KABABISH Market – Gateway to Aziziyah Jeddah
San Francisco has a world-famous Chinatown, London has a world-famous Southall (India/Pakistan town) …and Jeddah has Aziziyah. The largest concentration of Indians and Pakistanis in the entire Kingdom, this neighborhood has its origins in two schools which relocated to the area in the mid-1980’s…
The Pakistan International School Jeddah and the International Indian School together have a student body approaching 30,000 students! As families clustered into the area in order to be close to these schools, the neighborhood took on a distinctively South Asian flavor. Today, Aziziyah is THE place to visit for authentic Indian and Pakistani food, clothing, and groceries, and the Kababish Market (named after one of the earliest Pakistani restaurants in Jeddah) is the center of Aziziyah.
Located between Amir Majed Street and Moalifeen Street, Kababish Market comes alive in the evenings when men, women, and children throng the streets to enjoy freshly fried pakoras, samosas, and jilebis (tasty meat or vegetable fritters and sweet, crispy snacks, respectively). Sidewalk vendors display their wares ranging from toys and trinkets, home goods, and the luscious fresh fruits and vegetables necessary for truly authentic regional dishes. Women crowd the fabric stores to purchase the latest designs from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, either ready-made garments or the fabrics which they can get tailored to their specifications, while single men frequent the many excellent kabab, nihari, and take-away curry stalls.
If you’ve never been to Aziziyah, prepare yourself for a step into a different culture where you will hear Urdu, Hindi, and the myriad regional dialects of the subcontinent as well as see people from all over the world. It’s a popular destination for visitors to Jeddah who are performing Umrah and Hajj – simply to enjoy a spicy meal or pick up some gift items unavailable elsewhere in the Kingdom. The famous hand-made leather slippers called ‘khussas’ can be found here, as well as glittering glass bangles, costume jewelry, and even bridal wear to adorn both the bride and groom from head to toe. The weeks leading up to both Eids are an especially busy time as people from outlying areas such as Rabigh and Yanbu also frequent the markets in Aziziyah for all their food and shopping needs.
Beauty parlors offer intricate henna designs to decorate ladies’ hands and feet, in addition to beauty treatments from the subcontinent. Threading, waxing, turmeric face masques, hot-oil hair massage, and henna hair-dyes are just a sample of the specialties on offer. Jewelry stores stocked with gold, silver, and precious stones from the region present delicate daily wear to ornate bridal sets – Aziziyah is a one-stop shopping and dining experience where you can travel to Pakistan and India without a passport!
End your visit with a freshly-made ‘paan’ – it’s a customary treat which is popular after a meal to aid in digestion and as a breath-freshener. Made of crushed betel nuts, cardamom, spices, (sweet paan contains desiccated coconut and sugar), and herbal pastes wrapped in a betel-leaf; paan is a delicious, unique taste of the region. For those searching for a sweeter taste, try the golden, pretzel-shaped jilebis which emerge crispy from hot oil and an immersion in sugar syrup…it’s impossible to stop after just one bite.
By Fouzia Khan
Source: Destination Jeddah