Ahdoo’s Will Turn 100 in 2018

  • GOWHAR GEELANI
  • Publish Date: Apr 19 2017 8:40PM
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  • Updated Date: Apr 19 2017 8:40PM
Ahdoo’s Will Turn 100 in 2018

                                                         Photo: Habib Naqash/KI

Established in 1918 by Bhat’s grandfather, Ahdoo’s first stood out as Kashmir Valley’s lone confectionary and bakery shop. It turned into a restaurant and later became a full-fledged hotel.

 

Ahdoo’s, a local restaurant-cum-hotel located in the heart of Srinagar city, will complete its 100th anniversary in 2018. In the early 1990s, it was considered Kashmir’s “media hub”.

Hayat Bhat, the young third generation owner of the hotel, also draws parallels of Ahdoo’s with the famous Rwanda hotel.

At a time when the anti-India armed rebellion was at its peak in the valley, both foreign and local journalists would find Ahdoo’s a comparatively safer destination to file their stories, and also a place to taste Kashmiri cuisine, Wazwan, and local bakery and confectionary.

Andrew Whitehead, former BBC journalist and internationally acclaimed author, historian and academic, has described Ahdoo’s hotel as “reporters’ base in the Kashmir capital, Srinagar” in the first chapter An Italian in Kashmir of his book titled A Mission in Kashmir.

Like other well-known scribes at the time, he too would file news stories from Ahdoo’s.

Whitehead’s mission on his first visit to north Kashmir’s town of Baramulla was to “record memories of the turmoil that accompanied Britain’s pull-out from India”.

“…I had travelled to the Kashmir Valley many times to report on the battle between armed separatists and Indian security forces. I had repeatedly grappled with the difficulties of reconciling two sharply different accounts of every event and incident, and with the precarious phone lines that hampered attempts to file news stories from Ahdoo’s hotel, the reporters’ base in the Kashmir capital, Srinagar,” Whitehead writes.

In a recent interview with the author, Whitehead reiterated that he wrote his stories from Kashmir at Srinagar’s Ahdoo’s hotel.

Besides journalists compiling their news stories here, Ahdoo’s was also a place where serious political discussions and grapevine were a norm.

Has anything changed now?

“Not much has changed since,” says Hayat Bhat, the present owner of the hotel-cum-restaurant.

“Our hotel is comparable to hotel Rwanda,” he says while referring to the critical role played by hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina during the Rwandan Genocide. Rusesabagina, who worked as a manager at the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali, hid and protected over 1,200 Hutu and Tutsi refugees from the dangerous militia during the Rwandan crisis.

Established in 1918 by Bhat’s grandfather, Ahdoo’s first stood out as Kashmir Valley’s lone confectionary and bakery shop. It turned into a restaurant and later became a full-fledged hotel.

Media professionals continue to throng this place to file stories and to taste Lahabi Kebab, Mirchi Korma, Rogan Josh and other mouth-watering dishes available here, Bhat says with a sense of nostalgia.

“It (Ahdoo’s) is still a media hub and also a political hub,” Bhat adds.

He recalls that even journalists like Mark Tully have reported from here.

“The Hurriyat Conference and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front too would organise seminars and press conferences at our hotel,” the owner says.

But did that invite trouble from the security or intelligence agencies?

“No, nobody troubled us. Though they were keeping an eye,” he says smilingly.

As Bhat was shedding light on his new expansion plans, revamping the hotel website and using social media space for promotion and marketing, a group of journalists was having lunch in one corner of the restaurant.

Scribes having food or working on their laptops and tabs here is a common sight in all seasons, Bhat claims.

In a year’s time Ahdoo’s will complete a century.

The hotel got its new name from original Ahadoo & Sons, which was shortened to make itAhdoo’s.

It is often said that Kashmir’s first bakery shop was started by Hary Nedous, the father-in-law of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.

Kashmir Valley’s love for bakery dates back to 1930s when a good number of foreign tourists and travellers would throng the place.

Though with mushrooming of new cafes, coffee shops and restaurants in Kashmir the people have multiple options to choose from, Ahdoo’s is refusing to lose its charm.