Floating Vegetable Market on Dal Lake

Flower Stall

No-one seemed to know why the floating market on Srinagar’s Dal Lake starts before dawn, the proverbial darkest hour, a time of  uneasy minds and bleak thoughts. My own first thought when the boatman came hammering at the door of our houseboat the other morning was “this is madness, leave me alone, no way! and wondered how many other potential customers regularly decided to give it a miss.

But, for me at least, there was no way back into the blankets:  the Caveman was already on his feet, pointing out the importance of seizing the moment.  Our youngest son held out the longest and had to be carried complete with hot water bottle and quilts to the waiting ‘shikara’ (the small rowing boats used to get around Dal Lake).

Lone Shikara

Casting a Net on Dal lake

Out on the lake it was cold and dark as we huddled together under a pile of blankets. Soon, though, there was the welcome sound of tea cups and a flask being loaded:  in Kashmir, you’re never more than five minutes away from a brew, either the always-welcome spicy green Kavha or the strange salty pink variety.

As the sound of thousands of morning  prayers around the lake grew into a heady, hypnotic wave, it occurred to me that the floating market is perhaps timed to catch the faithful as they flood out of the mosques.

Morning Mosque on Dal Lake

Houseboats from the Shikara

From Mr Butt’s beautiful houseboat where were staying, it took about an hour of steady rowing to reach the other side of the lake. Our quiet morning contemplations were shattered, however, when we reached the bridge at the entrance to the market and ran into a slight altercation.  ‘Mr Wonderful Flower Man’, a young man for whom the word ‘groovy’ seems to cover just about every eventuality, was determined we were going to buy his wares, thrusting chrysanthemums at us and loudly seeing off all interlopers. Things only calmed down when we struck a deal for some blue rose bulbs and Himalayan poppy seeds.

Spinach Boat

Bean Boat

Floating Market Traders

We soon saw the importance of arriving early – the day’s trading is brief and brisk – in the time it took for us to sip two tiny cups of kavha, the market was over.  We were the only tourists (Kashmir is slightly out of season now) so our needs – a couple of chocolate macaroons and a vase of flowers to put in the houseboat – were quickly met.  The traders then bartered their modest spinach and lotus stem harvests and, as the sun started to twinkle on the water, disappeared quickly under the bridge and back to their villages.

I still don’t really know why the market has to be so early but be warned:  an extra ten minutes in bed and you’ll miss it!

Srinagar waterfront

We saw these burqas drying in the sun as we made our back for breakfast!

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8 thoughts on “Floating Vegetable Market on Dal Lake

  1. hey… you are in Kashmir??
    yayy…waiting for more posts about the stay…

    i hope this is the beginning of Kashmir chapter…please …have never been there is no probability in the near future……will see it with your eyes..

  2. Hi Pam : Envy you that glorious sky and the clean air that is coming straight off the photos! Its smoke n sound fury out here in Delhi! Waiting ofr your take on Wazwan as experienced through your tastebuds, eyes and pen! Enjoy your stay!
    Nita

  3. Hey, Pam, lovely blog. Almost made up for our 3-0 drubbing by the Arese this evening.
    And fabbo Kashmir. Did you get to Gulmarg? Many, many years ago….I loved Nagin lake – did you pop over for a look?
    Our Mr Marvellous the flower man sent round the chocolate man, and he had, well, other delights on board too.
    Glad to see the kids liked it, too.
    Many xs from us, and Susan is currently in Pau and surrounds for the ortolans….

  4. Wonderful pictures of beautiful Kashmir. I traveled through HP in 2000 and went as far north as Dharamsala but was warned by Kashmiris not to attempt a visit to Kashmir. How long was your stay? Has tourism returned to the valley?

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