion.
sThe atmosphere of the city also changed. It came alive as the markets lit up and women and children shopped for Eid. Even amidst fear and tension, the festive mood was palpable. Colourful henna patterns and bangles stalls were set up in all markets of the city.
“Peshawar has seen a population boom because of rural-urban migration. Living in the city has become even more challenging over the last few years. The worsening security situation and pollution have added to our problems,” said Shazia Ahsan, a housewife who was on a shopping trip.
“But Eid is special and we (the citizens) try to make the most of it and celebrate it enthusiastically,” continued Ahsan. “That’s why the bazaars are choked with shoppers,” she said.
Deans Trade Centre, Gora Bazaar, Meena Bazaar, Shaheen Bazaar, CT Tower Shopping Mall, Hashtnagri and Firdaus Mall as well as the localities around Hayatabad remained crowded.
Shop and stall owners plied the buyers with merchandise, Eid offers and discounts. Bangles, cosmetics, embroidered clothes, jewellery sets, handbags and shoes were just some of the items that remained in demand.
Marukh Gulzar, a university student, said that Eid always brought joy to young people who celebrate it by participating in various activities at home and outside.
According to old inhabitants of the city, Peshawar has become more dynamic and diverse over the years. The zeal with which Eid is celebrated has grown too.
“There was once a time this city would be deserted during Eid holidays...,” recalled Ahmad Saleem, a 62-year-old.
According to Saleem, the city has gone through a major demographic shift in recent years, “...back then, most working-class people used to go back to their villages for Eid, leaving behind a city with desolated streets.”
“All of that changed when the Afghan refugees came. The working class people too began settling in the city and celebrating their Eids here,” said Saleem. He said this development had lent the city a more festive outlook on the occasion.
“It made the city akin to a cacophony of sounds from households made up of people from different ethnicities, each with its own tastes and preferences,” remarked Saleem. “This unique demographic composition is what makes Eid special in Peshawar,” the old man said.
The Meena Bazaar is considered one of the oldest shopping hubs of the city. It is a women-only bazaar because local authorities ban the entry of male shoppers to offer a comfortable shopping experience to women and children.
This year, for Eid, the bazaar was adorned with swathes of cloth, garments, bangles, mehndi, sandals and items for children. The police guarded the area at the entry and exit points to ensure the safety of women and girls.
Shafi Market, Jinnah Street, Fowara Chowk and other commercial areas dotting Saddar Road also remained busy till sehri. Buyers also went to University Road to purchase dresses, shawls, sandals and jewellery for themselves and their loved ones.
While discussing the joy Eid brings to the citizens, Prof Nasir Ali Syed, a noted writer and critic, said that Peshawarites had remained hospitable, generous and peaceful despite the drastic changes that had occurred in the past decades, including the resurgence of militancy.
“The streets may be narrow and the neighbourhoods small but the inhabitants of the city have big hearts,” commented Syed. “This shows on occasions like Eid which are celebrated with great fervour,” he added.
“I have grown up in Peshawar and witnessed the city’s transformation firsthand,” Syed told The News on Sunday. “One thing that has not changed about the city is the resilience of its people,” he continued.
On the Eid day, many people go visiting graveyards to pay their respects to their deceased relatives. Eid greetings and sweets are shared at family gatherings.
Customarily, the day after Eid is reserved for friends and acquaintances. On the third day, families and young people often plan recreational trips and visit various parts of the city. Some of the citizens also travel to Muree, Galyiat, Swat and Dir.
Traditionally, guests are served vermicelli and other special dishes, desserts and dry fruits. People put great effort into throwing feasts and entertaining their families and relatives.
A number of young people head to the city’s cinema houses to enjoy movies. Peshawarites never miss the opportunity to include minorities in the Eid festivities.
Members of civil society and interfaith organisations often become active and ensure that the minority groups residing in the city are also included in the celebrations.
The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist. He mostly writes on art, culture, education, youth and minorities. He tweets @Shinwar-9