Dhobi Ghat is an open air laundromat (lavoir) in Mumbai, India. The washers, known as dhobis, work in the open to clean clothes and linens from Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals. It was constructed in 1890.
At first, Dhobi Ghat presents a chaotic scene. However, a closer look brings out the order in the chaos. Lines and lines of washed clothes are hung out to dry in a manner that optimizes both time and space. This is a labor-intensive process, and the washermen, also called dhobis, have a system in place that takes care of washing, sorting, and ironing.
Behind the Scenes at Mumbai’s 140-Year-Old Dhobi Ghat
“I use a dhobi,” explained our guide Freni Avari. “His father used to work for my mother. We are continuing. It’s like family.”
She described how the dhobi system works. “He comes to the house once a week. Every household has a dhobi bag or container where all the clothes are kept. He doesn’t write down what he takes. He just knows,” said Freni. “He wraps them up in a bundle and takes them.”
Dhobi Ghats, the Outdoor Laundries of Mumbai
Published: Edmond Fortier, 1920s
Postmark: possibly 1925
At one stall in the Kermel, that of Samba Beye, one can find bronze figures ranging from a few inches to several feet high, starting at $10 and climbing to hundreds of dollars. One piece depicted a seated man playing the cora, a stringed instrument made from a calabash, a gourdlike fruit; another was of a man playing a balafon, a xylophone with wooden keys resting on calabashes.
Another booth in the Kermel features paintings on glass (about $7), which are created by etching and then painting on the back of a piece of glass. The images are usually done in soft colors and often depict scenes of village life.
It is also at the Kermel that one finds the basket man, in one of the stalls that surround the central building. The afternoon of my visit, as a young man sat weaving cane, I chose from among hundreds of woven baskets that had an unfamiliar smell of freshness. My purchase – a set of three nesting baskets, a large open basket and a lidded, barrel-shaped basket – came to $11.
Shopper’s World; Dakar’s Markets: Strategies For Buyers (NY Times, 1985)
The covered Marché Kermel, behind Ave Sarraut and within walking distance of Marché Sandaga, sells a mixture of foodstuffs and souvenirs. It’s mainly worth visiting for the beautiful building that shelters its busy stalls. The original 1860 construction burnt down in 1994, but the 1997 reconstruction has been closely modelled on the building’s initial structure and decoration.
In 1865, a large shed on Kermel’s square was designed by the Department of Bridges and Roadways (le service des ponts et chaussées) of the colony of Senegal for the protection of commodities from dust, rain and sun. It was a strictly functional structure made of metal pillars and roofing, with no embellishment, intended, inter alia, to reduce the street-stall phenomenon that was condemned by the colonial administration.
The name ’Kermel’ (then Quermel) was probably a distortion of ’Kernel’ (quernel) – referring to the thriving regional commerce in grains and spices. Such functional, simple, and modest structures like Kermel’s first version were perfectly conformed with the initial needs of the colonial authorities, both British and French, especially in West Africa – the poor relative of other colonialisms in regions that were considered as more privileged and worthy of investment.
The transformation of the shed of Kermel into a semi-monumental market in the 1900s was in perfect conformity with these developments. The new version of Kermel was based on prefabricated iron foundation and its architectural design, winner of a competition closed on 31 October 1907, was in line with the form of the polygonal square. The work started in April 1908 and was completed by 1910. It included a prefabricated gallery encircling the main body of the building and a prefabricated metal skeleton that was casted in France. Kermel evokes qualities similar to the great metal markets which were erected in metropolitan France itself and in other European countries by the late nineteenth century.
(Re-)Producing the Marché Kermel
The Owl Drug Company was an American drugstore retailer with its headquarters in San Francisco. It was a subsidiary of Rexall stores at its peak in the 1920s through 1940s. The founder of the Owl Drug Company was Richard Elgin Miller, R.E. Miller. The company sold medicines and pills, and later ventured into cosmetics, perfumes, and other goods.
El Berka was built by Yusuf Dey in 1612 and was meant to sell slaves coming from the Sub-Saharan Africa. Slaves of European origin, considered rarer and more precious, were not sold in the souk but in private locations because the sale concerned only wealthy potential buyers. This souk turned into a jewelers’ souk after the abolition of slavery in Tunisia, decreed by Ahmad I ibn Mustafa in 1846.
Virtual tour in French (or Arabic)
Alex Vincent’s Kunsuorlag, Eneberettiget, No. 14
The Old Stock Exchange dates back to 1625 and is one of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen. King Christian IV had realized the importance of increased trade and commerce, and so he had this grand building erected. At the time of its inauguration, the building had room for at least 40 market stalls. The Old Stock Exchange was then surrounded by water from three sides, so ships could unload their cargo directly at the wharf in front.
Roof turned to canon balls during war
The Old Stock Exchange was built in Dutch Renaissance style. King Christian IV had originally covered the roof with lead, but during the Swedish occupation of Copenhagen 1658-59, much of this lead was removed to produce cannon balls, and the holes in the roof were only partly covered with tin and tile. Not until the end of the 19th century was the building roofed with copper.
The four intertwined dragon tails of the dragon spire are topped by three crowns, symbolizing the Scandinavian empire (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden).
Børsen is one of the old buildings in Copenhagen and like Rosenborg Slot and Rundetårn, it is one of the buildings of which we remember King Christian IV. The building is built in Dutch renaissance style but is characterized by the King’s taste, like the garrets on the roof and the spire.
In 1618 Christian IV asked the engineer Johan Semb to construct a new part of town, Christianshavn, and a dam was made facing Amager on top of which, the first “Amagerbro” (today known as Knippelsbro) was built. Christian IV had realized the importance of trade and business and decided to make Copenhagen the great trade centre and grand city of the future. However, you cannot have a grand city without an exchange and in 1618 the King asked Lorenz van Steenwinckel to start building Børsen, where the dam facing Christianshavn is connected with land on Slotsholmen.
Børsen as a market place In the late 16th twenties, Børsen was taken into use by renting out booths for merchants. From the street you could enter the ground floor and visit 40 booths. The whole of Børsen’s first floor contained only one big room with rented booths in the centre and along the windows.
(More information and photos of rooms.)