Karachi in southern Pakistan, is the capital of the Sind Province, and lies on the Arabian Sea, at the northwestern edge of the Indus River delta. With its wide sunny beaches, deep-sea fishing, and horse racing all-year round, the city keeps you on your toes throughout your stay.
Karachi is also a major port centered on the island of Kiamari, and along with its international airport they act as a hub for international trade, transport, manufacturing and commerce. Karachi is the country’s center of commerce although the capital was moved to Islamabad in 1963.
The Karachi Harbor was once known as the gateway to Asia, due to its strategic geographical location. The harbor is a sheltered bay to the south-west of the city, protected from storms by the Sandspit Beach, the Manora Island and the Oyster Rocks, making it even more ideal. Karachi was a small fishing village in the early 19th Century but its history dates back much further and some historians identify it as a place from where a part of Alexander's Army boarded the Greek Flotilla in 326 BC.
Two rivers pass through the city—the River Malir and the River Lyari. Dense mangroves and creeks of the Indus delta can be found towards the southeastern side of the city.
Under British rule, the city became the chief outlet for Indus Valley cotton and grain exports. Spread over 3,530 sq. km, the metropolitan area along with its suburbs comprises the world's second most populated city. The region is largely flat or in some places has rolling plains, with hills on the western and northern boundaries of the urban sprawl. It is locally called the City of Lights for its liveliness and the City of The Quaid, for not only being both the birth and death place of Muhammad Ali Jinnah the founder of Pakistan but also his home after 1947.
The Baloch tribes from Balochistan and Makran established a small settlement of fishing communities and called it Kolachi. But it wasn’t until the British Raj in the 19th century that the city developed into the modern port-city of Karachi as we know it today.
The city is believed to have started as a fishing settlement where a Sindhi fisherwoman, Mai Kolachi, started a family. The area of Karachi has been known to the ancient Greeks, due to Alexander’s campaign, by many names: Krokola, the place where Alexander the Great camped after his campaign in the Indus valley; Morontobara port from where Alexander's admiral Nearchus sailed for home; and Barbarikon, a sea port of the Indo-Greek Bactrian kingdom. It was also known as the port of Debal to the Arabs, from where Muhammad bin Qasim led his army into South Asia in 712 AD.
By the 1700s this small settlement had started trading across the sea with Muscat and the Persian Gulf region. A small fort was constructed around it for protection, and cannons were imported from Muscat for further security.
The British East India Company conquered the town in 1839 and was later annexed to the British Indian Empire. The British realized the importance of the city as a military cantonment and a port, and started rapidly developing its harbor. By 1899 Karachi had become the largest wheat exporting port in the east and the largest grain exporting port of the British Empire by 1914.
When Mohammed Ali Jinnah founded the new country of Pakistan in 1947, Karachi, now a bustling metropolitan was chosen as the capital. But in 1958, the capital of Pakistan was shifted from Karachi to Rawalpindi and then to Islamabad in 1960. However, Karachi still continues to be an important commercial centre for the country.
Wazir Mansion: this historic building is the birthplace of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of the country. The three-storied house is one of the oldest residential areas of the city and has been declared a protected national monument.
Quaid-E-Azam’s Mausoleum: Mazar-e-Quaid or the National Mausoleum refers to the tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and is situated at the heart of the city. The white marble Mausoleum with its curved Moorish arches and copper grills can be seen for miles at night. The inner sanctum houses a four-tiered crystal chandelier gifted by the People’s Republic of China. the mausoleum draws people from all over the country who come to pay their respects to the father of the Nation and visitors from all over the world flock to see the marvelous structure and to watch the impressive changing of guards ceremony that takes place every day. Nearby are the graves of Liaqat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, and Jinnah's sister, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, buried besides Jinnah.
Liaquat Hall/Frere Hall: Surrounded by the lush green Bagh-e-Jinnah, Liaqat Hall, previously called the Frere hall, used to be the Town Hall where in the days of the British Raj, concerts and social events were held regularly. This Venetian Gothic building now houses the Liaqat Municipal Library and an art. It has been named after one of Pakistan’s most renowned artists, Sadequain and his works are also on display here. Sadequain spent the last years of his life painting a huge mural on the ceiling of the gallery but, unfortunately, did not live to complete it.
Masjid-e-Tooba: Also known as Tooba Mosque or the Gol Masjid was built in 1969 and is probably the largest single dome mosque in the world—72 m in diameter, the dome is balanced on a low surrounding wall with no central pillars. The structure is built with pure white marble and has a single minaret standing 70 m high. The central prayer hall, with a capacity of 5,000 people, has been acoustically designed.
The Tomb of Abdullah Shah Ghazi: It is perched on a hilltop overlooking Clifton Beach, and is built on a very high platform. The tomb is in a tall square chamber with a green-and-white striped dome. Syed Abdullah Shah Ghazi was a ninth-century Sufi who is said to be a direct descendant of the Prophet and is considered the patron saint of Karachi.
