header

Solo Women traveler’s guide to get the best out of Kashmir

“Kashmir is everything that you read in the papers and see in the news channels, but oh it is so much more.”
Kashmir is so much more than you watch on TV; it’s not just me, this is a solo traveller Kanika Gupta, who took to a social travel platform to share her story in her blog titled ‘How Safe is Kashmir’.
Not only her, you’ll be surprised to know that there are many women travellers who’ve enjoyed their solo trip to Kashmir over the past few years. Just like there is a fearful anticipation of a place called ‘Paradise’, Kashmir, true to its name is one of the few places that can fill you with dread and anticipation at the same time. Once you come back from Kashmir, you’ll  not only miss it but also live it every day through your memories just like a beautiful story. That’s what Kashmir is – an experience that grows on you. Ok ok, enough of me bragging about my home, my place; my Kashmir. Now let me help you with some planning that would guaranteed to improve your travel experience in Kashmir.Ready. Set. Go! Brace yourself for this amazing journey to Kashmir and its Kashmiriyat – the culture, people, and the love.dal lake kashmir

Stay near Srinagar’s iconic and safe Dal Lake. While staring at the mirror-calm waters and its picturesque terrain, you’ll realize why it has been an inspiration for painters through decades.  A joy ride in a Shikara is worth your time and money.

 

jamia masjid srinagar

Spend a few cool hours in the manicured lawns of peaceful Jamia Masjid, Srinagar.

 

tulip garden

Let the burst of colours and the sheer variety of flowers in bloom make you smile. Gasp out loud at the sight of the Tulip Garden in Srinagar.

 

downtown srinagar

Explore downtown Srinagar. Our always helpful locals and a group of canines can snap you out of any kind of bad mood faster than you can think of.

 

Inline 2 _ Kashmiri hospitality

Accept the invite of a Kashmiri family and the warm hospitality will melt down your heart; something very rare to find in media.

kahwa

Get a taste of the world-famous Kashmiri Kahwa served with warmth. You can also visit the exquisite Tea Room, ‘CHAI JAAI’, Srinagar and sip on some great tea.

 

Iftari

If you are fortunate to be in Kashmir during the month of Ramzan break your fast with locals at Iftar.

 

zabarwan hills

Have you ever felt troubled and excited at the same time? Feel two emotions while experiencing the view of setting sun with the Zabarwan hills in the back drop.

 

habba khatoon

Do some soul-searching at the edge of India, Habba Khatoon .Let the beauty take your breath away.

 

shopping

Do some shopping because like Kashmir, each handicraft piece is unique.

 

kashmiri costume

Be a ‘Kashmir ki Kali’ and get your photos clicked in Kashmiri costume.

 

kashmiri kids

Let your favourite souvenir from Kashmir be this photograph with cute kids of the hills, Sonamarg.

 

pahalgam

Walk in the ‘as cold as ice water’ at Pahalgam.

 

doodhpatri

Discover the unexplored jewel called Doodhpathri. Feast your eyes on the velvety green meadows that look like a green carpet.

 

kyber_gulmarg_spa

Take a dip in this hot pool at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg in the backdrop Snow Mountains with freezing cold temperatures outside.

I can bet, from the day you return, you will start recommending everyone to visit Kashmir- the heaven at least once in their lives. Such is the magnetism of the place that it will imprison your heart into its memories forever.

We at Kashmiri Life strive to bring out the best  of Kashmir so that next time whenever you start researching about Kashmir on Google you’ll not only get horror stories of curfews, crackdowns, terrorist attacks, stone pelting but a fairer image of a helpful, hospitable, affectionate, humane image of the city.

Come share your experiences of your visit to Kashmir with us!

Kashmir

Ramzan in the Chinar Shade, Kashmir

The blessed month of Ramzan is here.
Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and begins with the sighting of the crescent moon. This month has a charm of its own and like everywhere else; the incredible spirit of Ramzan is observed with great vehemence and zeal here in Kashmir.
If you are hoping to know about our Ramzan in Kashmir, we’ve got you covered.  Here are a few basics for a perfect Kashmiri Ramazan and if you are a Kashmiri, you can relate to following things:

 

sehar kha

 

The ‘human alarm’ for residents of Kashmir – The Sehar Khans.
As you know, Ramzan is a month of fast and prayer. Every day from dawn to sunset we observe fast, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Waking up for sehri or the pre-dawn meal while the whole place is cloaked in darkness is a test of the strong will power of Ramzan fasting. But it feels good when you know you are not alone in this. “Waqhtey Sahar!” In the wee hours of the morning, voluntary drummers pierce the silence that wraps the dark valley waking up people for sehri. They are the ‘Sehar Khans’ – the human alarm clocks for residents of Kashmir.

