A café made from ice has emerged as the centre of attraction for both foreign and local tourists. The man behind the igloo café in Gulmarg in Jammu & Kashmir, Syed Waseem Shah, is an entrepreneur and nature enthusiast.
Last year he claims to have built Asia’s largest igloo café and this season Waseem has come up with the world’s largest Igloo café.
Once meant traditionally for the hunters in arctic areas, the igloo was carved from snow and ice. Equipped with tables, desks and chairs all made from snow, the igloo café called Snoglu is set in the high altitude snow-covered meadows of world-famous ski resort Gulmarg. It is a first of its kind in the Indian subcontinent.
Making the igloo-shaped ice café, this year Waseem and his team built a comparatively large dimensional igloo. With a height of 37.5 ft, a thickness of 2.5 ft and a diameter of 44.5 ft, the igloo café is believed to be the largest café in the world.
Waseem, a young hotelier and the brain behind the idea of the igloo café says that the idea to build a café on the pattern of an igloo was always on his mind. Finally, his idea materialised last year.
“I had planned the design, dimensions and interiors of the café right from autumn. However, the ski resort did not receive enough snow to build an igloo café as planned. So, the team had to wait till the end of December to start the work on ice cafe,” says Syed Waseem.
The café was opened on 5 February 2022, and according to the management, the ice restaurant may remain open till March 15, depending upon the conducive weather conditions.
From architects, designers, supervisors to workers, they put in efforts for more than a month to carve out this lovely abode from the snow. “It took 1,700 man-days to complete the igloo with workers engaged in double shifts,” he says.
The owner and CEO of Kolahoi Green Group of Hotels and Resorts, Waseem has built the ice café in the vicinity of his hotel.
‘Chilling’ At The Ice Hotel
In a place like Gulmarg where temperature sometimes plummets up to minus 12 degrees centigrade, it is never easy to carry out any construction work. Working in such adverse weather conditions always comes at a cost.
Waseem says that the workers involved in the construction of the igloo were in danger of getting frostbites or hypothermia if exposed for long hours to work. So he equipped the team with protective gear to do the work. Adding that he has to employ more workers to accomplish the task as the workers directly dealing with ice cannot work for longer hours, Waseem says Snoglu in this part of the world comes at a very high economic cost.
Built over a sizeable area of 1556 sq ft, the natural setting of the sensational café sends any onlooker into awe. The igloo café has turned into a place worth ‘chilling’ at.
Here you will be served Kashmiri Saffron Kehwa for Rs 200, a sandwich for Rs 350, hot chocolate for Rs 200, vegetarian and non-vegetarian tikkas for Rs 200 to Rs 450.
“It is extremely amazing to be part of this experience,” says Urvashi, a Nasik based software engineer who is visiting the ski resort for the first time. “I had heard about ice restaurants in Europe, but to be lucky enough to sit inside it, sipping beverages and that too in India, is an extraordinary happening for me,” says an excited Urvashi.
One more tourist, Rohit from Delhi is also fascinated with 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 Rohit.
The igloo café is attracting a lot of local visitors too. According to one of the staff members of the ice restaurant, many local excursionists regularly throng this place.
“The day I came to know about the opening of the café, I had decided to visit it,” says Mohammad Ilyas who has travelled from Nishat, Srinagar, along with two of his friends to get a first-hand experience of 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 ski resort of Gulmarg naturally gains ground.
Decorated with rugs like sheepskin, cultural artefacts and other furniture all made from snow and an embodiment of local and foreign culture following the natural climate of the valley awaits at the café.
The interiors of the café are astounding. Serving a blend of traditional and new-age food and beverages, the ice café and its owner Syed Waseem are winning the hearts of many.
(Written by Nasir Yousufi; Edited by Yoshita Rao)