As part of our ongoing ‘Hometown Holiday’ series, Alyana gives us a whistle-stop tour of her hometown of Karachi. With something for every traveller in this comprehensive guide, there’s no excuse not to visit!
I was raised in the bustling city of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city in the southern province of Sindh. Full of rich culture, history and, of course, delicious food, Karachi is known as the city of lights and will surely light up any visitor’s eyes. It has a homely charm while providing endless entertainment – it really does never sleep, so even during the deepest hours of the night you’ll spot traffic and life on every street, which makes it great for nightlife. All the different kinds of people living there make it diverse and multicultural, too.
Not only is Karachi the biggest city in Pakistan, but also one of the biggest and fastest growing cities in the world. Karachi is a major commercial and industrial area and the principal seaport for the country, as well as being home to its busiest airport. The driving force for Karachi’s development has come from its role as the port serving the Indus River valley and other nearby regions.
Sea turtles lay their eggs in the sands at night which is a unique thing to see
The location is also perfect, built on coastal plains and surrounded by coastal mangroves, while the transportation options range from the railway network, bus systems and rickshaws. The buses are decorated with beautiful truck art and are a delight to look at.
The best time to visit Karachi is during the winter months, December to February, when the minimum temperature is a pleasant 13°C. The average temperature for the majority of the year is higher at 34°C.
Of course, the beaches are a major highlight – only a 40-minute drive from the centre of the city, there are multiple beaches from the French beach to the sandspit. You can rent a hut for a day and relax at the beach while taking rides on horses and camels, or watch fresh crab and fish being made right in front of you. Another exciting activity is turtle watching in the winter – at turtle beach, sea turtles lay their eggs in the sands at night which is a unique thing to see.
Beach fiends can also head to the gorgeous Churna Island, which is a small, uninhabited island located in the Arabian Sea. It is famous for water-based activities in the crystal clear water filled with coral reefs, such as snorkelling, diving and fishing.
Every Pakistani knows that our food is at the heart of our culture
If you feel like doing some shopping, Karachi has a big shopping mall culture. Popular malls include Dolmen Mall on the beach front or Lucky One mall in the more suburban area, which also has a huge indoor theme park. These malls have local shops such as Khaadi where you can buy traditional Pakistani clothes like Shalwar Kameez, as well as famous international stores.
Karachi is also filled with beautiful cultural markets such as Zainab Market, which is a flea and street market, selling commodities from groceries to textiles and stationery. You can also get export rejections at very low prices, as well as traditional Pakistani jewellery and home decoration items. Another famous market is the Empress market which traces its roots back to the British Raj era.
As well as markets, there are many historical landmarks in the city. The Mohatta Palace Museum is a former palace once inhabited by the sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah (the founder of Pakistan). There have been some excellent exhibitions over the years as well as a lovely gift shop. The palace itself is beautifully built with surrounding lawns.
Another landmark is the Mazar-e-Quaid which is in a massive park decorated with fountains and the final resting place of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while Quaid-e-Azam House Museum is a museum dedicated to his life. It was the residence of Jinnah from 1944 until his death in 1948 and is one of the most captivating attractions with its beautiful yellow stone interior and expansive lawn.
Karachi is also home to several parks. Hilal Park is a peaceful, quiet park filled with beautiful and colourful flowers and trees. For thrillseekers, Aladdin Amusement Park has over 40 rides for all age groups including bumper cars, splash pools and VR games. Safari Park is a nature and wildlife area with countless different animals from ducks, swans and pelicans in a lake with a waterfall, to a bunch of land animals that you can see on a safari coach.
Every Pakistani knows that our food is at the heart of our culture and Karachi, with some of the biggest and busiest food streets in the country, is no exception. Burns Road is Karachi’s oldest and most iconic food street for exploring the local cuisine and is rich in history and culture. This street started out post-independence when migrants from India settled in this area and started introducing recipes to the locals. The most famous product available here is the classic ‘Burns Road Ka Bun Kabab’, but you can get other classic cultural dishes such as Nihari from Malik Nihari, Biryani from Al Naz Biryani and Haleem from Mazedaar Haleem, as well as ice creams and lassis!
Kolachi is probably the most popular restaurant in the city and is a must visit
A smaller food street is the Boat Basin food street which has more street food such as chaat, shawarmas and kebab rolls. Boat Basin is also home to the most famous breakfast in Pakistan, Halwa Puri, which is a sweet breakfast eaten with crispy flatbread. All these stalls and restaurants have outdoor seating near the roadsides so you can enjoy the vibrant lights and bustling city life while eating.
Kolachi is probably the most popular restaurant in the city and is a must visit. Built above sea level, it has a beautiful view of the Arabian sea where you can see boats floating and seagulls flying while enjoying your meal.
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