Once a small fishing and trade centre, Pakistan’s former capital is a lively city rooted firmly in tradition and heritage. Yet it’s also one of the country’s most secular, liberal and diverse cities, where you can tour historic monuments all day long and party late into the night.
All over Karachi are monuments to its local hero, the founder of modern Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, or Quaid-e-Azam – “Father of the Nation”. For starters there’s the Mazar-e-Quaid, where Jinnah’s body is entombed, and the Quaid-e-Azam House Museum. Anyone who desires to learn about the culture of Karachi would be remiss not to learn all they can about the city’s most revered son.
The city is full of energy and nowhere more so than in its marketplaces. Try the Zainab Market to barter on cheap clothing and local handicrafts like jewelry, wood carvings and leather goods, or swing by Empress Market if you’re keener on fresh produce and trying local delicacies. Different neighbourhoods also offer street food from different regions. Try pickles at the Hyderabad Colony, find the best kebabs on Burns Road, or satisfy your sweet tooth with gola ganda at the Dhoraji Colony.
People and Traditions
Karachi could be said to be all of Pakistan condensed into one city. Its neighbourhoods are home to virtually all of Pakistan’s ethnic and linguistic groups, with immigrant populations from all over South Asia. The people here work hard and party harder, renowned for their resilience and energy. For all that’s positive about the city, however, it also has a reputation for being quite dangerous. But don’t be put off – the crime-rate has dropped dramatically in recent years.
Karachi is fairly warm in winter, with nighttime temperatures usually dipping beneath 15ºC in the cooler months from December to February. Daytime highs tend to be above 25ºC year-round, exceeding 30ºC for much of the year. Summers are hot and humid but coastal breezes help avert too much discomfort. Avoid visiting during the monsoon season of July and August, when floods are a common problem.
Karachi is a coastal city with many beautiful beaches. Clifton Beach is the most popular and well equipped with amenities, but the Hawks Bay, Sandspit and Manora Island beaches are more serene, even if they demand more careful planning. Clifton Beach also neighbours the picturesque Seaview Park, while smaller pockets of well-manicured greenery and vibrant flower displays can be found at Hilal and Zamzama Parks. Animal lovers can visit Karachi Zoo or even the Safari Park near Karachi University. The university’s botanical gardens are also nearby.
Brand-conscious shoppers will want to visit the Dolmen Mall Clifton or the Dolmen Mall Tariq Road. There’s also the Ocean Tower, which is a former hotel so not built for the easiest shopping experience, but nevertheless boasts a splendid observation deck providing breathtaking views over the city.
The centre of Karachi’s religious life, the Masjid-e-Tooba is a truly unique mosque and a stunning modern monument in its own right. The pristine white dome holds 50,000 worshipers and is renowned for its incredible acoustics. A more traditional but no less magnificent building is the Mohatta Palace, a former mansion that’s now a museum. Exhibitions change regularly so check the programme, but it’s worth visiting just for the delightful location alone.
If visiting with the family, the Pakistan Airforce Museum and the Pakistan Maritime Museum are great places to explore grand exhibits from jet fighters to submarines. Meanwhile, the State Bank Museum has an impressive collection of coins and exhibits on the evolution of money. Then head to Frere Hall down the road to enjoy the beautiful colonial-era building’s eclectic collection of regional art.