A Sunday drive through Karachi opened my eyes to the city's hidden beauty

It is only with time that I slowly discovered the city's charm
Updated May 26, 2019 11:35am


Let me just start off by saying that Karachi is grossly underrated.

After moving here a decade or so ago, it is only with time that I slowly discovered the city's charm. There is so much that people may not know or experience despite living here all their lives.

An aerial view of Clifton, Karachi
An aerial view of Clifton, Karachi

However, if you have a penchant for pottering about Karachi's hidden nooks like I do, you will know a side of the city that few do.

Earlier this year I decided to take a break from the guided tours I’d usually be running on a weekend morning and instead just go around town for a casual drive, stopping to observe whatever captured our fancy.

It was one of those days in Karachi when you don’t feel hot or cold, it was the perfect weather. We decided to start off strong on anda paratha accompanied by doodh patti from a nice, clean dhabba in Saddar.

The egg and paratha in preparation
The egg and paratha in preparation

This was before the anti-encroachment drive changed the face of the neighbourhood and I was glad I was able to capture the sites in all their glory. Interestingly, Saddar used to be considered a high-end shopping area for much of the previous century. Many buildings from the colonial era still stand in Saddar, even as they crumble due to their age. One of them is the Fazil Manzil which was built in 1929 and still houses residents.

However, recent times have seen newer buildings also spring up in Saddar. The area also serves as the heart of clothing and electronics markets. Anyway, back to breakfast. What lovely parathas and oh that tea!

The process of making tea always interests visitors on tour and is a favorite for Instagram boomerangs
The process of making tea always interests visitors on tour and is a favorite for Instagram boomerangs

After we had energised ourselves, we decided to stop at Empress Market for a bit of shopping.

Now I’ve been to the market countless times but it’s never boring to go back to it. Loyal customers seem to form a lifelong connection with the market with some buyers estimating that they've been visiting for 50 years or more.

An older picture of the market tower during 14th August celebrations
An older picture of the market tower during 14th August celebrations

The market offers such variety that for many who frequent it, it serves all of their purposes. Everything from meat to vegetables and home utensils are available there.

Small, manual oil mills such as this one are still used in the older markets, particularly Empress Market
Small, manual oil mills such as this one are still used in the older markets, particularly Empress Market

The market tower also used to have a large, old Victorian clock on it that unfortunately does not function anymore.

A shopkeeper and his dry fruits stall
A shopkeeper and his dry fruits stall

Many people I’ve met tell me that the market has been in pretty much the same state since its construction in 1893, barring the havoc wreaked post the anti-encroachment drive.

Always fun to spot one of these ‘Karachi buses’ as I like to call them – especially if it’s as colorful as this one
Always fun to spot one of these ‘Karachi buses’ as I like to call them – especially if it’s as colorful as this one

Being in Saddar, I couldn’t miss a quick trip to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Interestingly, the bishop of the cathedral was promoted to the status of a cardinal, making him only the second cardinal of Pakistani origin.

The façade of the main Cathedral building
The façade of the main Cathedral building

The particular cathedral is given great importance, particularly since it is the oldest standing church in Sindh after having been built in the late 19th century for Irish officers stationed in Karachi.

The gorgeous interior of the structure
The gorgeous interior of the structure

The cathedral has been particularly well maintained and is very active with massive Easter and Christmas celebrations.

Many of the stained window panes inside were specially produced for the cathedral by craftsmen in Germany over a century ago
Many of the stained window panes inside were specially produced for the cathedral by craftsmen in Germany over a century ago

As we moved on from the church, we decided to take a longer driver, passing by sites like Denso Hall and the Karachi Port Trust building, both of which are located on MA Jinnah road. During the journey, we passed by the KMC building, several markets, the stunning New Memon Mosque and of course the Wazir Mansion, Quaid e Azam’s childhood home which some also claim to be his birthplace.

Tiny little shops containing locally produced souvenir-type items such as these are fairly easily found around old town
Tiny little shops containing locally produced souvenir-type items such as these are fairly easily found around old town

Throughout this route on MA Jinnah road, you pass by the old Arambagh area to your left and then the I.I Chundrigar road – also known as the financial hub of the city, running almost parallel to the left up until the KPT building. Whereas, to the right are the areas of Mithadar and Kharadar.

This street gives off the vibe of olden times but exists right here in modern day Karachi
This street gives off the vibe of olden times but exists right here in modern day Karachi

Now if you are not from Karachi or even if you are, there are high chances that you don’t know much about the two. Karachi emerged as a tiny village that grew initially between the gates of these two areas as a basic fortified town. Kharadar was named so because of it bordering the salty water of the Arabian Sea at the port while Mithadar bordered the relatively sweet water of what was then an active Lyari river with significant flow.

We decided to end up with a brief buggy ride at the Clifton beach, lovingly referred to as just ‘Sea View’ and headed home for the day.

Snake-charmers at Sea View
Snake-charmers at Sea View