23 Aug Authentic Galle Shopping Experience at Careem Stores in Galle Fort
Pedlar Street is Galle Fort’s prime shopping area. It’s the best place to pick up authentic and handcrafted souvenirs. But it hasn’t always been like this. For years, the Fort’s streets were neglected, with run-down heritage buildings looking for a bit of love. Now, that Galle Fort is on the UNESCO–list and many of the old, crumbling mansions have been renovated into boutique hotels, the grandeur of old times is back, and property prices are skyrocketing again. Yet, one thing hasn’t changed, and that is the little shop on the corner of Pedlar Street and Parawa Street. We meet Mr and Mrs Shafeek Careem, who have been running the store for generations and are literally the cornerstones of the Fort Community.
“We are open from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., 363 days of the year; we only close for the last day of Ramazan and Haj. Our day begins at 5: 00 a.m. when we light incense to cleanse the shop. Soon after this fresh bread is delivered – in the past it came by bicycle. In the morning, our main trade is in newspapers and the sweet-smelling white loaves. There used to be a National Bakery at Pedlar Street junction, but now, we are one of the few places where you can buy bread in the Fort. These days, we sell a lot of snacks and cool drinks to tourists, including Pringles, cashew nuts, chocolate, and Coca Cola. Our sales of basic items such as rice, dried fish, and vegetables are going down because locals now visit supermarkets outside of the Fort. Ten years ago, we had a lot of our supplies delivered by bullock cart from the wholesale shops on Main Street and Dangedera Street in Galle town. There was a lovely man called ‘Vathiar,’ who would come in the mornings and unload bags of rice, lentils, and sugar.”
“Having lived here all my life and meeting people at the shop, I know everybody in the Fort. This means that my job as a senior polling agent during election periods is easy because I can quickly verify everyone’s names and addresses at the polling booth. There are about 850 to 900 people in the Fort who are eligible to vote.”
A Unique Place
“We enjoy chatting to regulars and meeting visitors – it is one of our favourite parts of the job. It makes us happy. The business has expanded a lot since my father first started a fruit shop on this spot in the 1940s. We couldn’t live outside the Fort. I was born here. All the people are with us. We couldn’t find another place like this in Sri Lanka.”
One thing that hasn’t changed in Galle Fort over the years is the little shop on the corner of Pedlar Street and Parawa Street
Meet Mrs Shafeek Careem who has been running this corner shop with her husband for decades
“FORT IS A VERY PEACEFUL PLACE. IN THE 64 YEARS I’VE LIVED HERE, THERE HASN’T BEEN TROUBLE BETWEEN PEOPLE; WE MAY BELIEVE IN DIFFERENT RELIGIONS, BUT WE ARE ALL VERY CLOSE. MANY OF US WERE BORN HERE”
Parawa Street must be one of the most charming, quiet streets in Fort
Want to Find the Soul of Galle?
For authentic Galle shopping, you can find Shafeek kade/Careem Stores at 100 Pedlar Street. Discover more stories behind Galle’s heritage buildings in the iDiscover Galle Guide, an illustrated map that comes with a free navigational app. Curated by the passionate folks at the Galle Heritage Foundation, the App&Map guide features 3 handcrafted walking itineraries that help you see Galle through the lens of locals. The map is an artistic ode to the heritage town, while the app helps you to get around and provides intimate portraits of long-time locals and know-how on the historical layers of the architecture.
Explore Fort through the lens of locals with the iDiscover App&Map, created and designed by locals
Words by Daisy Perry
Daisy is a writer who finds inspiration in everyday Sri Lankan life. She loves listening to and recording people’s stories. In the Fort, she is most likely to be found having tea with friends or having a swim off Lady’s Sea Bath Beach.
Photos by Atheeq Ifthikar
Atheeq is a photographer with a passion for Galle Fort. In fact, it is here that he learned how to use a camera. He loves capturing people’s unique characteristics. Atheeq is most likely to be found on the ramparts giving a walking tour or at his friend’s art gallery on Leyn Baan Street.