“What places can we explore here apart from the usual restaurants and malls?”, my friends who were visiting from Riyadh asked me.
They were visiting Karachi after many years and wanted to explore the city, but like so many others, they didn’t know where to go.
I suddenly remembered the Super Savari Express tour that I had been planning to go on for months.
I had taken the Heritage Walk tour in Saddar already, but this was a totally different way to experience Karachi in the local bus.
My friends were equally excited and we decided to head out bright and early on a Sunday morning. Waking up at 7am wasn’t difficult because I was already so excited!
We arrived at 7:45am and saw our decked up, colorful bus ready to hit the road! We couldn’t be more excited when we saw how beautiful the interiors were of our bus.
There was such a mix of people on the tour, including a woman from Germany and a girl I met all the way from LA who was here on business.
It was also interesting to see so many Pakistanis who were living here, but felt they didn’t know their city well enough.
One girl had brought her brother who was visiting from Norway after many years because she thought it was a great way to fall in love with Karachi all over again!
I found myself thinking how this was such a wonderful way to reconnect with the city and a starting point for public discourse and exploration.
Our first stop was the Freemasons Lodge that dates back to 1842 and is now home to the Sindh Wildlife Department.
Our guide, Ibrahim, who was so young and knowledgable, asked us to find the Freemasons symbol on the building.
Most of us found it instantly – the triangular shape above the front entrance gave it away. When Ibrahim asked us if we knew what Freemasonry is, everyone was quiet.
None of us actually knew what Freemasonry is other than the “satanic” symbolism associated with the Illuminati. I learnt that it’s actually the oldest and largest fraternal organisation in the world.
As we passed by the Holy Trinity Church (which I had never noticed before), Ibrahim told us that it served as a lighthouse for Karachi.
It was a five-storey Protestant church and the Empress Market nearby were the only monuments that made up the skyline.
Our next stop was the “Trafalgar Square” of Karachi, or better known as Kabootar Chowk, infront of the Sindh High Court. I never knew this remarkable, mysterious city of lights had such a fascinating place.
The chowk is an excellent center point between the Sindh government buildings, with the Sindh Assembly being closeby as well. It would have been nice to see benches and people adopting it as a public space that could be advertised more as an attraction.
I could stand there for hours watching hundreds of pigeons flock to the square as a man was feeding them.
We ended up being told off by their caretaker who told us that he had spent so long putting the food in place for the pigeons!
Saddar Walking Tour
Then we set off for a mini walking tour in Saddar on Zebunissa Street, which I learnt was named after the first female journalist in Pakistan who used to write a weekly column for Dawn.
On other days, it was an extremely busy and congested area with so much activity going on, I can’t even begin to wrap my head around it.
We stopped in front of the Kutchi Memon mosque, which was built in 1892 and can house 1,500 worshippers. I never knew that there was so much diversity within the memon community until I moved to Karachi.
Here is a fun fact: Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Edhi and Chhipa are all from the memon community.
Memons are an ethnic group who migrated after the Partition from Gujarat to central parts of Sindh. The kutchi memons used to live in the Kutch desert near Iran.
All that walking had really worked up an appetite and it was time for breakfast! We walked to the Quetta Hotel and were served the traditional Pakistani breakfast.
The parathay tasted even more amazing when I dipped them in the perfect cup of dhood patti chai we were served with it.
These new wannabe dhabay in Defence serving chai and parathay were nothing compared to the actual ones that have been around since many years.
My friends were enjoying the flavors of the chai with the omelette and channay, which I ended up skipping because I knew we would have no access to a bathroom for the next few hours!
As usual, everyone had boarded the bus except me and my friends! We were all so focused on taking good pictures that we wouldn’t realise everyone had left already.
We suddenly heard the bus moving and started running towards it, thank gosh we weren’t left behind!
After a short drive, we arrived at Empress Market, which dates back to the 1800s and named after Queen Victoria, who was the Empress of India at the time.
From grocery items, fresh fruit and vegetables, utensils and even an entire wing dedicated to exotic animals, you can literally find everything.
The market is also known to sell rare species of animals illegally without an approved license, including rare species of birds.
I wish we had more time to explore, but there were more grounds to cover on the remaining part of our tour.
I would definitely be going back soon and also recommend coming here on a Sunday morning as it was very peaceful.
For those of you who are photography lovers, have no fear – you can freely take pictures here and even go alone as it is very safe.
I think this had to be one of my most favorite places on the tour!
Dating back to the 1930s, TDF Ghar was Hajiani Hanifa Bai’s restored home by the Dawood Foundation in the heart of the Jamshed Quarters.
The home features a living room space with antique furniture, a library which is a perfect space for studying or even leisurely reading, and halls where events are held.
Walking through this space had me imagining people from all walks of life sitting here as I heard Coke Studio’s song “Aaqa” playing while climbing the stairs.
There was seating on the roof as well, which would be a perfect spot to sit and relax on weekends.
The sunset certainly would be beautiful here and I have decided that my next visit will be at that time to enjoy the golden hour.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
As the oldest church in Sindh, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in 1845, which makes it around 125 years old.
Women of the community were assembling packages of water that is meant to have healing properties in it.
They told us that many Muslims also came to their Sunday Mass to take this water from them as it was a very good cure for many ailments.
The Christ the King monument was made from marble imported from Italy and funded by the Christian community. It serves as a monument of their Saint in Goa for the community who can’t go to India due to tight visa policies.
This historical site wasn’t new to me, especially since it is located in such a central place in Clifton.
I was coming back to this palace-turned-museum after many years. But what I didn’t know was the rich history behind it!
The palace is renowned due to its exquisitely detailed architecture and its murals and paintings of Sadequain in the indoor art gallery.
Originally built for Hindu businessman Shivratan Mohatta, it was given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after Partition and then to Fatima Jinnah.
An interesting fact I never knew is that Mohatta Palace once had a secret tunnel that linked to a Hindu temple, which is near Icon Tower in present day.
I would HIGHLY recommend the Super Savari Express tour (FYI – this is not a paid review) for those who are visiting Karachi or are even living here and don’t know much about the history of this beautifully chaotic city.
It is a really good starting point for those who want to learn about the city, especially for a newbie like me who has recently moved here. I know I will definitely be going back to these sites to explore them further!
Karachi is truly the city that never sleeps and every corner you turn, there is so much more to it than what meets the eye – if only we took out the time to dig a little deeper.
It’s never too late to start exploring, you should start by taking this tour!
Great article. We have lived in Karachi for so many years but failed to explore it like Ayesha did.