 

How can we forget, recently there was a viral video of a Sikh man waking up Muslim neighbours for Sehri in Jammu and Kashmir’s, Pulwama. This is ‘Kashmiriyat’; this is the communal harmony that has existed in the Paradise for centuries.

 

rice

 

What is a ‘Sehri’ without some rice?
In Kashmiri psyche, rice is a staple. Our Sehri (the pre-dawn meal) is considered incomplete without rice. Followed by rice is our love for ‘gulabi chai’ or ‘pink tea’. The tea is accompanied by the geow-dar csot (bread made with ghee), a Ramazan speciality in Kashmir, made only during this month.

“It is Ramzan” is a common refrain in the Valley.
A regularly recurring phrase during the month of Ramzan. “It is Ramzan and you are making us wait?” or “How can you overcharge during Ramzan?” or “I do not want to fight, it’s Ramzan.”

 

beggars

 

A beggar at our door.
Giving has always brought out the best in people and the month of Ramzan is all about that. Since charity and giving is an integral part of this month, there’s a knock every now and then on your door and no points guessing who it is, beggars. Happens all the time in the Valley.

 

pudding

 

The ‘Dessert of the Month ‘goes to…Phirni!

The all-time favourite snowy phirni is made and offered exclusively for the family and also send to masjid and relatives. The month of Ramzan is arguably the favorite month to indulge in this extremely popular rice pudding. Mom prepares phirni and halwa, made of ghee (clarified butter) for breaking the day-long fast.

 

witing for iftar

 

Waiting for ‘Iftar’ be like..
Your eyes are somehow glued to the clock the entire day. While on other days you have no idea of maghrib prayers (prayed after sunset), during Ramadan the scene is very different. You know the exact time on the tip of your tongue and during the prayers, there’s a lot of coughing which is a signal for the Imam to finish quickly, as the most awaited part of the day is here, Iftar.

 

brabribyol drink

 

A typical Kashmiri Iftari drink – ‘Babribeoul treish’.
Basil seeds put in milk with hint of sugar, that’s how a babribyol sherbet takes its shape. The iconic drink followed by the mandatory dates and water.

 

Kannada

 

Long kandur queues.

Caution: The ridiculous long queues at kandur (bread), might make you feel like killing yourself.
This is an everyday scene in the valley during the whole month of Ramzan. To keep the table ready for iftar, residents start queuing up around noon outside the shops of the kandur, the local bread makers of Kashmir. The kandur take special orders – so visitors can get customised bread made with extra ghee, poppy and sesame seeds.

 

eid shopping

 

The crazy Eid shopping.

Eid is not Eid without some crazy shopping. We, Kashmiris, shop A LOT. How can I forget the almost not visible bakery and meat shops because of the crowd in front of them to the serious fights at the tailor shop to get your salwar stitched on time?
You’ll have to spend a couple of hours there.
Religious chants ‘Afsoos Aze Gowham Judaa, Aiy Mahi Ramzaan Alvida’ – My heart is full of sorrow, Oh! The month of Ramadan, today we part! – are common in the mosques and shrines of Kashmir during the last phase of Ramadan.

 

mehendi

 

Eid is incomplete without young girls applying mehandi. It’s a gala time for Muslims in the valley as well as around the world.

There’s an old saying, we Kashmiris eat more in the month of fasting, Ramzan, than during the rest of the year. The prayers, fasting and feasting of Ramzan leaves all of us eagerly waiting for Eid. And then before you know it, it’s Eid.

 

eid-is-here

 

May this Ramzan usher in for us a period of blessings and abundance.
There seems to be no end to the blessings in Ramzan. Allah’s Apostle (SAW) said, “When Ramzan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened.”

BLOG

Buying Kashmiri Saffron? Real or Fake?

