A Lahori’s first visit to Karachi
This summer, I had the chance to pay a short visit to Karachi – a city I’ve never had the opportunity to visit before. Soon after landing and taking a cab to the hotel, we started hearing stories of locals out and about in the city. This aged driver, who drove us to our hotel, told us how, for the last few months, Karachi has been a lot more peaceful because of the Rangers’ operation. He also said,
“This operation should be extended to the entire province to ensure complete implementation of law and order.”
That driver was not the only one who felt that the Ranger’s operation brought peace in the city. Almost every other Karachiite we met had similar views. One of our acquaintances said,
“Before, things used to be so bad that we would not even take out our cell phones, when we were out on the roads, out of fear that they’d be snatched. Now, it’s a lot safer.”
The first thing to greet us was the lovely breeze of Karachi which, for a Lahori, was great respite in the monsoon season; at this time in Lahore, the weather is extremely suffocating. The cool breeze is one thing that I thoroughly enjoyed during my entire stay in Karachi.
As is usual, I asked friends and acquaintances to recommend places I could explore, considering I was visiting for the first time. There was one place that everyone insisted upon; a restaurant known as Kolachi at Do Darya; although some of them sarcastically suggested that I also visit Nine Zero and Katti Pahari. Of course, they were not being serious in those suggestions.
Beaches are a place that someone living in a land-locked area like Lahore would definitely want to visit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare so we could only visit the Clifton beach on a Sunday evening. It turned out to be an extremely awful experience since it was the weekend and it was incredibly crowded, noisy, and surrounded with trash.
Surprisingly, there were people around that were selling water in disposable bottles of various sizes for washing one’s feet after enjoying the beach. Even we had to buy it since there was no tap water around.
Your visit to a new place remains incomplete if you don’t 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 is cooked and served in an earthen pot (hence ‘handi’). Thankfully, the taste met expectations; unlike the biryani that’s available in Lahore. Even though Lahore is a foodie’s paradise, biryani (with needs all the right spices and ingredients) is frankly not made properly at its eateries.
As suggested, we did make a visit to Kolachi. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong day to go (the same Sunday that we had visited the beach). Since it was the weekend and dinner time, Kolachi was s0 crowded that we would’ve had 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 mesmerising and a great place to spend your evening.
Another specialty of Karachi that I’ve come across is the sohan halwa which I bought from Rehmat e Shirin at Jinnah International Airport just before leaving to take back for family (upon their request). I specifically mentioned ‘Karachi’s sohan halwa’ here because there is a famous Multani dessert that is also called sohan halwa, and they’re two entirely different things. In Karachi, that Multani dessert is called Habshi Halwa.
A friend took me to Dolmen Mall which I was told was the biggest mall of Pakistan, for now anyway, until Lahore’s Emporium Mall becomes fully functional. PAF Museum was another great place to visit; it’s not only a rich museum, it’s also a recreational space.
It was definitely a treat to learn things about the Pakistan Air force and the great men who have served our country till date.
There are obvious differences between Karachi and Lahore. The former has a more ethnically diverse population made apparent while visiting public places. This is probably because a port city offers a vast number of opportunities to earn a living and thus attracts people from across the country. After the short visit to the city, my fellow companions felt that Karachi is more liberal than Lahore, especially when it comes to female dressing.
When it comes to Karachi’s airport, it is far better than Lahore’s. Thankfully, the impression one has once they’ve stepped out of the Lahore airport changes the initial disappointment (the greenery and cleanliness wins everyone over). There is a considerable variety of small eateries at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, something lacking at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport.
However, Karachi has its cons, and quite big ones at that. Considering that Karachi attracts so many people, it should be developed and equipped with good infrastructure. However, this is not the case. It’s only after visiting Karachi that I realised how well the Punjab government has developed Lahore. It’s no wonder that a frequent traveller to Karachi once said to me,
“Come to Karachi and you’ll 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 aren’t just old; they’re filthy as they’re laden with garbage. Trash on bridges is a sight I have never come across in Lahore.
But it’s not just bridges; holistically speaking, Karachi is a filthy city because garbage is dumped almost everywhere.
Besides this, there is excessive air pollution as well which adds to the terribly unhealthy environment.
Another thing I noticed in Karachi was that everything is ‘so far away’. Being a large city, it is a very common phrase heard in Karachi. Getting late seems to be a common problem owing to the ‘distance and traffic’, since it is a big city that is home to a huge population.
Since Karachi is the economic hub of the country, it deserves its fair share of development and maintenance. Unfortunately the political parties that have been ruling it for years only seem concerned about controlling the city rather than working towards making it better. Comparatively, Punjab has developed its main city quite well and one can clearly feel the difference in a single visit.
Introduction of campaigns like ‘Clean it’ and ‘Fix it’ makes us hopeful of growing awareness among Karachiites to fix the city within their own capacities. Moreover, with the new Chief Minister in place, lets 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!
All photos: Kiran Wali