Gulmarg Igloo Café, a major tourist attraction

Gulmarg Igloo Café, a major tourist attraction

Until recently, who would have imagined in the wildest of their dreams that everything that would always fascinate us all on a mere mention in our school books will dawn as a reality to us at the beginning of this year?  Igloo, a traditional arctic shelter, has become a fact in this Himalayan valley of Kashmir.

An igloo, also known as a snow house or snow hut, is a type of shelter built of snow. The snow structure has been a traditional snow shelter for local tribes 'Inuit or Eskimo' in arctic Canada.

Igloo was a means for hunters to survive brutal winters in areas like eastern Siberia, Greenland, Alaska, and Canada. Although most Inuit live in regular old houses now, Igloos are still used for the occasional hunting trip. This marvellous structure has been converted into a successful cafe in Kashmir. Serving food and beverages on tables, all made from ice and snow, Igloo café has become a centre of attraction, drawing droves of visitors. Set in high altitude snow-covered meadows of world-famous ski resort Gulmarg,  the café made up of snow is the first of its kind in the Indian subcontinent and Asia's largest one.

Built over the sizeable area, the natural setting of the sensational café sends any onlooker into awe. Igloo café has turned into a place worth chilling.

"It is extremely amazing to be a part of this experience", says Shriya, a Pune based banker who is visiting the ski resort for the first time in winters. "I had heard about ice restaurants in Europe, but to be lucky enough to sit inside it, sipping beverages and that too in this part of the world, is really an extraordinary experience for me," adds excited Shriya.

One more tourist, Naveen from Surat, is also fascinated by the concept. "To spend some moments of life inside the Igloo is an awesome experience. I would like to tell my friends about this remarkable experience," says Naveen.

Igloo café is attracting a lot of local visitors too. According to one of the staff members of the ice restaurant, many local excursionists do come to this place.

"The day I came to know about the opening of this café, I decided to visit the place," says Mohammad Irfan, who has travelled from Bijbehara along with two of his friends to get the first-hand experience from the place.

For its sub-zero temperatures during 'Chillai Kalan, the 40 day long chilliest period of the winter, the idea of an ice eatery at the world-famous ski resort of Gulmarg naturally gains ground. Conceived and started by the Kolahoi Green Group of Hotels and Resorts, the first-ever Igloo Café is an embodiment of local and foreign culture in accordance with the natural climate of the valley.

With 22 feet inner diameter and 13 feet in height, the café has an ample space for four tables accommodating at least 16 visitors at a time. A replica of Eskimos' Igloo found mostly in the arctic region of Canada; the café has got a local touch too.  The top of the sitting tools made from ice is covered with sheepskin, the traditional rug of the medieval era. Besides, a few local artefacts sculpted from ice put on the display gives some local colour to the setting. And above all, sipping the local beverage Zaafrani Kehwa at the place adds a cultural flavour to this all ice restaurant.

According to Syed Waseem Shah, the brain behind the Café, there are many more innovative ideas that can be translated into success stories. "Opportunity and smart effort are a prerequisite for any successful entrepreneurship. There is a massive scope for development in the service sector, like tourism. Nature has been so bountiful to us; what we need is to capitalise on these bounties in an eco-friendly manner," says Waseem.

According to a professor, teaching at the Department of Economics at the University of Kashmir, tourism has always played a pivotal role in terms of earning livelihood for many people in the valley. With the advancing technology and globalisation, the tourism industry has to come up with novel ideas like Igloo café to stay high in the global tourist market. It is an obligation of both the authorities and tourism players in the valley to channelise their resources as per the demand in the market.

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