Champions of charcoal: the kilns behind Sindh’s famous barbecues

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Charcoal kilns in a charcoal manufacturing plant at Gharo, a small city 67 km east of Pakistan’s seaside metropolis. Sept 15, 2019 (AN Photo by SA Babar)
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A worker stacks wood inside a charcoal kiln in Gharo, a small city some 67 km east of Pakistan’s Karachi city, and famous for its kilns and windmills, on Sept 15, 2019.
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Noor Khan takes out charcoal from a kiln in Gharo, a small Pakistani city in Sindh, on Sept 15, 2019. (AN Photo by SA Babar)
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Workers busy sorting wood for their charcoal kiln on Sept 12, 2019. The charcoal produced at Gharo is mostly used by restaurants in Karachi for barbecuing meat. (AN Photo by SA Babar)
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Bihari kabab, a Pakistani barbeque specialty, cooked over the scorching fire of charcoal at Delhi Chicken, a popular barbecue restaurant in downtown Karachi, on Sept 12, 2019 (AN Photo by SA Babar)
Updated 21 September 2019

Champions of charcoal: the kilns behind Sindh’s famous barbecues

  • Creating the perfect charcoal is a precise art, kiln owners say
  • Demand for charcoal in the busy restaurants of Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh remains high

KARACHI: Haroon Khan threw a matchstick into his eight ft. hut-style charcoal kiln in Gharo, a small city east of Karachi in Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh, that is famous for its windmills and kilns.
His men had already neatly stacked wood inside the kiln, and for two hours, Khan let the smoke from the burning wood escape through its chimney. Finally, he covered it up completely to deprive it of almost all oxygen, so the wood inside would roast gently in its own smoke.
Khan, who like most kiln’ owners belongs to the hilly Dir valley of northern Pakistan, has been in the business for years.




A worker, Noor Khan, waters down the temperature of a kiln at Gharo, a small Pakistani city in southeastern Sindh province on Sept 15, 2019. 
“After opening the kiln, the wood is watered for evacuation but still it’s hot,” Khan told Arab News (AN Photo by SA Babar)

“One must be the master of this art, otherwise he will turn the wood to ashes,” Khan said, with a hint of a smile.
For three full days, the wood will smoke itself down to a lightweight black carbon residue, charcoal, the most important element of all popular Pakistani barbecues.




This charcoal kiln in Gharo, a small city some 67 km east of Pakistan’s Karachi metropolis, and famous for its windmills, is set to be filled with wood. Sept 15, 2019 (AN Photo by SA Babar)

When its ready, the charcoal will be watered down before it is packed up for transport to Pakistan’s southern megacity of Karachi, famed for its good food.
“Once we set a fire, we wait for around three to four days and closely monitor the temperature of the kiln after short intervals, to ensure the charcoal is neither burnt nor left too hard,” Khan, who runs a small ‘factory’ of over a dozen kilns, told Arab News.




Noor Khan removes charcoal from a kiln in Gharo, a small Pakistani city in Sindh, on Sept 15, 2019. (AN Photo by SA Babar)

Malik Omar Khan, another kiln owner, said the primary raw material, wood, is delivered by dealers and procured at Rs. 150 per 50 kg, with 200 kg of wood producing 50 kg of charcoal.




Charcoal is packed up in large plastic bags, ready to be transported from this small charcoal manufacturing facility in Gharo to Pakistan’s commercial capital of Karachi, some 67 km west of here, for delivery to the city’s restaurants. Sept 12, 2019 (AN Photo by SA Babar)

There are hundreds of these small factories dotted around Gharo, with each comprising 5-6 kilns, and where thousands from northern Pakistan work. 
“But it’s not a huge business,” Malik said, and added, “The hard work of a month can barely feed a family.”
Burning charcoal requires no water, and gives off little smoke as compared to regular wood, but is often blamed for deforestation by environmentalists.




Bihari kabab and chicken tikka, both Pakistani barbeque specialties, cooked over the scorching fire of charcoal at Delhi Chicken, a popular barbecue restaurant in downtown Karachi, on Sept 12, 2019 (AN Photo by SA Babar)

Those in the food business, however, argue there is no substitute for it.
“Without charcoal, there is no barbecue and without barbecue... there is no taste to life,” Muhammad Shakeel, owner of Delhi Chicken at Karachi’s downtown told Arab News. He buys a kg of charcoal at Rs. 60.




A worker sorts wood for a charcoal kiln at Gharo city, some 67 km east of Karachi on Sept 15, 2019. (AN Photo by SA Babar)

At Gharo, Khan says he sells one kg for Rs. 40 and the rest goes to dealers who collect it from Gharo and transport it to Karachi for sale at restaurants. 
“Karachi is a sea of people. There are a hundred [kilns] here, but (even) if you double the number, the demand will not decrease,” Khan said.


Pakistani baby born prematurely in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after full year

Updated 16 min 13 sec ago

Pakistani baby born prematurely in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after full year

  • Abdullah was born prematurely on January 9 last year to Pakistani Umrah pilgrims with medical complications
  • Parents say treatment for baby’s medical condition was paid for entirely by the Saudi government for a full year

ISLAMABAD: A baby born prematurely to Pakistani Umrah pilgrims in Makkah last year was returned on Friday evening to his parents in Quetta-- a full year after his birth and following his successful treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Bibi Hajra and her husband Ghulam Haider were forced to leave their baby behind after their Umrah visas expired following the birth of their son on Jan. 9 last year-- a premature birth with the baby weighing only 1 kg and suffering from severe medical complications at the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Makkah.

The baby, named Abdullah, was placed on a ventilator and stayed on in the hospital under the observation of doctors and consultants specialized in neonatal intensive care for a period of 46 days.

After this, the child was transferred to special care under the supervision of the Social Service Department.

“We had to return to Pakistan and leave our baby in the hospital as our visas expired... and then could not go back due to coronavirus,” a tearful Hajra told Arab News on Saturday from Pakistan’s southwestern Quetta city. 

“Initially, I was very worried about my baby but the hospital administration remained in touch with us. They used to show me Abdullah on video and also send us his pictures,” she said.

“We are thankful to the Saudi government, hospital authorities, doctors, nurses and Pakistani consulate in Jeddah for their cooperation,” she added.

On Thursday, the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Makkah handed Abdullah over to a delegation from the Pakistani consulate after taking care of him for a full year. 

Abdullah’s father, Haider, who is a dispenser at a small clinic in Quetta, also expressed his gratitude to the Saudi government and the Pakistani mission for their support.

“Our child remained under treatment for one year but we have not even been charged a single penny,” Haider told Arab News.

“All the expenses were taken care of by the Saudi government,” he said. 

Pakistan Consulate Jeddah officials hand over one-year-old baby, Abdullah, to his parents at Quetta airport on Jan 15, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Consulate Jeddah)

The return of Abdullah to Quetta, he continued, had been arranged by the Pakistani consulate in Jeddah without any cost incurred to his family.

“Pakistan consulate was in contact with the hospital as well as with the parents of the child. They (hospital) provided all the medical facilities and kept Abdullah in complete care. Now he is absolutely fine and one year old,” the community welfare attaché of the Pakistani consulate, Saqib Ali Khan, who received the boy from the hospital on Thursday, told Arab News on the phone from Jeddah.

“When hospital administration assured us that the child is completely fine...we sent him back to Quetta through a delegation and (he) has been received by the parents,” he said.

Khan thanked the Saudi government, the Saudi Ministry of Health and the medical team at the hospital for providing the child with special care, and for keeping in touch with his family in order to reassure them over the entire year of their separation.