Islamabad - Pakistan’s highest-ranked research university boasts numerous huts or “dhaabay” as they are popularly known. These huts do not just serve salubrious food and snacks at low cost they are a meeting point. It is at these huts, students from all the different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds of the country spend quality time together. One can see lecturers out with their students exchanging ideas, students engaged in literary and political debate, celebrating birthdays or just hanging out during breaks between lectures.

All graduates of a university feel nostalgic about their educational institutes. Memories of a university or college remain forever in the minds of the students after they graduate. Every university has its own charm be it the class rooms and buildings, sports grounds, auditoriums or canteens.

The huts or canteens take the centre stage in the outside the classroom environs of the QAU. The QAU students and alumni take great pride in their educational institute. They all have fond memories of their time at the campus especially the huts.

The natural beauty and open spaces surrounded by mountains are among the many features that leave lasting imprints of the varsity on the minds of the students of QAU and the alumni.

The gatherings at the dhabbay cement a strong bond between students as well the between the students and the university.

The huts or dhabbay serve simple by delicious food and a majority of them are temporary structures.  

There are 23 huts in the university and every hut has its own dishes and seating styles.  “Nipsonian Cafe” or dhabbay is at the maximum height near NIPS, ASC and Psychology Department. It boasts the most beautiful and scenic view of Margalla Hills.  “Aalu wala paratha” is the speciality here.

“Chemistry Cafe” has its unique “samosa chaat”, while “Karachi Hut” is famous for its “Biryani”.

“Punjab Hut” serves its special “Malai jam” with traditional paratha in breakfast. Guddu and Danial Huts are famous for their tea.   At Guddu the tea is made on firewood and has a unique taste.

“Hikmat Hut” serves “lobia karahi”, whereas “Shabbir Hut” serves many different types of desi foods.

“Quaidian hut” and “Jungle cafe” have also quality food and scenic seating area.  “My Menu hut” though a small set up is known for taking measures to ensure hygiene.

They also take care of proper medical checkups of their workers.  “Bistro cafe” boasts a traditional Pashtun-style interior.  “Majeed huts” is the oldest dhabba in this university and is the busiest.

Malai booti, chicken jalfrezi, daal chawwal are the famous dishes of this hut, but “crisis” is the most famous dish at the dhabba.  “Crisis” is a mixture of all available vegetables and chicken dishes wrapped in fried egg.

There is a huge demand of “crisis” at Majeed hut. The QAU alumni have fond memories of dhabas.

“Every moment spent at the QAU is an asset. It was just like our first love which we cannot ever forget. We literally cried in our room at our last night at the university. I cannot forget my time at the QAU. I love to be a Quaidian and I am proud of it. We cannot forget Majeed Hut where we always went to eat ‘crisis.’ It was the only ‘crisis’ in our lives which made us happy and we paid for it, otherwise crisis brings tensions,” Abrarul Haq, a famous singer, senior PTI leader and QAU alumni said.

Cultural performances are a routine at the QAU.  Bonfire and the BBQ are a matter of routine at the university.

Social huts are popular for hosting various cultural performances arranged by students.  ‘Attan’ is a traditional Pashtun dance and Pashtun music brings university students on their toes, every time such a gathering is organised.

Usually Social Hut is a place where one can see students performing ‘attan’ fairly regularly.

“Cultural exposure is a beauty of QAU and I love to be here to see these performances. I like the ‘attan’ most,” Sadia Aslam, a student of Sociology Department said, while enjoying a biryani at the Social hut.

“I like rice and usually I bring my friends here at Karachi hut to have biryani as their biryani is tasty and is fresh,” Saqib Imran of Geophysics Department said.

“Paratha at Nipsonian cafe gives us a taste of home cooked food. We come here to eat paratha and enjoy the scenery,” Quratul Ain of Psychology Department said. “We like the tea served at Guddu and it makes us fresh at the end of the day,” university officials Shahzad Malik and Raees Kayani said.

–The writer is a freelance

contributor.