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A Fast Information to Karachi

For the primary time in a few years Karachi is in a superb place to say Khush Amdeed – Welcome! So should you’re planning a go to to my dwelling metropolis, or are searching for a cause to, here’s a fast information to Karachi!

Not like different cities in Pakistan, Karachi doesn’t bear the excellence of getting given delivery to 1000’s of years of superb civilisation, or housing mighty empires inside its boundaries. Not way back, the town was a mere fishing village on the shores of the Arabian Sea, then generally known as Kolachi after a valiant Balochi fisher-maid, who -according to native legend- braved the tough waters of the Arabian Sea to avoid wasting her husband from drowning.

It wasn’t till the arrival of the British East India Firm – on 1st February 1839 – that this backwater fishing village started its transformation to a serious buying and selling hub. 

Speedy transformation

Inside the span of 100 years the town underwent speedy change that noticed the emergence of all the pieces from fashionable markets and a bustling tram system to quite a few beautification initiatives. Town was on the street to success. As a water-port that’s heat all 12 months spherical, and situated only a stone’s throw away from different main buying and selling hubs within the area, the town of Karachi began to draw migrants from throughout the globe:  Afghans, Parsis, Goan Christians, Burmese, Chinese language, Arabs and others amongst them. They helped rework Karachi into the cosmopolitan metropolis it’s right now.

In 1947 when Pakistan declared its independence from the British Empire, Karachi bore the burden of being designated the capital metropolis of the nation in its infancy. On the time of independence it opened its doorways to a different wave of migrants – the Indian Muslims collectively known as the Muhajjirs.

The Muhajjir neighborhood got here from all 4 corners of India, bringing with them their very own tradition and heritage, and thus added to the material of an already numerous metropolis. Town’s literati affectionately began referring to it as Uroos Ulbilaad (the Bride amongst Cities) and Roshniyon ka Shehr  (Metropolis of Lights). With its burgeoning nightlife and thriving café tradition the town was a favourite regional stopover and weekend getaway hub till across the mid 70’s.  

Political turmoil

It was in 1977 when Karachi’s good occasions got here to a screeching halt; a army led coup led to the enforcement of a strict type of ‘Sharia’ legislation everywhere in the nation. From this level onwards Pakistan slipped right into a seemingly countless cycle of political, financial, sectarian and ethnic violence; amongst all of the nation’s cities, Karachi was hit the toughest. 


Within the final decade, as a result of nation’s total enhancing financial, political and safety state of affairs, Karachi is beginning to suture its wounds and heal itself. Dwelling to a staggering inhabitants of over 21 million folks, the vast majority of whom are younger and lively, the town is reinventing itself. With a thriving arts and crafts tradition and a nascent performing-arts scene, Karachi appears all set to depart its darkish day’s behind. A progressive and increasing center class has introduced with it a vibrant restaurant and café tradition. Air-conditioned buying malls, multiplex cinemas and excessive rise condo complexes are popping up all throughout city. No person needs to say it out loud out of the concern of jinxing it – however the good occasions appear to have returned.

For the primary time in a few years the town is in a superb place to say Khush Amdeed – Welcome! So should you’re planning a go to to my dwelling metropolis, or are searching for a cause to, listed here are a few of my favorite spots in Karachi!

A Quick Guide to Karachi
Graffiti in Urdu, “Khush Amdeed” or “Welcome”. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.

Empress Market

Because the monetary and financial capital of Pakistan, it ought to come as no shock that Karachi will get began early every morning. The very best place to look at the town come up is the Empress Market. Positioned useless within the coronary heart of Karachi’s bustling centre, the market space is a chaotic hive of exercise from the daybreak to sunset – promoting all the pieces from hair progress formulation and unique natural medicines, to the freshest vegatables and fruits on the town.

That stated, the market has a fairly somber historical past.

Following the First Indian Struggle of Independence in 1857 towards the rule of the British East India Firm, these concerned within the resistance have been publicly executed to dispel any additional emotions of dissent amongst natives. The bottom upon which the Empress Market now stands served because the execution sq., the place mutineers had canons fired upon them. In subsequent years the realm, tainted with reminiscence of colonial brutality, turned a protest sq. the place locals would collect en masse to indicate their disapproval of British rule. That’s the reason, in 1889, a towering, state-of-the-art market was constructed on the spot by the British authorities, who feared one other insurrection brewing among the many natives. So as to add salt to native wounds, it was named Empress of India – after Queen Victoria.

At daybreak, merchants and retailers from all throughout the area descend onto the market sq. bringing their produce to promote. Strolling via the market on any given day can overwhelm the senses; the scent of freshly lower mint leaves and burning joss sticks; the sounds of boisterous retailers and chirping birds. The market is certainly not for the faint hearted – although it’s all the time enjoyable to wander aimlessly via its labyrinthine alleys, trying out the standard, quirky and typically downright weird objects on the market. It by no means fails to amaze.

Owing to its peak, the market’s Merewether Clock Tower is clearly seen from most corners of the downtown space. Designed in a Gothic Revival model by the British, the sandstone tower was carved by native stonemasons.

Driving downtown, you’ll be able to’t assist however discover the architectural panorama is considerably chaotic, with a mad palette of colors. Elegant buildings from the time of the British Raj sit alongside extra rustic wanting condo complexes. Baroque, Gothic Revival, Mughlai and Artwork Deco – all are represented on the streets of Karachi.

