Snow sculpture is not new to Kashmir, especially when it snows in abundance, like it did recently. Come snowfall, a pastime ‘sheen mohnev’- a statue of a man sculpted out of snow – is on display in almost every random compound of a house or a street for amusement.
The recent heavy snowfall in the valley, though, left more of a trail of apparent gloom knocking down some random frail houses and blocking roads and snapping electricity for days.
Syed Waseem Shah, a young professional hotelier, however saw opportunity in adversity by investing some time and labour in the otherwise mundane art of snow sculpture and the result is extraordinary- Kashmir’s first ‘Igloo Cafe’.
The first of its kind cafe set up by Shah at his Kolahoi Green Hotel at ski resort Gulmarg has a full fledged ‘Igloo menu’ on offer consisting mostly dry dishes like Biryani and Chicken Tikka even as Kashmiri Kehwa and coffee besides other varieties of food are also served there, the hotelier told Greater Kashmir.
After the recent heavy snow, Shah, like every random Kashmiri, had made an igloo in the backyard of his house in Nishat area of Srinagar.
However, the hotelier later decided to introduce the novelty, an over 20 feet by 13 feet igloo, at his hotel in ski-resort Gulmarg in a professional way, he said.
A frequent overseas traveler, Shah was also inspired by his trips abroad where such cafes are a common sight during winters.
“Igloo is something which is not native to our land, so I wanted people to experience something new and unique. I decided to put Samawars inside and cover the snow chairs with animal hides. This way people will feel warm, feel in touch with their tradition while also experiencing something new,” Shah told Greater Kashmir.
Shah hired 15 labourers who took as many days to build Kashmir’s maiden Igloo Cafe, he said.
The investment seems worth it as the cafe can accommodate sixteen customers at a time with waiters maneuvering and serving each one of them at ease, Shah said.
“I have put four tables inside it and each of them can host four people. The space between them is enough for us to serve the guests,” he added.
Shah hopes the innovative cafe will last till the end of February as the prevailing weather conditions are favorable for it.
He said they keep the makeshift door of the igloo open at night to make sure the snow walls don’t melt down and it lasts longer.
For now the first of its kind igloo cafe is a hit among the visitors at Gulmarg with both locals as well as tourists enjoying a cup of kehwa every now and then.
Shah, however, said that locals were more attracted to the first of its kind cafe in the valley. “There is a good flow of people in here, but Kashmiris are more excited and jubilant to cherish a cup of kehwa here,” he said.