Hyderabad: During Ramadan, shopping for Eid in the walled quarter of Hyderabad does not end with the night. In fact, it picks up at night with the centuries-old markets doing business round-the-clock.
As such, with only a couple of days left for Eid-ul-Fitr, marking the culmination of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, all roads in the city are now leading to shops, hotels, roadside eateries and the ubiquitous vendors around Charminar, the symbol of Hyderabad and the hub of Eid shopping.
In fact, the old city and some Muslim-majority areas in the central part of the city never sleep during the holy month.
While the faithful spend the holy nights in prayers, other men, women and children throng the markets for Eid shopping.
As one crosses the Musi river to enter the old city, the aroma of haleem (a Ramadan dish of meat, wheat flour, spices and ghee) wafts in.
The numerous hotels at Madina Junction and on the High Court Road do brisk business selling haleem, said to have come to Hyderabad via Iran and Afghanistan during the Mughal period.
The Madina-Charminar road, notorious for its traffic chaos throughout the day, is witnessing jams throughout the night these days, with vendors occupying the footpaths and selling from garments to hairpin.
Madina, Patthargatti, Patel Market, Gulzar Houz and Laad Bazar, famous for readymade garments, textiles, footwear, jewellery, pearls, bangles, 'attar' (natural perfumes) and crockery, cutlery, upholstery, teem with thousands of buyers.
The city authorities may be planning to open a night bazaar around Charminar for long, but every year during Ramadan, the area by itself turns into a night bazaar, especially in the last 10 days of Ramadan.
Those fasting, including women, take a break from shopping to end their fast in the lawns of the historic Mecca Masjid.
After tasting haleem, dahi bade and other delicacies at nearby eateries, they resume the shopping with fresh energy and this goes on till late into the night.
The price hike has not dampened the spirits of Eid.
"We may have to spend a few bucks more, but we can't do without shopping for our families, especially as the occasion comes once a year," said Syed Yousuf, who works in a private company.
The prices of readymade garments have gone up by over 30 percent this year and the traders attribute it mainly to rising transport costs.
"Last year, I bought a dress for Rs. 5,000 but this year, it cost me Rs. 7,000," said Shaheda Parveen, a student.
While many glittering and sprawling shopping malls have come up in the city in the last few years, the area around Charminar remains the hot favourite for Eid shopping.
Shoppers from neighbouring districts and even from Maharashtra and Karnataka pour in for shopping.
Almost all the families buy new clothes, footwear and bangles for the occasion. What makes these markets so special is the fact that they cater to all sections of society.
With well-to-do families paying 'zakat' (Islamic wealth tax of 2.5 percent on their cash and other valuables) and every man who fasts paying 'fitra' (fixed this year at Rs.60), the poor also join the festivities by buying clothes, 'sweyian', dry fruits and other items for 'sheer khorma' -- a sweet dish prepared in almost every houshold on Eid.
The Eid shopping is the climax of unprecedented month-long economic activity.
Truckloads of dates, preferred for breaking fasts, and fruits are sold every day.
The meat supply goes up drastically to meet the demand from hotels preparing haleem.
With Muslims accounting for 40 percent of the city's seven million population, every commodity associated with the festivities opens up huge business opportunities.
The volumes of business, mostly in the unorganised sector, are beyond anybody's guess.
The business covering eatables, garments and footwear is estimated to be over Rs. 2,000 crore.