Karachi streets present an eclectic mixture of architectural kinds. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.

Mosques and Dargahs

Not like Lahore’s Badshahi and Islamabad’s Faisal Masjid, Karachi doesn’t have one explicit central mosque, however has, as a substitute, many distinctive mosques scattered throughout city. 

In-built 1893 by the Memon neighborhood, the Kutchi Memon Mosque is likely one of the oldest within the metropolis. It stands out amongst its extra mundane environment, with its pistachio inexperienced color. The world wherein the mosque sits is dwelling to members of the Memon ethnic neighborhood, most of whom apply Sunni Islam.

Kutchi Memon Mosque. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.
Kutchi Mosque
Kutchi Memom Mosque. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.

Shut by is the Tahiri Masjid, belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra neighborhood, a sect of the Ismaili department of Shia Islam. The Bohra neighborhood is well-known across the metropolis for it’s beneficiant hospitality and scrumptious delicacies. It’s an absolute deal with to be invited to a Bohra wedding ceremony! 

On the opposite aspect of city in a quiet residential neighborhood is the Tooba Masjid, in-built 1969. What is exclusive concerning the mosque is that it’s only one big dome- with none pillars or columns. Due to its distinctive architectural model a prayer stated on the mihrab can simply be heard all the best way to its surrounding gardens, with out the usage of any microphones. With its outside area included, the mosque can accommodate as much as 22,000 worshippers at a time. 

Tooba Masjid. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.
A Quick Guide to Karachi
Tooba Masjid. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.

Any Karachi story can be incomplete with out the point out of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, the unofficial patron saint of the town by the ocean.  An 8th century Sufi mystic, he died in 773 AD /151 AH. His shrine is situated on high of a hillock within the prosperous seaside neighborhood of Clifton. Many Karachiites of all colors and backgrounds, vehemently consider that the town is protected against any pure calamities, particularly these from the ocean, due to the religious energy of Shah Ghazi. On any given day the shrine is a hive of exercise; folks come from far and extensive to stroll barefoot as much as the sacred area, bringing with them no matter they’ve to supply. Some simply come empty handed to seek out some solace inside the sanctum of the shrine.

See additionally

Positioned within the busiest a part of city at a junction of a serious crossroads is Karachi’s most iconic construction – the Mazar-e-Quaid, or mausoleum of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of recent day Pakistan. In-built 1971 within the modernist architectural model, the domed, white marble construction will be seen from afar. The encircling gardens are a favourite hangout spot for Karachi residents.

Mausoleum of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.

Frere Corridor 

In-built traditional Venetian Gothic model, the Frere Corridor is by far one in every of Karachi’s most well-known and recognizable architectural landmarks. Its distinctive towering spires can simply be noticed from a mile away. 

The gardens round Frere Corridor are collectively known as “Bagh e Jinnah” (Jinnah Backyard). From parkour fanatics and severe joggers to laid-back readers chilling on the grass, the park is buzzing with exercise from the late afternoon to dusk. 

A Quick Guide to Karachi
Sadequain’s unfinished Arz O Samawat mural, on the ceiling of Frere Corridor. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.

In 1986 Sadequain, one in every of Pakistan’s most celebrated artists painted his final masterpiece Arz O Samawat (the Heavens and the Earth), which covers your complete ceiling of the Frere Corridor. His private ode to the folks of Karachi, he sadly died earlier than he might full it. A standard theme of his work was the wrestle of man; dedicating his final mural to the folks of Karachi, he needed them to understand their potential as human beings by striving to face their day by day struggles and challenges.

Seaview and Clifton 

As you drive south, away from the buzzing chaotic centre of the town throughout the Clifton Bridge, you hit the upscale and comparatively rich neighborhoods of Clifton and Defence. They’re each dwelling to quite a few artwork galleries, cafes, museums, buying malls and a few of the best eating choices within the metropolis.

Positioned in a discreet alleyway in Clifton, in the midst of an condo advanced, is one in every of my favourite hangout spots within the metropolis, the Highway Facet Café. Not solely does the café serve you a imply piping sizzling cup of chai, however its partitions additionally perform as continuously evolving public artwork shows. The café partitions are lined with murals of well-known Pakistani and Karachi icons; each time I go to I all the time spot one thing or somebody new that provides extra status to those already spectacular partitions. 

A Quick Guide to Karachi
Public artwork inside Highway Facet Cafe. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.

Positioned proper on the fringe of city is Seaview, Karachi’s hottest public seashore. Karachiites from all walks of life come to this well-liked metropolis spot to let their hair down. On a regular basis round sundown, the seashore comes alive with a competition ambiance and a cacophony of sounds as road meals distributors, peddling their treats, vie for purchasers. 

Each metropolis has that vacationer hotspot you simply have to go to, or that one cliché vacationer picture that instantly screams the town’s identify. For Karachi, it’s the overly decked out camels. Cliché or not, they’re one in every of my favorite issues concerning the seashore 🙂 

Dressed up camels on the seashore. Copyright Bilal Hassan. All rights reserved.

Not way back, if you drove into the town, you’d be welcomed by ugly political and sectarian graffiti. Now, fortunately, it has been changed with lovely truck-art murals, painted all throughout the key freeway heading into city. The most important of those boldly reads Welcome to Karachi. So when are you coming?


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