This summer, I had the chance to pay a short visit to Karachi which was my first ever trip to the city. Soon after landing and taking a cab to the hotel, we started hearing stories of locals about their city. This aged driver who drove us to the hotel where we were to stay told us how Karachi had become a lot more peaceful in the past few months after rangers’ operation. He also said:
“This operation should be extended to the entire province to ensure complete implementation of law & order”.
That driver was not the only one who praised the prevalence of peace as a result of rangers’ operation. Almost every other Karachiite we met had similar views. One of the acquaintances said:
“Earlier, things used to be so bad that we would not even take out our cellphones when we were out on the roads in the fear of having them snatched. Now, it’s a lot safer.”
The first thing to greet us was the lovely breeze of Karachi which, for a Lahori, was a great respite in the monsoon season; the time when in Lahore the weather is extremely suffocating. The breeze cool is one thing that I thoroughly enjoyed during my entire stay in Karachi.
~ Lovely view from my hotel room. The position of the trees is a proof of the breezy atmosphere of the city ~
As it usually happens, I had asked friends and acquaintances to recommend places to explore as a first-time visitor of the city. There was one place that everyone insisted upon, which was a restaurant, Kolachi at Do Darya. Although some of them sarcastically suggested that I also visit Nine Zero and Katti Pahari as well. Of course, they were not serious in saying so.
Beaches are a place that a person living in a land-locked place like Lahore would definitely want to go to. Unfortunately, the only time we could manage to go to a beach was on a Sunday evening, to the Clifton beach, which turned out to be an extremely awful experience due to the weekend crowd, and the resultant trash all around. Surprisingly, there were people out there selling water in disposable bottles of various sizes for washing feet after having enjoyed the beach. We also had to buy it since there was no tap water around.
Your visit to a new place remains incomplete unless you try its specialty foods. When it comes to experiencing Karachi, Biryani is one thing one must not forget to try. So we ended up at a road-side restaurant at Boat Basin and ordered some ‘Handi Biryani’ which was served in an earthen pot (hence called Handi Biryani). Thankfully, the taste met our expectations, unlike the variety of biryani available at most of the places in Lahore. Even though Lahore is a foodie’s paradise but biryani (the way it is supposed to be made with all the right spices and ingredients) is usually not properly made at its eateries.
As suggested, we did visit Kolachi restaurant as well during the visit but that was again on the same Sunday when we had visited the beach. Since it was a weekend as well as dinner time, Kolachi was so crowded that we were told to wait for at least an hour to get a table. Hence, we dropped the idea and went to another nearby restaurant which was fine too. In any case, Do Darya, the place itself was quite mesmerizing and a great place for spending an evening.
I already knew about one specialty of Karachi i.e. ‘sohan halwa’ and I made sure to take some of it back with me to Lahore upon request of my family and I bought from Rehmat-e-Shirin at Jinnah International airport just before my departure. I specifically mentioned ‘Karachi’s sohan halwa’ here because otherwise Sohan Halwa is also the name of a famous dessert of Multan which is an entirely different thing. Surprisingly, in Karachi, that Multani halwa is called Habshi Halwa.
A friend took me to the Dolmen Mall which I was told is the 2nd biggest mall of Pakistan after Lahore’s Emporium Mall. PAF Museum was another great place to visit which is not only a rich museum but also a space for recreation. It was definitely a treat to learn about the great history of Pakistan Airforce and the great men who have served at the institution till date.
It was quite easy to observe differences between Karachi and Lahore during the visit. The former has more ethnically diverse population which can be noticed by visiting public places. This is probably because being a port city Karachi offers vast number of opportunities to earn a living and hence, attracts people from across the country.
Considering all these attributes of the city, ideally, Karachi should be developed and equipped with good infrastructure which unfortunately is not the case. It’s only after visiting Karachi, I realized how well Lahore has been maintained by the authorities. No wonder once I was told by a frequent traveler to Karachi:
“Come to Karachi and you start loving the Sharifs [for all the development they have done in Lahore]!”
Karachi has big buildings but most of them look very old and ill-maintained. Same goes for the bridges, which are not only old but carry garbage as well. Trash on bridges is something I had never seen in my life before. But it’s not just bridges, Karachi as a whole looks so filthy because of the dumps of garbage that can be found almost everywhere. Besides this, there is excessive air pollution as well which only adds to the terribly unhealthy environment.
~ The trash on the roads of Karachi ~
When it comes to Karachi’s airport, it is far better than Lahore’s. Thankfully, at least the immediate impression one gets upon arrival to the city’s airport is good enough. There is a considerable variety of small eateries at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, something lacking at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport.
After this short visit to the city, my fellow companions were felt that Karachi is quite advanced and more liberal than Lahore, especially in terms of female dressing. Another noteworthy aspect of Karachi is that everything is ‘so far away’. Being a large city, it is a phrase very much prevalent in Karachi. The two excuses that we repeatedly heard there were about the distance and traffic, apparently because it is a big city and home to a huge population as well.
Being the economic hub of the country, Karachi deserves to be well-developed and maintained. Unfortunately the political parties that have been ruling it for years only seem to be concerned about controlling the city rather than working for its betterment. Comparatively, Punjab has developed its capital city quite well and one can clearly feel the difference in a single visit.
Introduction of campaigns like ‘Clean it’ & ‘Fix it’ make us hopeful of a growing awareness among Karachiites to fix the city within their own capacities. Moreover, with the new Chief Minister in place, let’s hope that one of the most important cities of Pakistan will start looking a lot better in the times to come.
May Karachi achieve the peace and prosperity that it rightly deserves!
This post originally appeared in Express Tribune Blogs