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This travel blog is about my experience of Nigeen Lake, which is an offbeat place near Dal Lake in Srinagar. I also enjoyed an evening in the Mascot Houseboat.
Nigeen Lake- A secluded hide out near Dal Lake.
As much as the Dal Lake of Srinagar is famous for its unparalleled beauty, the often overlooked Nigeen Lake impressed me with its understated charm. Though I loved taking the shikara (local boat) ride through the floating markets of the touristy Dal Lake, I equally appreciated the tranquility and solitude which the offbeat Nigeen Lake offered. Just a few minutes’ drive away from the popular Dal Lake, Nigeen Lake is still not a victim of crass commercialization.
As the shikara gently moved across the placid water of the Nigeen lake, I admired the beauty of the place silently, disturbed only by the sound of ripples of water every time the boatman pierced the Nigeeen lake with his wooden oar.
Nigeen Lake is atmospheric!
Nigeen lake somehow reminded me of the backwaters of Kerala, which is also known as the Venice of the East. Big and small houseboats were tethered on the side of the banks of the lake. Poplar and willow trees lined the other end of the Nigeen lake.
The massive Hari Parbat hill in the background completed the picture. Located on the foothill of the Zabarwan mountains, Nigeen lake is set in a picturesque canvas and is a preferred destination for the discerning traveler. The famous Shankaracharya Hill lies on the south of the Nigeen Lake.
Did you know both Nigeen Lake and Dal Lake are connected!
Nigeen Lake is less crowded than the Dal Lake. Measuring just 2.7 kilometers, it’s also smaller than Dal Lake. Not many know that it is connected to the Dal Lake through a narrow strait and thus is also often considered a part of the Dal Lake. Nallah Amir Khan connects Nigeen Lake with Khushal Sar and Gil Sar lakes.
Mascot House Boat at Nigeen Lake
Me and my travel blogger friends boarded a small shikara and arrived at the Mascot House Boat. A small platform helped us enter the houseboat. It was the first time I had entered a houseboat in Kashmir. But then it was also my first time in Kashmir. Mr. Mohammad Yaseen Tuman, the owner of the Mascot House Boat greeted us with warmth.
During a long conversation with us, he educated us with the hard work and enormous sum of money which has gone into the making of the huge Mascot House boat.
The History of Mascot House Boat
We were told it was a fifth generation hospitality enterprise which is still running successfully by Mr. Azim Tuman and his sons. Mr. Yaseen told us about the challenges the family faced while building the houseboat. Despite the fact that the Tuman family is one of the pioneers in Kashmir in the houseboat sector, they had their own set of challenges.
Ever since the 1880’s the family has built good reputation and authority owing to their personalized service and inimitable interiors. I realized that why guests return to Mascot Houseboat time and again when I saw Mr. Yaseen interact with one of the German guests who was staying in the houseboat during our visit.
The personal attention and warmth exuded by the family combined with delicious food, luxurious interiors and friendly service make it stand out. Being a trained hospitality professional, I understand the nuances. Having studied in Institute of Hotel Management, Lucknow, we were taught about what makes or breaks a hospitality business. It was a delight for me to see someone doing it right!
THE CLASSY INTERIORS OF MASCOT HOUSE BOAT, SRINAGAR
We made a property round of the houseboat. The wooden khatamband ceilings and bed side panels in each room caught my attention. Khatamband is a local Kashmiri art. Locals carve intricate designs on wood with hand and it takes months to finish one project. No wonder, it is an expensive indulgence. The khatamband work I saw in Mascot House Boat were undoubtedly the most exquisite and in fact the best I had ever seen.
The mood lighting which passed through the brown khatamband jaalis (net) illuminated the room with a classy touch. I was amazed to see that the washroom of each room had a bathtub as well.
THE SPLENDID VIEW OF SUNSET FROM THE ROOF OF MASCOT HOUSE BOAT
We arrived at the rooftop for an evening of conversations over kahwa, the local fragrant tea. Walnut fudges from Moonlight bakers (near Nigeen lake)had me begging for more. They were so delicious, I lost count of how many I had. Srinagar has some very nice bakeries. Ashfaq from Kashmir Trails gifted us some fresh cookies from ‘Just Baked’
The views from the roof of houseboat were breathtaking. It was difficult for me to concentrate on the conversations and sit on the table. I excused myself from the table and walked towards a corner, immersing myself in the views. I walked around the roof top and was surprised to see the vegetable farms built in water just behind the houseboat. What is novelty to me is a way of life here.
The shikaras lyrically navigated the calm waters, a large willow tree cast its reflection in the water, the birds returned home in an orderly fashion. It was a perfect moment. I stood there, in silence while the setting sun turned the hue of water golden. As the sun rays danced on the water, I soaked in the beauty, losing track of time.
It rapidly turned dark. Brother of Mr. Yaseen joined us and bid us a warm farewell. As our shikara left houseboat, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of Mascot houseboat, now illuminated in golden lights.
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