Islamabad - After the popularity of country’s first official food street in Gawal Mandi, Lahore, the administration of Islamabad decided to cater to the food lovers of twin cities by setting up a similar food market in the federal capital.

In 2002, the Melody Food market was constructed in sector G-6 of the capital.

The concept of the market was to offer various foods under one roof. 

The park consisting of 27 food stalls and restaurants offered a variety of cuisines and became a symbol of old Islamabad. The cuisine included Pakistani Bar-BQ, sea food, continental foods and desserts. A traditional pan shop, and carte menu was also set up.

Nizam 65, a grey-haired stall holder from Melody Food Park informed that Rubab and Table players were also placed to amuse the visitors coming to Melody Park. During its initial years, Melody Food Park received visitors from all over the country including foreigners.

Very soon, it became the most popular site in the capital where locals and diplomats were spotted on the weekends.

“This was the time when people preferred to come with their families to enjoy traditional breakfasts like Channe, paye (Goat-feet), and spicy Nihari with roghni naan,” Nizam recalled.

“We went there twice a week with family to enjoy a traditional variety of cuisines and music under one roof but unfortunately that is no more the case”, said Amir Ali, a visitor.

“At the beginning, Lahori phajja paye, Karachi’s famous Bundo khan kebab, Shikarpuri Achar , Javeed Nihari and a number of famous food franchises from around the country carved their presence in the park. However, gradually these famous stall-holders sold their businesses and returned to their cities”, Amir Ali added

Rana Khalid, a shopkeeper, said “unfortunately the rents became too high and the park’s enforcement demolished our kitchens and stalls sending the stall holders back to their cities due to lack of facilitation from administration, proper security and parking for visitors, and inadequate cleanliness”.

PTC renovated the old buildings in the surrounding, lit the stalls and trees with colorful lights and assigned trained security guards with the task of protecting visitors.

Yet, with the passage of time, the Food Park lost its charm due to lack of maintenance, low quality of food, poor cleanliness and no system of check and balance.

Inaugurated by former Interior Minister Moin Uddin Haider, the only cultural and traditional food park of Islamabad has lost its charisma, visitors, and business. Half the shops and stalls at the moment are vacant whereas a number of traditional displays have been closed. Some of the local food brands maintained their presence but with low quality food.

The last identity of the old food park that remains is the “Delhi Pan shop.” The Park itself is in search of lost musical evenings.

–The writer is a correspondent for Waqt News and can be reached at annishaikh92@gmail.com