By Mohammed Shafeeq
Traffic jams are a common sight in parts of Hyderabad, especially in the Old City, during peak hours every single day. But during the holy month Ramazan, the city witnesses traffic snarls throughout the night.
It is chock-a-block well past midnight at the famous markets around the historic Charminar and other commercial centres like Mallepally, Mehdipatnam and Toli Chowki.
With the fasting month entering the last phase, Eid shopping has reached a crescendo in Hyderabad.
The Old City, with its rich Islamic history and cultural heritage, never sleeps during Ramazan. Men, burka-clad women and children try to grab whatever they can for Eid, which marks the culmination of the holy month.
Crowded and dazzling markets, illuminated shops, qawwalis blaring from hotels and eateries, the aroma of 'Haleem', shouts of hawkers selling everything from safety pin to clothes to 'atar' (perfumes), the area around Charminar presents an extraordinary spectacle.
As one crosses the Musi river to enter the Old City, the stretch from Madina Building to Charminar and the adjoining markets are packed with shoppers who come not only from the city and Telangana but also nearby states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The month-long festivities of Ramazan reach the peak during last 'ashra' (10 days). If the business in the first 20 days is dominated by dates, fruits, dry fruits, food items, groceries, skull cap, 'atar' and surma, the last days witness splurging sprees among families buying clothes, footwear, bangles, jewellery, mehndi, crockery and household items.
Traders of dry fruits do brisk business while 'sewian' (homemade vermicelli) is in huge demand.
A worker dries vermicelli at a factory in Allahabad
While the Charminar area has been the epicentre of Eid shopping for decades, the activity has spread to other parts of the city in recent years. Nampally, Mallepally, Asif Nagar and the stretch from Mehdipatnam to Toli Chowki too see shopping till 'sehri' (pre-dawn meal before fast begins).
Many shoppers prefer to end their shopping with 'shar' at hotels, serving Haleem, biryani, kebabs and other dishes.
With Muslims accounting for about 30 percent of the city's estimated nine million population, every commodity associated with the festivities opens up huge business opportunities.
Jama Masjid, New Delhi
The volume of business, mostly in the unorganised sector, is beyond anybody's guess. Thousands of hawkers occupy the pavements setting up makeshift shops. The authorities too look the other way.
"There is no other festivity which goes on non-stop for the whole month and in no other Indian city can you find such kind of celebration," said Ritesh Sharma, General Manager at Taj Falaknuma Palace.
Devotees at the historic Makkah Masjid in Hyderabad
While the city has witnessed changes in the way people shop, with the onset of shopping malls and big stores, for many Eid shopping is incomplete without a visit to Madina, Patthergatti, Patel Market, Laad Bazar and other traditional markets around Charminar.
"You get everything with a wide range to choose from. It's also light on the pocket," said Irfan Ahmed, a retired government employee.
The city comes also alive because of spiritual activity in the last days of the holy month. The devout throng mosques to offer special prayers which continue till 3 a.m.