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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Oslo's trendy Pakistani hotspot

By Lars Bevanger in Oslo

Norwegian Pakistani woman in Groenland
Groenland has become one of Oslo's most-happening addresses
It is called Little Karachi and is fast turning into the Norwegian capital's hottest place to live and hang out.

Situated just east of the city centre, the Groenland area has become a thriving part of the city with international shops, restaurants and cafes - and a distinctly subcontinental flavour.

"If we lived here, we didn't think we lived in Norway, we thought we lived in Pakistan," says Riaz Amad, one of the first working immigrants to come here from Pakistan in the early 1970s.

He was part of Norway's first major non-European immigration. Back then the problem was finding accommodation, Mr Ahmad says, not jobs.

"Now it's the other way around. Young people now have no problem finding a flat, but jobs are scarce."

Trying to integrate

Groenland developed like any area in a foreign city where immigrants settle. People sought out compatriots and "Little Karachi" grew.

Cafe in Groenland
Countless restaurants and bars line the streets of Groenland

Some Norwegians feared Groenland was turning into a ghetto, far removed from the rest of society.

That is the kind of attitude Imran Shaid grew up with. He was born here of Pakistani parents.

Growing up here is still not problem-free, Imran admits.

"The biggest problem to integration is for the children, because they don't go to pure Norwegian schools. So it affects the Norwegian language, it affects mingling with Norwegian culture.

"But I think this is a moving phase - when the children grow up they will learn better Norwegian and their children will understand Norwegian society better."

Multicultural success

Over the past 30 years, Groenland has developed in a positive direction. Today it's fast turning into Oslo's hippest address.

It is a fact not lost on one of Norway's largest property developers, which is constructing a new multicultural shopping centre, with apartments above, in the heart of Groenland.

Countless restaurants and bars line the streets here, catering to a mix of nationalities and ages.

Here is life! Oslo is very calm and quiet, but here there is a rush of people
Riaz Ahmad

Imran Shaid is very happy with the way things have turned out.

"I've seen other European cities and Groenland is something different. It's not a ghetto, it's a multicultural place where the Norwegian ethnicity is represented."

Groenland's success rests on the fact it never tried to exist in isolation from the rest of Norwegian society.

Religious leaders have not been blind to the importance of a close dialogue with the established Norwegian Christian Lutheran church.

Riffat Bashir is imam at Oslo's largest mosque, situated in Groenland.

He has an ongoing dialogue with Norwegian church leaders and often invites non-Muslim students to his mosque.

"We try our best to show them the real teaching of Islam. And the real teaching of Islam and the real teaching of Christianity - these are the same because the source is the same, God Almighty. I have seen that the people of Norway are very co-operative."

Slice of Asia

Riaz Ahmad is amazed at how the area has developed since his arrival in 1974.

"It's a multicultural area now. Not only we live here, but people from India live here, people from Sri Lanka live here. And now ethnic Norwegians are moving here."

Groenland property development
Developers are eager to capitalise on Groenland's popularity

And he is in no doubt why.

"Because here is life! Oslo is very calm and quiet, but here there is a rush of people. They are buying and participating."

Elsewhere in Oslo you will find the usual choice of European chain stores.

But walking down one of Groenland's main streets you will find a small outlet for South Indian sweets, a Tamil travel agent, Turkish greengrocers and several fabric shops catering for subcontinental fashions.

The immigrants have added a touch of eastern colour to Norway.


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