Karachi

Karachi Coast, Pakistan by CC user 48722974@N07 on flickr

Introduction

Sitting on the shimmering waters of the Arabian Sea, Karachi stands as the largest city in Pakistan, with 18 million people packed into its crowded quarters. Most of its population started streaming in after the partition of India into the two Pakistans (East Pakistan would later become Bangladesh), seeking safety amongst the Muslim majority present here at that time.

At this point, Karachi is adding approximately one million migrants to its population every year, making it one of the fastest growing cities on Earth.  They aren’t moving here without good reason, as the educated classes here work and earn copious amounts of money (for this part of the world) in its burgeoning financial and corporate sector, which has also given rise to many modern shopping centres and amusement parks. Those without skills struggle to earn enough to live, but this has still not slowed the inflow of new arrivals to this heaving metropolis.

With such as heavy concentration of people in such a small area, it has also given rise to a number of culturally significant monuments and attractions, as well as an arts community that is hard to find in the rest of the country.  As such, make time for this hectic place during your visit to Pakistan, despite the challenges that its congestion might present.

Mohatta Palace by CC user kash_if on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

As mentioned in the country guide for Pakistan, Mazar-e-Quaid is a nationally significant monument, as it is where Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the first leader of Pakistan, rests peacefully in the afterlife. Be sure to dress respectfully (no exposed shoulders, women should wear a hijab, etc), as this is a place of rest for a highly regarded figure in Pakistani history, but don’t neglect to admire the fine marble that adorns this mausoleum, or the fine crystal chandelier that was given to this place as a gift from the People’s Republic of China!

Next, head over to Mohatta Palace, which was originally built as a summer home by a Hindu businessman back in 1927. After the partition of India in 1947 though, he fled for India fearing violence against him and his wife.

Shortly after, the newly minted government of Pakistan acquired the property to house the ministry of Foreign Affairs, and two of Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s sisters called the palace home from the mid 1960’s and onwards, who both went on to mysteriously perish within its walls.  As a result, the place was sealed in 1980.

By 1995, the government bought the palace back from its owners, and converted it into a museum showcasing the fine arts of Pakistan, opening it in its present form in 1999. The palace itself is an excellent attraction, with its pink Jodhpur stone construction, arches, stained glass, and numerous motifs.

The contents of the museum, as previously mentioned, showcase the artistic heritage of Pakistan, with numerous paintings, ceramics and textiles on display for curious visitors.

To complete your background understanding of Pakistan’s complex history, head on over to the National Museum of Pakistan, where numerous artifacts await you and your discerning eyes. The highlights of the museum’s collection include 52 rare manuscripts from the Qur’an, tens of thousands of ancient coins, and sculptures that number in the hundreds!

camel ride on Sandspit Beach by CC user murtazabravo on Flickr

Other Attractions

Before the British withdrew and recognized the independence of Pakistan and India, they built up their fair share of colonial-era architecture across Karachi.  While you can stroll the streets of the southern district and see a good deal of examples of this, the best ones to see if you’re short on time are Frere Hall and the Merewether Clock Tower.

Frere Hall was used as a town hall during the days of the British Raj and more curiously, it was also where the inventors of the game of badminton began to hash out the rules that would eventually govern the game we know today. The Merewether Clock Tower was raised as a memorial to William L. Merewether, who was a decorated soldier in his fighting days, and was a respected community member in Karachi leading up to his death.  It stands 102 feet high, and being designed in the Gothic Revival style, it evokes feelings of England, despite the balmy climate in which it sits.

For those looking to drop some cash on consumer goods in Karachi, swinging by Port Grand is the best choice you’ll make in this massive metropolis.  Stretching along a historic bridge from the 19th century, there are multiple opportunities to shop, eat and entertain oneself in a stunning waterfront setting.

While one walk along the ocean front of Karachi may turn you off from even the thought of taking a dip in the sea, there are many peaceful oceanside getaways within a short drive from the city limits where the water is much cleaner. Sandspit Beach is among the best of these places, as it is up the coast from the big city, and it offers activities for those still not interested in hitting the water, such as horseback and camel riding.

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