Mar 10 - 16, 2008

LAHORE: The city of Lahore, which is also called the heart of Pakistan, is famous not only for its lively and kind hearted people but traditional Lahori food.

The first food street was inaugurated on October 20, 2000, in Gowalmandi. Presently, there are two food streets one at Gowalmandi and the other at Anarkali.

The evolution of Gowalmandi emerged from an area inhabited by milkmen supplying milk to the British and other foreigners during the British Raj. Eventually the milkmen and their cattle moved out but the settlement retained its original name and food lovers still flocked to Gowalmandi for fried fish and harissa.

The idea of Food Street came to Mr. Kamran Lashari, the then chairman of Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab and the project itself came as a joint venture between LDA and TDCP. Different designers and architects gave their proposals for the conceived idea of the renovation and modernization of Gowalmandi into a modern dining place serving both the tourists and the residents of Lahore. It was originally conceived as just like a food festival, a part of the fifteen hundred years of celebration of the city of Lahore. Mr. Irfan Ghani did most of the designing and lighting plus decorations. He planned Gowalmandi into Food Street while keeping the traditional and cultural scenario in his mind. The architectural elements of Lahore were embedded in the planning of Food Street while enhancing the hospitality of the rich Pakistani culture. At the beginning this food festival was a complete success, which was appreciated by a multitude of tourists from all over the world and the patrons of food from Lahore.

In Gowalmandi food street, there are nearly 40 shops on each side, out of which about 15 sell other stuff but the rest focus solely on gastronomic fare. It is frequented by 3,000-5,000 people everyday and no less than 10 thousand people at the weekends. Cuisine offered here grew from the little places known to a die-hard Lahorite. For instance, ice cream at Beadon Road and Yaseen's halwa puri fuel the Lahorite passion for a hearty breakfast. Gowalmandi's harissa, Maula ki mash ki daal, chikan chholey, chargha, batair, succulent barbeque meats and the Phajjay ke paye are the unforgettable treats.

Since Food Street lies in a congested part of the old Lahore, there was a major difficulty to solve the traffic problems of the visitors and the passers by and motorcyclists were provided with a parking stand on the north side of the street. The car drivers can park their cars on the south side at their own risk. The parking often stretches from the Nisbet Road Chowk to Luxami chowk at the mercy of car thieves.

The shopkeepers of the food shops keep on preparing for the lunchtime while all this traffic is passing at the day time. Since their cooking gadgets are right in front of their shops, the smoke and the pollution of the traffic create hygienic problems.

When the activities of the food street are at its peak, the residents of Gowalmandi are living in complete misery. They have to go through this rush and nuisance all evening. They cannot sleep peacefully in this noise; if someone is studying he cannot study. The sick has to bear this nuisance in addition to the illness. They cannot even take a breath of fresh air as all the openings are blocked by chiks. If they remove the chiks, the spotlights intrude their privacy, a resident Nisar Butt said.

At the start of this food street, the rules were even harsher. It was first decided to allow families only into the street. This created a big number of problems. Residents of this street could not even get to their homes starting at the evening time till 3 in the morning.

The food streets in Lahore are source of livelihood for a large number of families. Gowalmandi and Anarkali food streets are major tourist attractions.

The authorities are considering to open more food streets at different points in the city but at such places where traffic is not the problem.