KARACHI: If you happened to drive on the Stadium Road Flyover in the last few days, you may have seen a gigantic metallic circle lit up with colourful lights. That circle is ‘Karachi’s Eyes’ – a Ferris Wheel installed in Karachi’s first amusement park on University Road.
The 30-acre park near Karachi Central Jail, which once used to be teeming with vegetable and fruit vendors which gave it its colloquial name, Old Sabzi Mandi, is now home to the city’s first international-standard “Askari Amusement Park”, which opens to the public on Eid day.
“The Karachi Eye takes its name from the iconic Ferris wheel in London,” said a young ride operator at the park, Komal, referring to the 135-metre tall London Eye on the south bank of the River Thames in London. The structure is a major tourist attraction, drawing thousands of sightseers from across the globe every month.
The Karachi Eye is much smaller at 61 meters and features 32 air-conditioned cabins, each of which can seat four persons at a time. “At the top of this wheel, you can see the entire city,” she boasted.
Adjacent to the ‘Karachi Eye’ stands a stomach-churning Slingshot ride – the first of its kind in the country. “One has to have guts to ride this ride,” laughed Komal.
The “Slingshot” is exactly what its name suggests – a catapult-like structure that stretches over 120 feet. “It works with a heavy magnet and hydraulic system,” Komal explained, adding that the swing is released with a jerk and propels the thrill-seekers into the air. “You get to see the world while the swing is tied from two sides with a sling.” The ride has four safety locks and can seat two people with more or less same physique at a time.
The other jaw-dropping ride is a pendulum-like structure that swings its occupants clockwise and anti-clockwise at a hair-raising pace.
“Your hands and feet get cold once the ride roars to life,” smirked the ride operator, Kashaf.
The park’s managing director, Shafqat Jafri, told The Express Tribune that it features 11 international-level thriller rides that have a strict over-14-year age requirement. “We tried to fill the gap of amusement parks in Pakistan,” he said, adding that after surveying several countries such as Thailand, Dubai and Malaysia, they had established such a park for the people of Karachi.
The machinery in the park, according to Jafri, has been imported from China. On a query regarding safety checks, he said that no officials had visited the park yet as there were no laws governing such rides in the country. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) team, he said, will visit the park in few days.
The old Sabzi Mandi open area was formally handed over to the Corps-V to be developed into a park in April 2001. Under the agreement signed between the then Corps-5 Commander Lt Gen Tariq Waseem Ghazi and then City Nazim Naimatullah Khan on April 3, 2001, the park was to be a state-of-the-art recreational facility, to be developed by the army from its own resources. A green space had already been developed around five years ago. Later, weddings halls were constructed on the land, which will remain functional even after the amusement park is operational.
Almost five acres of the land has been allotted for car parking, besides the space available for parking of visitors to the wedding halls, said Jafri.