I hear stories of an ancient land so pure.
I see photographs of bluer than blue skies
over a lake of molten gold.
I drink kahwa flavoured with almond and saffron
and add honey, sweetened by bees from the valley
– Jhilmil Breckenridge (Ballads of Kashmir)
Saffron Corm
The more one talks about the beauty of Kashmir, the more they fall in love with it. One such treasure of Kashmir is its high quality saffron. Sown in fields that appear like an innocent sun-drenched dawn, draped in the mystic of golden hue and dew, the saffron is a gift of two Sufi aesthetics who came to Kashmir in late 11th and early 12th century. While their stay, both the foreigners were caught by an ailing sickness. A local tribal man aided them by finding a cure to their disease. Both the wanderers were grateful to the native man and offered him a saffron corm as reverence. Since then, saffron, along with almonds and walnut kernels, has become synonyms with Kashmir. The major crop of saffron in Kashmir is found in the town
of Pampore, widely known as the Kesar Valley. The world’s most expensive spice is harvested by a huge number of labour that work together to extract it from the dried stigmas of a perennial plant, Crocus Sativus. The saffron crocus is found only in Kashmir, and in some parts of Spain and Iran.
saffron threads
Due to the purity of Kashmiri saffron, leading to an excessive demand, people have started selling fake saffron to the seekers. Coming from the golden land, it is my privilege to spread the awareness about it. Saffron is so versatile, it adds a rich charm to any foods, sweets and aids in diseases like cough, Alzheimer, depression, etc.; and is also often used for its beauty benefits, hence adulteration of saffron is an offense that should be addressed seriously. The expensively sold fake saffron is not even close to the aroma, colour and texture of the real one, it is rather distastefully sweet and contrasting the intense taste of real saffron. Thus, retrieved from various sources and real-personal experiences of people I have come across the following ways to identify the original saffron that hails from Kashmir.


Looks, taste and smell
 saffron
The first look of a saffron strand speaks soundly of its purity. An original saffron string will consist of an overall red coloured thread with a slight yellowish shade at the base. The first instinct to identify real saffron is its saturated red colour and then its taste. If you put a pinch of saffron on your tongue and it tastes sweet, know that you are fooled. The real saffron does not taste like anything, it’s more neutral tasting and also has a honey-bitten smell. The fresh saffron has an aroma as if dipped and soaked in honey while old saffron might lose its pungency. If so be the case, the colour and taste of Kashmiri saffron stand together to defend its purity and by keeping these three factors about saffron in mind, you can easily identify the pure one.


Water Test
Saffron water test
The Kashmiri women are best to talk to about this homely test of checking the authenticity of Kashmiri saffron like my nain (grandmother). In her numerous fairy tales from Kashmir one of them was located in a saffron field. As she began reciting it to us, she grew vehemently intense about the subject. She had told us the ultimate mantra and it starts with a bowl, half immersed in water.
Put a small amount of saffron in the bowl to see water change its colour”, she instructed.
But so can the fake one right?” I asked in child-like curiosity. To answer my inquisitive question, she explained that if the saffron is real, the water will slowly and initially turn pale yellowish and gradually a more vibrant yellow. If this happens immediately after adding saffron, it’s fake. Also, the strands of pure saffron will secure its original colour in water, whereas the fake ones will lose it. And, thus I had learned the lesson of my lifetime.
Store this enigmatic gift of nature safely in little “Dibbis” like my grandmother, and as she advised, keep them at room temperature and not refrigerators as the change in temperature might absorb its moisture. Saffron has become the victim of adulteration. Let us create more awareness about its subtlety and purity to maintain its great usage in food and medicine, honour the enigmas of nature, and to keep alive the stories of our ancestors, drenched in pure memories of Kashmir.
Kashmiri box
Buying real Kashmiri saffron has become a task in the present scenario. The sellers of fake saffron have covered the market at large. For people who cannot go to Kashmir, they can buy saffron online from websites such as Kashmiri Box (https://www.kashmirbox.com/), FabIndia (https://www.fabindia.com/), Kashmiri Bazaar (https://www.kashmiribazaar.in), etc. If you are buying saffron from physical store, ask them to take a water test to assure its purity. A simple step of heedfulness can uplift the usage of real saffron and reduce its adulteration.