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India’s first igloo cafe hopes to slide Kashmir’s ski town onto the global tourist map
NEW DELHI: An igloo cafe has become a hotspot for tourists this winter in the ski resort of Gulmarg, Kashmir, providing a unique experience for travelers to the region.
The cafe, named Snowglu, has artistic sculptures that adorn the interiors of the snow dome. Guests sit on snow chairs covered in lambskin and have their teas and Shangri-kehwa skewers served on the snow tables.
The cafe is the first of its kind in India.
“My idea is not to make money but to put Gulmarg on the world tourist map,” Snowglu owner and creator Syed Wasim Shah told Arab News.
“And to show that India is no less than other developed countries in building snow sculptures,” he added.
With nearly 300 daily visitors, the café has captured international attention and enjoyed extensive media coverage since its opening in early February.
Shah, who runs the Kolahoi Green Hotels and Resorts in Gulmarg and is a snow sculptor, first created the igloo café as a pilot project in 2021. He was inspired by an igloo hotel he had visited in Swiss.
Last year, a prototype cafe he built attracted at least 150 people a day, encouraging the 42-year-old to create an even bigger attraction.
This year, after more than two months, about two dozen workers and about $16,000, Snowglu is 11.5 meters tall and has a diameter of 13 meters.
The cafe, which seats up to 40 people at 10 tables, is now the largest in the world, Shah said.
An igloo cafe in Switzerland, which is 10 meters high and 13 meters in diameter, is the current world record holder, according to Guinness World Records.
“I have already written to Guinness World Records and I hope their team will come here and certify it as the largest igloo cafe in the world,” Shah said.
“We want to bring new experiences to Gulmarg and we want to show that Indians don’t have to go to Switzerland to see the igloo, we can do it here too,” he added.
With the end of winter approaching, there are only a few weeks left to experience Snowglu, where guests can book to enjoy wazwan, a multi-course meal in Kashmiri cuisine featuring mostly meat dishes. Visitors must also pay an entrance fee of $2.60, a charge intended to discourage random visitors from entering the structure to prevent it from melting.
The igloo, which will be dismantled on March 15, may just be a starting point for bigger snow projects, as Shah plans to create an igloo hotel where people can spend the night.
Satisfied customers savor the snow cafe experience.
Akshya Jain, a tourist from Gujarat state, said the igloo cafe had “added value” to her trip to Kashmir.
“I was unaware of such a concept,” Tilotma Bhandarkar, a tourist from the western Indian state of Maharashtra, told Arab News.
“I feel really good to have come to Gulmarg and had such an experience,” Bhandarkar said.