Epitome of Yangon’s multicultural melting pot
- 535 Merchant Street
- Open Daily 10am-9pm
This saffron yellow building was once one of the city’s most prestigious business addresses. It was built by the successful Baghdadi brothers Isaac and Meyer Sofaer wo shared a passion for architecture. No building better epitomises the city’s cosmopolitan past: the Sofaer shop carried anything from Egyptian cigarettes, Spanish olives to Irish whiskey and they rented the other units in the building to a Reuters telegram office, a Chinese life insurance company, a German photographer, a Greek leather merchant and a hairdresser from the Philippines.
The Sofaer brothers were part of a thriving Jewish community of more than 2,000 people in the early 20th century, typically traders from the Middle East. Most left after WWII and nationalisation, so only a handful remain today. The Sofaer brothers also left when their business was in trouble and the bank foreclosed on their properties, including the Sofaer building. Only the name never left.
Cosmopolitan past and future
Almost a century later, the Sofaer building has once again become one of Yangon’s most sought-after business addresses. The building now features a sushi restaurant, a Japanese ramen bar, a bank, a local fabric shop and a pioneering art gallery.
Nice to know
The floor tiles with a mosaic pattern of green, gold, burnt sienna and lapis lazuli that you see throughout the building were shipped from Manchester.