A 100-year-old house finds new life as a cultural hotspot in Karachi

A 100-year-old house finds new life as a cultural hotspot in Karachi

The period house, now called TDF Ghar, had fallen prey to land mafia after years of disuse
Updated 26 Oct, 2017

Learning about heritage and history doesn't have to be dry and boring; that was the biggest take-away I had when I visited the TDF Ghar ─ a period house on Saddar's M.A. Jinnah Road conserved under The Dawood Foundation, retaining most of its heritage architectural details.

Built nearly a century ago, the house is located in the Jamshed Quarters area, a cooperative housing society developed by Karachi's first mayor Jamshed Nusserwanjee, catering to the city's growing middle class at the time. It was a religiously diverse community at the time, home to Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Parsis and Jews, marking the urbanisation of Karachi.

"We have tried to recapture the spirit of the old cosmopolitan Karachi," Fasih Biyabani, general manager of The Dawood Foundation, said. "It is a space for public, especially the younger lot, to come and soak in the rich heritage of Karachi as they delve into discussions about science, arts and everything in between."

The space has ample seating in the open-air Sehan Café with its old Irani bentwood chairs, access to WiFi and sockets to plug in laptops on all floors.

The Sehan Café is located in the courtyard of the house.
The Sehan Café is located in the courtyard of the house.

The warm yellow colour of the wall and lots of plants with the Champa flower tree ─ iconic to homes of the olden times ─ the sehan makes for a perfect place to relax and unwind over chai and snacks, available at a minimal cost.

The main attraction of TDF Ghar is "The Living Room" museum, which comprises antique artefacts and collectables from as early as 1930s. With bentwood furniture, vintage chess sets, a glass cupboard with fine china, an original Silica treadle sewing machine and a gramophone (that actually works!) ─ the living room is a heritage lover's paradise.

Inside The Living Room

There's more.

The rooftop of the house offers a breathtaking view of the Quaid's mazaar. Its boundary walls are bordered with beautiful flower boxes and a colourful mosaic of the house's original tiles. The roof's walls are also lined with sockets to facilitate those who want to work on their laptops as they enjoy the Karachi breeze and immerse themselves in the city of lights.

Since its construction in the 1930s, the house has withstood historic movements like the exit of the British empire and the tumultuous partition of the subcontinent, and has thrived in the volatile city of Karachi.

"We used to run a vocational training centre here in the 1960s before we had to shut down the facility in 1991 due to lack of inflow. It had been lying vacant since then, making it an easy target for the land mafia to plunder the property," Biyabani said. "There were piles of trash lying here. The house was in a really bad condition."

"This place was previously underutilised, impractical and empty; watching it transform into a public space is the biggest source of pride for me," Sabrina Dawood, the CEO of The Dawood Foundation and the visionary behind the project said in a press statement. "It is truly a testament to the transformative power of art and legacy in our society."

There's an entrance fee of Rs50 at TDF Ghar. The space is open to public from 10am to 10pm, seven days a week, except for the museum which closes at 6pm.


Tahir Aug 23, 2017 08:51am
omg. omg. omg .... pardon my gushing but i love love love love love this ... finally finally FINALLY an old house restored to its formal glory rather then being pulled down in old Karachi ... i love Karachi so so so much and i have been crying buckets over the pulling down of old houses in the Jamshed Quarters area by land mafia. This is simply amazing. I want to go hug the people who have done this and tell them i love them so much for helping save an old house in my beloved Karachi. Thank you Dawn for this news... thank you so much for making my day.
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Tehseen Aug 23, 2017 08:54am
Good to read about such initiatives
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Thoroughthinker Aug 23, 2017 09:10am
Good introduction to the recent history of Karachi, a mega city of over 20 million citizen. It would be a good indicator to know that, when Karachi had reached a rapidly rising population of 1.2 million inhabitants in 1959, Federal Capital was shifted to Rawalpindi/Islamabad because Karachi was found too congested and difficult to perform as capital of the new country in need of hustle free atmosphere for the official machinery to perform its function.
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Rizwan Aug 23, 2017 09:13am
Nice work done by Dawood Foundation to preserve the history of Karachi.
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Mushtaq A. Mulla Aug 23, 2017 09:14am
I would certainly be visiting this place during my next trip to Karachi. After all I was born at Guru Mander on Clayton Road which is just a stone throw from there. Lot of memories of that area. It was much cleaner and more liberal city. "Karachi.......with all thy faults.......I love thee still". Mushtaq A. Mulla
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farzan Amin Aug 23, 2017 09:44am
Its heart warming to see such kind of revivals, could you please share the exact location so that we can pay a visit.
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Asif A Shah Aug 23, 2017 09:49am
I wish there could be a place like that in Lahore as well.
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Mir Aug 23, 2017 10:05am
Great....good news , we have to take care such heritage....
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SAILENDRA Aug 23, 2017 10:44am
Karachi in the pre-Partition era was gleaming as a centerpiece of educational and financial excellence. The cream of the society comprising of the cosmopolitan set which dominated Karachi of the days gone reflected communal harmony at its' best. Irregardless of being either Hindu Sindhi or Muslim Sindhi or Hindu Gujarati or Muslim Gujarati or Marwaris of both addition to the entrepreneurial Parsees, Christians and a select number of Jews. In my grandfather's words, who lived to 'tell the tale' after leaving Karachi post-Partition, 'Karachi is in the best of its class which Bombay or Calcutta would pale in comparison at that time'.
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Babar Aug 23, 2017 10:48am
Great initiative. Lets bring out our beautiful past and show the world what we are capable of.
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ali Aug 23, 2017 11:02am
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FYSHAHID Aug 23, 2017 11:39am
Honestly whenever I pass by all the old houses in the old city area something inside me wishes to protect the decaying facade. I wish more and more organizations step in and take such initiatives of preserving the city's heritage and bring life back to the once forgotten but beautiful old neighborhoods of this city!
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mustafa Aug 23, 2017 01:29pm
Great effort...... its nice to see people are saving old heritage,our generations will see the exuberant work of past.....when all communities used to live together with no grudges.....look at the tile,the doors,mirrors and above all carvings on wall.....just aw-sum....remember my Hyderabad house at garikhata...our house is just like this....
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hk Aug 23, 2017 02:44pm
Would love to visit the place , I grew up in Karachi, a fantastic city it was. thanks to Yusra Jabeen, it is great job, well done.
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Ayub Aug 23, 2017 04:25pm
Great job and great opening.Will surely visit this place and hope more places will come up like this.
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Nazim Karachi Aug 23, 2017 04:28pm
@farzan Amin on main MA Jinnah Road, just opposite Quaid's mausoleum
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charlie Aug 23, 2017 05:29pm
OMG! Great Many Thanks to TDF!
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Imran Aug 23, 2017 08:17pm
What is the exact location of this house please guide with address and nearby any famous place so that could reach there easily.
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Fahad Aug 24, 2017 05:17am
Plz somebody tag the Place of Google Maps I would love to visit.
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Tahir Aug 24, 2017 08:26am
@Asif A Shah There are actually a lot of old houses and havelis restored in lahore to restaurants and cafes. Cuckoo's Den is one such place.
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Wajih Ullah Siddiqi Aug 24, 2017 11:29am
Can someone guide me the way to this location from Gurumandir roundabout... Wajih
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IMTIAZ ALI MALIK Aug 25, 2017 05:38am
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