Hello, All About Sana readers! As much as I love going traveling to learn and explore, this trip served a very different purpose. My trip to Karachi was sort of a whirlwind, but it was much needed because I was so tired from working and feeling the usual stresses of Bay Area life. The proof was in the pudding when I slept for 24 hours at a time the first few days there (mild hyperbole)! Anyways, it was a wonderful trip – short, but nevertheless sweet.
Most people visit Pakistan to see their family. Only a handful of foreign tourists can be seen in the Northern Areas or in the airport or other cities like Islamabad. I saw a few nonlocals at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport this time around and they were mostly dressed in business attire so clearly, they were not there to be tourists. And as nice it is too go home and see Karachi do well, it would be cool to see other young tourists visit this part of the country as well. I feel my purpose in life is to encourage people to travel and explore safely. Exploring certain parts of Pakistani culture is a must for me. While like any other place, Karachi (and Pakistan) has its share of problems, but this is truly my first home city and a piece of my heart belongs here. For those in learning more about my traveling experiences in this beautiful country, click HERE and HERE.
On this trip, I told my aunt and uncle that besides eating out and shopping, I want to visit historical places in Karachi. You know, the places I’ve never seen or visited even when I lived here so long ago. I tried to do research like I do before any trip, but unfortunately, there was not much information online in terms of tourist websites or blogs. I came across an older Lonely Planet website that had a few places listed, but the information seemed out-of-date. Hence, I would encourage finding a reputable travel company or asking your family (or Pakistani friends you made in college) to recommend places for you.
There are many issues with traveling in Pakistan. Safety is obviously one of them. Although I don’t feel vulnerable because I look like a Pakistani (even though I stick out like a sore thumb to locals) AND lucky enough to have some family there, many Non-Pakistanis can be victims of crimes. Mugging and kidnapping are uncommon, but not “unheard” of, but being stared at as you sightsee or shop or eat out may seem rude, but 95% of these crimes are innocent and the cause is pure curiosity. So I would highly recommend traveling here with a group. Another current challenge for Pakistani’s is out-dated infrastructure, which makes simple daily tasks like driving around an absolute nightmare. The roads with no visible road signs are a huge turn-off for me. The locals literally use shop names, interesting trees (or trees they like), and buildings to give directions.
One traveling company I have researched is Find My Adventure (website here). They have highly organized and secure groups trips that take you around Pakistan. You can travel with them on their planned trips or have a customized trip planned out for you by their agents. Since I have family in Karachi, I don’t find it necessary to hire them, but if you don’t have that luxury, by all means, look into them.
Pakistan has such a rich history dating back thousands of years. From Mohenjo-Daro and Taxila to the Mughal and British empires – all have a huge influence on the architecture, fashion, and art of modern Pakistan. So it is no surprise that there are plenty of historical sites for tourists to explore. Some preserved, some not, but that’s the way it goes here. So just accept that fact. So here goes:
Mohatta Palace: It was built in the posh seaside locale of Clifton. The architect of the palace was Agha Ahmed Hussain. He built the Palace in the tradition of stone palaces in Rajasthan, using pink Jodhpur stone in combination with the local yellow stone from Gizri. The amalgam gave the palace a distinctive presence in an elegant neighborhood. Today, the place is used for many festivals and art exhibitions. I visited the place and spend about two hours there getting a guided tour on the different Kashmiri Art and a personal favorite, their textile exhibit. You can even spend some time in the Palace’s beautiful gardens, minding the scorching heat of course. A must-see on my list.
Holy Trinity Cathedral: Holy Trinity Cathedral is the seat of the Church of Pakistan. Established in 1844 and built in 1855, Holy Trinity Cathedral was designed by Captain John Hill of the Bombay Engineers and built from local, buff-colored Gizri stone as the first major church in Karachi. Its original tall tower was built to serve as a lighthouse for ships arriving at Karachi Harbor, but two stories of the tower were removed for safety in 1905. The original pitched roof was replaced by a barrel vaulted roof in the 1970s. As a former garrison church for the British military, the church has a number of plaques memorializing British servicemen and history. I didn’t visit this cathedral because it is closed to tourists on non-service days. However, do not be disappointed, my aunt also recommends St. Joseph’s Cathedral and St. Joseph’s Convent School in Saddar Town, which can be seen with the permission of a Parish there.
Flag Staff Home/Quaid’s Home: The Quaid-e-Azam House, also known as the “Flagstaff House”, is a museum dedicated to the personal life of Quaid-I-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Located in Karachi, it is the former home of Jinnah, who lived there from 1944 until his death in 1948. His sister, Fatima Jinnah lived there until 1964. It was bought by Quaid-e-Azam in 1943 at the cost of one lac fifteen thousand rupees from its Hindu owner. The building was later acquired in 1985 by the Pakistani government and conserved as a museum. It’s a rather peaceful and quiet place. I am not sure if tourists can see the inside, but we got a guided tour from someone who actually worked for the founder of Pakistan.
Frere Hall: Frere Hall is one of the many remnant buildings of the British Colonial Era that still exists in Karachi. It was built in honor of Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, who was a British colonial administrator. After Frere’s death, Frere Hall became a museum which attempts to include all the paintings and books from the British Colonial era. When I went there, I didn’t see that (lol). What I saw was a Maci (servant) running to us and telling us that the place is being cleaned. I did manage a peek inside and saw a library instead of artwork. But, beautiful architecture.
Quaid’s Masaouem: Mazar-e-Quaid, also known as the Jinnah Mausoleum or the National Mausoleum, is the final resting place of Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader), the founder of Pakistan, as well as his sister, Māder-e Millat (Mother of the Nation) Fatima Jinnah, and Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. Completed in the 1960s, it is an iconic symbol of Karachi throughout the world. It is one of the most popular destinations among tourists to Karachi. The location is usually calm and tranquil, which is significant considering that it is in the heart of one of the largest global megalopolises. The glowing tomb can be seen for miles at night. Official and military ceremonies take place here on special occasions, such as on 23 March (Pakistan Day), 14 August (Independence Day), 11 September (the anniversary of Jinnah’s death) and 25 December (Jinnah’s birthday). Dignitaries and officials from other countries also visit the mausoleum during official tours 🙂
Empress Market: The Empress Market is a famous marketplace situated in the Saddar Town. The market traces its origins to the British colonial era when it was first constructed. Today, it is amongst the most popular and busy places for shopping in Karachi and one of the few historical spots of the city still preserved. Commodities sold in the Empress Market range from condiments, fruit, vegetables and meat to stationary material, textiles and pet shops. The Empress Market was constructed between 1884 and 1889 and was named to commemorate Queen Victoria. The market was constructed at a well-chosen site that was clearly visible from a great distance. The site of the market had historical significance as it was situated on the grounds where a number of native soldiers were executed in a ruthless fashion after the Indian Uprising of 1857 (The Mutiny of 1857). Accounts mention that the soldiers had their heads blown off by cannonballs in an attempt to suppress any mutinous feelings among the locals. The foundation stone of The Empress Market was laid by the then Governor of Bombay, James Ferguson in 1884, who also laid the foundation of the Merewether Memorial Tower. It was designed by James Strachan (architect), the foundations were completed by the English firm of A.J. Attfield, and the building was constructed by the local firm of ‘Mahoomed Niwan and Dulloo Khejoo’. The building was arranged around a courtyard, 130 ft by 100 ft, with four galleries each 46 ft wide. The galleries provided accommodation for 280 shops and stall keepers; and at the time of its construction, it was one of only seven markets in Karachi.