I’ve been to Auburn many times, and am looking forward to revisiting favourite places and discovering new ones. Read on and discover this multicultural Western Sydney suburb with me.
I start by exploring the little shops along Rawson Street. In the new looking Ghazni bakery, flat Afghani bread is baked in traditional ovens. The shelves in the Tamleni Indian supermarket are packed with spices, condiments and enormous bags of rice. I buy tamarind paste, an essential ingredient in my new favourite curry recipe.
Small stores sell products from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh (amongst others) to immigrants who yearn for the familiar smells and tastes of home. Around the corner in Station Road, the Sahibi supermarket, specialises in Afghani produce. The proprietor tells me that the cinnamon tea I am looking at is good for digestion. I decide to give it a go.
Auburn Gallipoli Mosque
I hesitantly enter the gates of the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque. I’ve been here twice before, but with friends and not unannounced. Three men chatting outside direct me to the office where I’m given a friendly welcome and shown where to go and what to do.
I remove my shoes, placing them on the stand provided. I step onto the rubber matting and tentatively push open the heavy door. I climb the stairs up to the women’s area. The beauty of the interior takes my breath away. Besides a man praying below, I am alone and I take my time exploring the splendour around me.
Outside once more, I greet a woman standing at the gate. We’re soon chatting. She comes to the mosque regularly to learn to read her “books” and generously agrees to read a prayer for me. I am moved by the feeling with which she delivers the piece.
Other women have joined us. We talk. About the women’s gym under the mosque and the women’s baths at Coogee which they have yet to visit. These spontaneous interactions are what makes my suburban discovery so special for me.
Returning to Station Road, I pop into Real Turkish Delight, a shop and factory which supplies authentic Turkish delight throughout Australia. I decide to break from tradition and get a box of pistachio instead of my normal rosewater. A good choice. (Update May 2019: Unfortunately this shop has now closed, replaced by a jewellery shop).
In South Parade, the feel is different again. The stores are mostly Asian. A fish market. Small supermarkets with Asian greens. Here goat is a big seller at the halal butcheries.
i can’t go past Gaziantep Sweets and Pastry without trying at least one of baklava on display.
I watch a Chinese woman tending to her chestnut roasting machine. The mechanical arm rotates the chestnuts mixed in with small shiny smooth heated black rocks. She tells me that chestnuts are good for kidneys and gives me a nut to sample. Another memorable spontaneous interaction.
I buy some roasted cashews and a small yoghurt drink from Best Friends supermarket to keep me going ’til lunch. The shopkeeper jokes that if I take his photo he’ll become famous and wouldn’t be able to walk down the street. But he agrees anyway.
I love the Turkish décor at Mado Café up Auburn Road and stop for a cup of spiced apple tea and pistachio baklava. (Update May 2019: Unfortunately this shop has now closed. Instead try the Persian or Afghani fare from the shops that are there now).
A Council sign describes Auburn as a suburb of “many cultures one community”. The people and shops around me confirm that statement. Dominos and Pizza Hut seem out of place amongst the stores selling Eastern fashion and gifts.
Glitzy gold jewellery, middle eastern style tea sets and rows of ‘hubbly bubbly’ tobacco water pipes. An Indian fashion store displays beautiful bright sari’s. There’s an African hairdresser. Restaurants and bakeries offer traditional food from many different countries.
Auburn Botanic Gardens
Today, the Auburn Botanic Gardens is my excuse to wander through the suburban streets. On my way there, I peer over low walls and fences, peaking into gardens and at the verandas. Many houses have a no shoes policy. I discover a crop of chillies, rows of pots with tall stakes support young beans.
And then a surprise. A row of fish fillets, skin still on, are strung up with raffia to dry. And I think there are mushrooms drying on a tray there too.
This is my first visit to the botanic gardens and I quickly realize that I need more time to do it justice. The Peacock Gallery is open and I have a quick look around. Then it’s on to the Japanese Garden where I pass under an arch formed by the bare cherry blossom trees. They will be magnificent in August when in flower.
The Zen garden, water features and rose garden are perfect places for quiet contemplation. In the fauna reserve I spy the white Kangaroo I’ve been told to look out for. The animals are rather wary and keep their distance.
After a quick walk through the Australian Native Garden it’s time to return to the town centre for a delicious late lunch from Kaybar Afghani Restaurant.
Final thoughts on Auburn
I’ve had a magical day, meeting lovely people, visiting favourite shops and discovering new ones. I board the train promising myself that I won’t leave it so long before I return.