Historic Places in Karachi
Hello All About Sana readers! Welcome back! It is good to be on this laptop typing a post after a two week hiatus. I surely missed you all. My trip to Karachi was sort of a whirlwind, but it was much needed because I was so tired from working and the usual stressful 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 sweet.
Originally, I was going to write about The Alchemist, but the book is still packed in my suitcase so I have reserved that post for next week. Today, I will focus on the historic places in Karachi instead.
Most people visit Pakistan to see family. Only a handful of foreigners can be seen in the Northern Areas or in the airport of other cities. I saw a few nonlocals at the airport with this trip and they were mostly dressed in business attire so they clearly were not there to be tourists. That’s where I come in. I feel my purpose in life is to encourage people to travel and try new things. Exploring Pakistan is a must for me. I will do anything in my power to get a few foreigners in Pakistan, even get married there so my Non-Pakistani friends can attend and see where I am from. But, that is not happening anytime soon so I will stick to encouragement through blogging.
On this trip, I told my aunt and uncle that besides eating out, shopping, and meeting cousins, I want to visit historical places in Karachi. I tried to do research, but unfortunately there was not much online in terms of tourist websites or blogs. I came across an older Lonely Planet website that had a few places listed, but all out-of-date. Hence, I would encourage knowing a reputable travel company or asking your family to recommend places for you. There are many issues with traveling in Pakistan. Safety is one of them. Although, I don’t feel vulnerable because I look like a Pakistani (I stick out like a sore thumb to locals) and have family there, many Non-Pakistanis can be victims of crimes. Mugging, kidnapping, and God knows what else is not common, but not unheard of. So I would highly recommend not traveling here alone. Many places are closed to tourists because of these safety hazards like terrorism and petty crimes. Another challenge is the crumbling infrastructure. The roads with no visible road signs are a huge turn-off for me. The local literally use shops, trees, and buildings, as directions. Too bad in my opinion.
One traveling company I have researched is Find My Adventure (website here). They have highly organized and secure groups trips that take you to places all around Pakistan. You can travel with them on their planned trips or have a customized trip planned out for you by their agents. A blogger I follow went to Bahawalpur (in Punjab) with them and highly recommends them. Since I have family here, I didn’t find it necessary to hire them, but if you don’t have that luxury, by all means, look into that.
Pakistan has such rich history dating back thousands of years. From Mohenjo-Daro and Taxila to the Mughal and British empire-all have a huge influence on the architecture, fashion and art of Pakistan. So it is no surprise that there are plenty of historical sites for tourists to explore. 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, textile exhibit. 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 light house 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 due to safety precautions. However, do not be disappointment, my aunt recommends St. Joseph’s Cathedral 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 "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 quite place. I am not sure if tourists can see the inside, but we got a guided tour from someone who actually knew the founder.
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). I saw 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.
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, is an iconic symbol of Karachi throughout the world. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations among foreign visitors 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 foreign 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 Raj era, when it was first constructed. Today, it is amongst the most popular and busy places for shopping in Karachi and reflects as one of the few historical spots of the city. 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; at the time of its construction it was one of only seven markets in Karachi.
Well, I hope this gives you an idea that Karachi is much more than a shopping place. Hope I have given you some inspirational ideas! Happy Travels!