PAF Museum: An Air Force museum with a park known for its well organized displays, rides and greenery. The museum features major fighter aircrafts used by the Pakistan Air Force and also houses the aircraft used by Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Pakistan Maritime Museum: A naval museum with various artifacts of maritime and naval heritage incorporated through dioramas, relief sculpture, murals and miniature paintings, touch screen computers, taxidermy and ancient weapons.
National Museum Of Pakistan: This museum contains important collections of items relating to Pakistan`s ancient heritage. Exhibits range from the Indus Civilization, Gandhara sculptures, Islamic art, Miniature paintings, and ancient coins to manuscripts documenting Pakistan`s political history. There is also an ethnological gallery profiling people of different ethnicities living in the four provinces of Pakistan.
It was first established in the Frere Hall Building in 1950 replacing the defunct Victoria Museum, and was shifted to the present premises in 1970. The 11 galleries include an exquisite Quran Gallery that has more than 300 copies of the Holy Quran, out of which around 52 rare. The Museum’s collection also includes some 58,000 old coins, hundreds of well preserved sculptures, and around 70,000 publications of the Archeology and Museums Department.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral: the church is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi and was initially built on the grounds of the oldest church in the region in 1845. The older church functioned till it was destroyed by a storm in 1885.
Beaches: Karachi`s golden, uncrowned beaches stretch for miles and a ride on a gaily decorated camel is a must for visitors. Beach huts dot the shore and during September and October, giant green turtles lumber ashore to lay eggs. Spend your weekend in rented villa on one of the beaches for the perfect romantic getaway. The French Beach is a small fishing village surrounded by a boundary wall and has some 20 huts for hire. However, the village has neither running water nor electric power, although its rocky beach and clear waters are ideal for snorkeling and skin-diving. The Clifton Beach, on the Arabian Sea is a great place for a family picnic. Other beaches close to the city include Sandspit, Hawke's Bay, and Paradise Point—a sandstone rock peninsula with a natural arch.
The Port Fountain: it is also called the Karachi Port Trust Fountain and is located next to the northern rock of a series of islands known as the Oyster Rocks, off the Karachi Harbor. It is the world's second tallest fountain rising to height of an astonishing 620 ft when operating at full force, because of which it is easily seen from many locations further in the city. Two 835-horsepower turbine pumps send nearly 2000 liters of sea water per second.
The Bagh-e-Ibne Qasim: it was previously called Jehangir Kothari Park and is spread over 130 acres of land. The park has a turtle pond and some 20 stone canopies. Thousands of rose saplings have also been planted throughout the park.
Empress Market: Built by the British to commemorate the Silver Jubille of Queen Victoria`s reign, this historic market contains shops that sell meat fish, poultry, vegetables and other groceries. From its centre rises a tall clock tower. You could also shop for souvenirs such as brassware, carved silverware, gold and silver jewelry, embroidered clothing, mirror-work items, handloom tapestries, printed fabrics, lacquer-ware, camel skin articles and carved wood-work.
Boating & Fishing: if you are a sea-loving creature then by all means hire a boat or go yachting. You could even try catching crabs and fish. On a moonlit night, the experience is enhanced even further as you sail up the sheltered harbor from Kemari to Sandspit.
Thatta about 100 km from Karachi was important as Sind's capital city and as a centre for Islamic arts and still has many historic sights.
Chaukundi tombs, 27 km from Karachi, has innumerable sandstone graves dating back to 16th-18th centuries. The tombs are constructed out of slabs of rocks stacked into elongated pyramids of cubical stones and carved with exquisite designs.
Haleji Lake is situated 70 km from Karachi and is considered to be largest water fall sanctuary in Asia, and is the main reservoir for Karachi. Through January and February you can see thousands of migratory birds like flamingoes, pelicans, herons, ducks, and egrets that have migrated from Siberia.
Banbhore, 64 km from Karachi, is an archaeological site believed to be the port city of Daibul which flourished in 8th century AD. The museum at the site houses a rich collection of painted pottery, coins and beads.
Karachi is home to some of Pakistan's important cultural institutions such as The National Academy of Performing Arts and The All Pakistan Musical Conference, which holds its Annual Music Festival attended by thousands every year. The Kara Film Festival organized annually showcases independent Pakistani and international films and documentaries.
Getting in: Jinnah International is Karachi's largest international and domestic airport and is considered to be one of the best airports in South Asia.
Getting Around: Buses are the principal mode of commuting within the city, however, those who are not used to it might not be able to handle the cramped conditions. If such is the case, then it is best to hire a taxi.
Climate: Located on the coast, Karachi tends to have a relatively mild climate. Winters are mild and the summers are hot, and the proximity to the sea ensures relatively high humidity levels but the cool sea breezes gives some respite from the heat of the summer months. The winter months (November to February) are generally considered the best times to visit Karachi.