The Pettah – Colombo’s Colorful Bazaar

Walking around Colombo’s Pettah neighborhood, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d landed in Tehran or Cairo. A bazaar with definite Middle Eastern flair, the Pettah is where Sri Lanka’s multi-culturalism is at its most pronounced. The district has long been inhabited by Muslims, but a strong population of Sinhalese and Tamils contribute to an intoxicating mix of ethnicities in Colombo’s most colorful area.

Pettah Market in Colombo Sri Lanka, man selling spices

We visited the Pettah on our first full day in Sri Lanka, and were instantly won over. The narrow streets are clogged with tuk-tuks and men pulling heavy carts laden with goods, while a bewildering assortment of shops clamor for business. The Pettah spreads out north from the Fort Railway station, and we walked aimlessly about for a couple hours, snapping photos and absorbing the ambiance.

Similar shops tend to be grouped together. Hundreds of jewelry stores cling side-by-side on Sea Street, then around the corner you’ll find a collection of shops selling ayurvedic herbs and roots. South of the Old Town Hall, there’s a covered market selling fruits and vegetables, some of them familiar and some less so. Vendors were happy to identify the stranger specimens, and I almost bought a jackfruit — but carrying around the giant, spiky melon-shaped fruit for the rest of the day wouldn’t have been a good idea.

Pettah market banana flowers

Eager for a break, we ventured into the Old Town Hall. In the midst of such chaos, it was strangely deserted. On the second floor, we found a collection of dummies dressed in official uniforms, seated around a long table. Some sort of recreation of an old town meeting? I don’t know, but it was definitely bizarre. We took a seat in a room full of empty school chairs and recharged.

The Pettah is home to a wide variety of places to worship. We visited the New Katherisan Kovil (Hindu), the gorgeous red and white Jami ul-Aftar (Muslim), and the Wolfendahl Church (Christian). Anyone in the market for a new religion should head straight to the Pettah, for some convenient comparison shopping. Without a doubt, this was the most lively and exciting neighborhood we visited during our short time in Colombo.

Location of The Pettha on our Sri Lanka Map

Woman crossing cross walk in Colombo Sri Lanka
Pulling water bottles in Colombo Sri Lanka
Potato delivery by old man
Colombo street food in Sri Lanka
Coconut seller in Colombo Sri Lanka
shelled coconuts
Sri Lanka refreshing drinks
Textile seller in Colombo Sri Lanka
Sleeping toddler in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan Stud
Sri Lanka transporters
Vegetable stands Pettah Market in Colombo Sri Lanka
Pettah Colombo
Sri Lankan mini banana
Sri Lankan pasta
Dried Fish Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan eggplants
Sri Lankan pineapple
Sri Lankan sweets
Sri Lankan Man
Woman in Sri Lanka
Pettah sprice market
Lorry thingy
Seller man

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. elpariente

    For sure that you will enjoy taking photos in Sri Lanka Good photos !!!

    1. Juergen

      Thank you !!!! Not sure how many pictures I have taken so far but it must be more than 2 thousand 🙂

  2. pubbaa

    those star shaped thingies are sort of a papadam it’s really nice, you’d have to deep fry it first..yummy!nice article by the way

    1. Juergen

      We were wondering that that was … can you get them in restaurants as well?

      1. pubbaa

        i haven’t seen them in restaurants , i guess it’s a common mans treat.. the i’ve seen them at grocery stores , take a packet and fry it, enjoy!!!

  3. Mark E. Hazen

    My wife and I used to live in Sri Lanka back in 1975 to 1978. We helped install a 400,000 W radio station in Putalum on the NW of Sri Lanka about 85 miles above Columbo. We spent a lot of timne in Columbo and our son was born there. We remember the Pettah very well including the sounds and smells. The people of Sri Lanka are beautiful and kind. They were good to us. We have many fond memories.

Leave a Reply