It was a second instance where I was observing a big group of international tourists visiting historical and archaeological sites. No it was not Canada, USA, any European country, or a developed Asian country like Malaysia. This was at a historic Market in Pakistan, a country that was written off the tourism map due to terrorism, but is increasingly claiming top spot in the ‘off the beaten path’ travel category.
This was in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. The trip turned out to be an exciting adventure of my life when I was able to observe natural, archeological, historic, architectural, and cultural heritage of Karachi, the biggest city of Pakistan.
But first – Why did I visit Pakistan from Canada?
For one, it was economical. Off-season ticket from Toronto to Karachi via a 5 days stay in Dubai through Emirates Airlines costed me US $1300. Furthermore, 10 days stay in a decent hotel and expenses, including those for the 4 guided trips, costed me only an additional US $1000.
I visited historical buildings built by the three distinct regimes that have ruled over Pakistan over the ages. Historical buildings included those showcasing Mughal and British colonial architectural styles, such as Shahjahan mosque of Thatta and Frere Hall and Empress Market of Karachi.
To plan a visit to this country, Pakistan Almanac turned out to be the best resource for me.
National museum of Pakistan
Nobody knew where was it located. We sought the help of traffic police and they guided us to it.
It is a large museum and houses archaeological and historic artefacts in several sections – Indus Valley Civilization, Sultanate era of the Asian sub-continent, Mughal era, British Raj, etc. Also, there were exhibits showing the traditional lives of its different regions.
A good change from the 80s and 90s was that I saw many international tourists in the Museum.
Quaid-e-Azam House Museum
I started my trip of Karachi with paying homage to the Quaid-e-Azam by visiting the Museum and was surprised to see the collection there.
The building is elegantly designed and houses the cars used by the Quaid and his sister, and the furniture and fixture that were used by them.
The only unfortunate part is that you can take shots of the exterior only and that too by cell camera. No photography is allowed inside the building.
The building stands tall in all its grandeur and majesty in the heart of that busy city. When I visited it, there were few professionals busy in taking creative wedding shots. I, on the other hand, took shots of wild birds against the contours of the building, as I usually do.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
My trip to St. Patrick’s Cathedral with my sister, two nephews, and a niece turned out to be a success from spiritual point of view, but a failure from photography point of view. I had to get Parish Priest’s approval for doing the photography. We waited for an hour for him, but he was busy in a meeting.
The aesthetically designed cathedral was built in 1878 and celebrated its centenary in 1978.
When I reached the aesthetically designed Market, there was a large entourage of foreign tourists that was visiting it too. I could not determine their origins.
Reportedly, the market area was recently cleaned of illegal constructions and looked neat and clean. The market inside was quite appealing and I decided to buy some fresh fruits.
I accidentally discovered Nishan-e-Pakistan, a national solidarity monument in Clifton Beach of the city. It is built to pay homage to the fallen soldiers of Pakistan army and air force who were honoured with the highest military award of the country – Nishan-e-Haider.
The destination was busy with families and their children. There was a music concert going in the arena. Children were running around to get to the amusement corner. The restaurants were busy too.
The arch of this Port Grand building in Karachi and of Habib University reminded me of neo-Islamic architecture.
Old NED University Campus
While returning from the National Museum I saw the old campus of NED University and entered it. I had a nice chat with one of the teachers there. The students were so respectful that they would clear the visual corridors for me to take pictures.
library and the museum of Sindh wildlife department
For birding and wildlife photography, I started from the library and the museum of Sindh Wildlife Department located in a historic building below. I found it to be a historic building that was worth visiting.
For a building that reflects modern architecture that retains significant elements of Islamic architecture, I visited Habib University in Karachi.
Karachi is a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multilingual city. The convergence of the cultures is best reflected in city’s cuisine.
I found the food to be delicious and the local restaurants, such as Mai Kolachi, aesthetically designed, unlike 20 years ago, were serving top quality food from all the nooks and corners of the country.
I savoured ‘Sajji’ and Chapli Kababs, which are a delicacy from Balochistan and the Kyber Pukhtukhwa Provinces of Pakistan, respectively.
I made friends with this young man from Chitral. He was working on breads on a traditional oven called ‘Tandoor’.
where to stay
Record number of tourists have visited Pakistan during the years 2015-2019 as the security conditions have become much better.
There are a number of reasonably priced hotels of good standards ranging from 3-5 stars in Karachi that should be considered for staying.
I stayed in Movenpick Hotel on Shahrah-e-Faisal, which is located in the heart of the city and close to its several historic and cultural spots.