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

1 / 5
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)
2 / 5
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.
3 / 5
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)
4 / 5
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)
5 / 5
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.


KSRelief distributes 50 tons of dates in Pakistan

Updated 12 min 14 sec ago

KSRelief distributes 50 tons of dates in Pakistan

  • Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with KSRelief as distribution partner
  • Top Bait-ul-Mal official applauds Saudi government for distributing relief items among needy Pakistanis during the COVID-19 pandemic

ISLAMABAD: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has launched a project to distribute 50 tons of dates among Pakistan’s underprivileged social segments, the Saudi humanitarian agency said in a statement on Thursday.

The organization has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal that will distribute 36 tons of the commodity. The rest of the 14 tons will be shared with deserving families and people by the Saudi relief agency that will send out its teams to different parts of the country for the purpose.

“Dr. Khalid Muhammad Al-Othmani, Director KSrelief Pakistan, handed over 36 tons of dates to Aon Abbas Buppi, Managing Director of Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal, for distribution among deserving people of Kashmore (Sindh), Dera Bugti (Balochistan) and Wana (Waziristan) in Pakistan,” the statement said.

KSRelief provides humanitarian and development aid to more than 47 countries over four continents. With international, regional and local partners in place in these states, the Saudi organization has delivered assistance to millions of beneficiaries worldwide.

Pakistan is the fifth-largest recipient of aid from KSRelief and has received $120.14 million in aid since 2005.

Managing Director of Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal Aon Abbas Buppi thanked the Saudi authorities for remembering its Pakistani brothers and sisters during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Khalid Muhammad Al-Othmani, Director KSRelief Pakistan, and Aon Abbas Buppi, Managing Director Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal, are signing a Memorandum of Understanding in Islamabad for the distribution of 36 tons of dates provided by the Saudi relief agency on July 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy: KSRelief)

“I am highly grateful to KSRelief for today’s MoU through which they have handed over to us 36 tons of dates. We are the implementation partners of KSRelief. These dates will be distributed in three of the poorest districts of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he told Arab News, adding that the Saudi gift meant a lot since it came during one of the toughest periods of human history.

“The Saudi government through its welfare organization has kept on providing relief items to needy Pakistanis even during the pandemic. It had earlier distributed 20,000 food bags in Punjab during the lockdown phase which was commendable,” he added.

Dr. Khalid Muhammad Al-Othmani, Director KSRelief Pakistan, and Aon Abbas Buppi, Managing Director Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Islamabad for the distribution of 36 tons of dates provided by the Saudi relief agency on July 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy: KSrelief)

Buppi hoped the cooperation between both official relief organizations was going to strengthen in the future.

“I am hopeful that this cooperation between Bait-ul-Mal and KSRelief will continue in the future as well. While government-to-government cooperation is important between the two countries, the cooperation between two official welfare organizations can have significant, positive and direct impact on public lives,” he said, adding that KSRelief had been working with the Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal for the last several years.

“Last year, we worked together in Kashmir on different relief projects. One of them entailed distribution of food bags to poor families. We are also going to launch another joint relief project in South Waziristan soon,” Buppi said.