Storyteller and owner of the Royal Dutch Café
My family has now lived in the Fort for seven generations. When I pass the small harbour outside the Fort walls I think of my ancestors who originally came to Sri Lanka as traders from Morocco in the 16th century during the Portuguese period. They brought items such as swords and shields and swapped them for spices. It’s said that the biblical King Solomon also moored his ship in Galle in search of pearls and gems.
Growing up in the 1950s, we used to swim off the ramparts and play games on the streets - with marbles, date seeds and cigarette cards such as Three Roses. There were chickens and goats everywhere. During Ramadan we would finish our evening prayers and then wade into the ocean with a lantern and fish for mullet. We would also jump into our friends’ houses, take food and go and sit on the ramparts. It was a beautiful time – there was unity. Two or three families would live in one house.
It was also cheaper then. If you had 100 rupees you were a rich man! A quarter loaf of bread and a short-eat cost only 5 cents. The Fort has become commercialised – it’s a sad story – but I still feel comfortable walking around in my sarong.
There are a few places which remind me of the Fort in the old days. 1st Cross Street is still very residential – so for a sense of Fort life, this is one of my favourite lanes. Then the small shop in front of the army camp is a good place to have a rest and enjoy a cup of tea or a hopper. When walking down Leyn Baan Street, my eye is always drawn to the small general shop at the junction. It reminds me of my carefree bachelor days when I used to buy cigarettes and toffees there.