Hi Guys! Muharram starts tomorrow so I wanted to do a post before I take a short break. I returned from Karachi, Pakistan last week and still getting over my jet lag. Last night I slept the whole night, which is great because I have been experiencing jet lag for the past month or so. It’s something I have to make peace with when I travel long distances. Karachi is a city I am quite familiar with. It is large, loud, and fast-paced. There is always something new to see and something different to try. While I love this ever-evolving, beaming with culture and history metropolis, there are aspects of this large city spanning 30 square miles (and growing) that shock me to a point that I return feeling quite muted. I lived there for quite some time and visit my aunt and uncle who live there regularly as well. My previous trips are recorded HERE and HERE.
As developed Karachi is becoming, it is not uncommon to see a pack of stray dogs walking the streets or a couple of cats looking for a spot on the grass to have babies. I have never seen that much variety of birds than after I go out in the morning and look up. I have spotted a pair hawks, flocks crows, a couple of red robins, groups of robins, and a quail in a matter of five minutes one time. Other sounds you will are your neighbors cooking or the sounds of azan (call for prayer) in a distant mosque. If you think the night is quiet, don’t be surprised to learn that flights usually fly in the middle of the night and you can hear them (at least I can) flying over the house.
This year I happened to make the trip in the summer for the first time in nine years. I was a bit nervous because I am definitely not adept to function in the humidity and heat anymore, not to forget those pesky power outages. However, Karachi in August was quite pleasant and there weren’t many power outages. I did get “lucky” and celebrated Eid -ul- Adha for the first time in 23 years in a Muslim country. You can learn from my experience HERE. Besides spending time relaxing and celebrating Eid, I planned activities beforehand that involved new eateries and interesting places to visit. Staying true to myself, I included some old favorites of mine.
Xander’s Cafe: I had a few wonderful experiences at Karachi restaurants this time around. One of the new places I tried in Karachi was Xander’s Cafe in Clifton. The restaurant space is small, relaxing, and full of chatter. However, I didn’t feel the service was compromised and was actually quite friendly. That day it was packed with moms lunching with friends, co-workers having their lunch break, and kids having returned from school. We found a table in the corner where we could spend our time chatting and people watching.
While being on a halal meat diet (similar to eating kosher meat only), I was keen on trying Pakistan’s halal beef pepperoni for the first time. I ordered a pasta dish with white Alfredo sauce and beef pepperoni. It was quite delicious and the beef pepperoni was really worth all the hype. The pasta itself was a little creamy for my taste. I didn’t finish it because it was very heavy. However, you can always get it to go after your meal and have leftovers later (or specify to the waiter to add less sauce (not spice) ).
Koel Cafe: Another new place we tried this time around was Koel Cafe (See HERE and HERE). Koel Cafe is also located in Clifton, quite close to Xander’s Cafe (See HERE). Here I tried their famous freshly made Shikajabeen juice, which was super effective for hydrating me and removing toxins. I felt clean energetically for a few days afterward. Other snacks we tried here were Dahi Barray that had a special twist to it, and Kulcha sandwiches which come with personalization options. Koel Cafe is part of the Koel “complex” consisting of a gallery and a shop. It is absolutely a gem of a place because of its serenity and Fung Shui type of architecture. The white terracotta is juxtaposed with green plants, grey fountains, and blue ponds making the place a garden haven in a commercial area.
Oldies: The rest of the places I ate were my old favorites like Pizza Hut (See HERE), Defense Golf Club, Solen Istanbul at Dolman Mall Clifton, and Barbeque Tonight (See HERE). While you cannot go wrong with anything really at Pizza Hut (try their 4x pizza for a diverse pizza-lover meal); Barbeque Tonight (the Boat Basin branch) has quite an exclusive menu based on Mughal dishes. We usually select dishes we can’t find anywhere. Our dinner mostly consists of Aloo Bukhara Chutney (Plum Sauce), Behari Kebab or Chicken Behari, Reshmi Kebab, Seekh Kebab, Paratha, Roghni Naan, and Kandhari Naan. Of course, we don’t order all this food at one time, but these are my personal favorites from the menu. I also suggest ordering their Chapli Kebab. Their seafood is really okay so stay clear of that part of the menu. For dessert try the very traditional Kulfi. The Defense Golf Club is right by the water and is known for their weekend brunches. This time around, however, we ordered snacks, chai, and a pineapple pina colada.
Asr -e -Sheeren: A sweet shop I would like to recommend is Asr -e -Sheeren sweets. Since my trip coincided with Eid this year, we bought a box of sweets along with custard-type desserts such as Labe Sheeren. If you would like my personal recommendations, try the Gulab Jaman, sugarless Hapshi Halwa, and Pare Badam (a ball with cashew and almond paste). Their Ras Malai is cooling and recommended as well.
*On a side note, I stayed with my aunt and uncle and ate at home most of the time. While we had our share of keema (spiced ground beef) stuffed samosas, spicy corn-on-the-cob, and Dahi Barray at home, the home-made desserts stood out to me. There are many dishes I would like to post recipes for. For example, one home-made dessert that is a personal favorite was a favorite of the Mughal Emperors’; the Shahi Tukre (See HERE). Another dessert my aunt made was Meethi Seviyan, an alternate dish consisting of vermicelli and nuts cooked in milk that is beloved for Eid and any happy religious celebration.
Shopping & Sight Seeing
This time around I didn’t do much of either because of Eid holidays and mainly because I wanted to relax and not waste time and money on things that would have tired me. I did budget for some shopping trips so I bought and had two lawn suits stitched from Farah Talib Aziz (See HERE) and a ready-to-wear block print kurta from Koel Shop (See HERE). I mostly wear eastern wear for Eid, fundraisers, sit-down dinners at my sister’s, or any rare gatherings that come up, so I don’t feel the need to purchase much lately. This was all the shopping I needed to last me till next year.
For sightseeing, I checked out the Koel Art Gallery, which as mentioned, is adjacent to Koel Cafe and Koel Shop. I always wanted to check out Karachi’s modern art scene and wasn’t disappointed here. The employees there are skilled and knowledgeable enough to give you a short tour and answer questions about any paintings that peak your interests. I would describe the paintings as cultural, more symbolic, emotional and experimental. Each artist brought forth on paper the human mind and human experience in their own way. It was just as vocal as art here in the States, but less abstract and more 2- dimensional.
Another sightseeing trip I made was at Dolman Mall Clifton, which offers its shoppers three levels of modern shopping goodness. If you fancy Karachi’s art scene or like to learn about other activities, check out the super informative Karachi Snob website.