Sights & Landmarks in Karachi
There is a lot to see in Karachi, but the typical "tourist" sights are concentrated in downtown district Saddar where the city has a collection of buildings and structures of varied architectural styles. The British built variety of private and public buildings during British Raj from 1858 to 1947 in Karachi, many of which colonial buildings and landmarks still remains today. According to some reports, the city possesses over 600 protected buildings dating largely to the British period. Few of fine examples colonial buildings still remain today but unfortunately not well preserved and most of them deteriorated over time due to lack of heritage preservation. On the other hand, Karachi is currently undergoing a construction boom and hold a number of buildings whose height exceeds 100 metres.
- Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mausoleum (مزار عبد الله شاه غازى), Shahrah-e-Firdousi, Clifton. It is green-domed shrine dedicated to a 9th century Sufi, "Abdullah Shah Ghazi", is in a sprawling complex perched on a hilltop overlooking Clifton Beach. This 1,400 year old tomb is built on a very high platform with the grave being downstairs, has a tall and square chamber and a green-and-white striped dome, decorated with centuries old Sindhi tile-works and green flags flutter gives a majestic view. There are separate sitting arrangements for men and women inside the shrine. Abdullah Shah Ghazi was born in Medina in 720, claimed direct descent from the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and is thought of by his followers as the patron saint of Karachi and widely revered in Pakistan. The shrine is said to have protected Karachi from natural disasters such as storms, tsunamis, earthquakes and all sea-related phenomenon, despite it having a climate ripe for tropical storms. An Urs (festival) is held at the shrine from 20 to 22 Dhu al-Hijjah (12th month of the Islamic calendar) for three days marking the anniversary of Abdullah. Qawwali also often takes place on Thursday nights at the shrine. The shrine complex has a vast car-park, a rest house for devotees, a mosque and long lines of shops selling rosaries, incense sticks, glass and silver bangles, prayer mats and beads.
- Chaukhandi Tombs (چوکنڈی), Bin Qasim Town (on National Highway N-5).located on the outskirts of the main city though in a huge populated area. Built during the Mughal rule in between 15th to 18th century form an early Islamic cemetery, the tombs are scattered on a large area and is the only archaeological ruins site in Karachi. The tombs are remarkable for the elaborate and exquisite stone carving, a style unique to the region of Sindh, exquisitely carved in relief with intricate motifs. The site is currently listed as tentative site of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each tomb is unique in design and motif, the most impressive tombs are the Peramidal structures. Tombs of men are carved with horses and weapons while women are decorated with jewelry. Rich carved sandstone depicting the relation of the local tribes with the neighboring Iran, central Asia and Turkey.
- Empress Market (ایمپریس مارکیٹ), Preedy St. A famous marketplace dominated by a Gothic-Mughal-style clock-tower of the colonial era, situated in Saddar, which is one of the most congested and busiest areas of Karachi. The market is one of the most important landmarks of the city and traces its origins to the British Raj era, when it was constructed in 1889 and named "Empress Market" to commemorate Queen Victoria, the Empress of India during late 18th century. The building was constructed as a marketplace to cater for the European elites who were either living in or frequently visiting Karachi at that time. Today, it is amongst the most popular, oldest and busiest places for shopping in Karachi and one of the few historical spots of the city. The building was arranged around a courtyard, 130 ft by 100 ft, with four galleries each 46 ft wide and those four galleries provide accommodation for some 280 shops and stall keepers. Commodities sold in the Empress Market range from condiments, footwear, fruit, vegetables and meat to stationery materials, textiles and has numerous pet shops.
- Frere Hall (موہٹہ پیلس), Civil Lines, Abdullah Haroon Rd (opposite the Marriott Hotel). A well preserved building and a beautiful structure built during the days of the British Raj in 1865. The main building built in the Venetian Gothic style with yellowish Karachi limestone and red and grey sandstone located in the middle of two beautiful, large and lush green lawns which extend to the road. The two peaceful gardens named "Bagh-e-Jinnah" (Jinnah Garden) have two old Victorian style fountains. It houses a gallery on first floor, which is full of paintings by Pakistan’s iconic artist Sadequain. The gallery exhibits his masterpieces of paintings and calligraphy. There is also a library. There is a book fair every Sunday where you can get cheap books both new and used.
- Hindu Gymkhana (National Academy of Performing Arts), M R Kayani Rd. is one of the first Mughal revival buildings in the city constructed in 1925. The building is designed by Muslim architect Agha Ahmed Hussain. The plan and massing was based on the tomb of Itamad-ud-Daulah (1628) in Agra. The building is small in size and consists primarily of a hall and some smaller rooms used for administrative purposes. Stone for the 2-foot-thick (0.61m) walls was acquired in Bijapur. The roof line is defined by delicate massing of cupolas and balustrades directly influenced by Akbar's Fatehpur Sikri. The octagonal corner towers framing the projecting central jharoka are capped with chattris. Smaller chattris highlight the corners of the projecting porch that carry the drooping bangladar roof used in Emperor Akbar's period. The projecting chajjas are supported by ornamental brackets. The cupolas of the chattris are reinforced concrete and the walls are dressed in Gizri stone. Some of the carved elements are of Jodhpur stone. Now converted to the National Academy of Performing Arts.
- Holy Trinity Cathedral, Fatima Jinnah Rd (near Zainab Market). Built in 1855 to a design by Captain John Hill of the Bombay Engineers. One of the first major churches of Karachi and currently the seat of the Church of Pakistan, Diocese of Karachi. Its tall tower was also a light house built to facilitate ships arriving into Karachi Harbour.
- I. I. Chundrigar Rd. This wide and long yet congested street is the largest financial district of Karachi and is the centre of Karachi's banking and financial institutions, often termed as the "Wall Street of Pakistan" and is widely known as main business street of Karachi as most of the headquarters of Pakistan's financial institutions are located here. The road starts from the Merewether Memorial Tower up to Shaheen complex and preserves some of the finest private architecture from Karachi's early period. Merewether Clock Tower is 35 m high tower and carries a clock with four faces. It was constructed in 1892 in the memory of Commissioner of the Sindh at that time. The design of the tower is in the Gothic Revival style popular in Victorian England, and it was designed to evoke the architecture of Medieval England. The structure is built in buff coloured Gizri stone and shows a heightened sensitivity to detailing and emphasis on carving and decoration. The head office of Habib Bank Limited was the tallest building in South Asia for more than a decade until the 156 m tall World Trade Centre building were built in Mumbai in 1970. This 101 m high rise building with 23 floors was built in 1963, has marvellous architecture and is one of the most recognizable landmarks of the city. Other famous monuments to be seen are Former Lloyds Bank building, Karachi Stock Exchange and many banks that are also excellent examples of colonial architecture in the city.
- Jehangir Kothari Parade. now a beautiful monument used to be a promenade, built in 1919 by prominent philanthropists and businessmen of that time, provide spectacular view of giant Bin Qasim park.
- Karachi Municipal Corporation Building (KMC Building), M.A. Jinnah Rd.One of the historical British Raj buildings, has evolved an iconic status as one of the landmark structures of Karachi. This Anglo-Mughal architecture building was built in 1930 with local sandstone from Gizri and Jodhpur red sandstone at the front and is said to be the crown jewel of colonial era architecture in the city. The clock tower was made to honour and commemorate the visit of King George V, the Emperor of India of that time. Today the building houses the offices and various departments of the Karachi Municipal Corporation.
- Masjid e Tooba (Gol Masjid) (مسجد طوبٰی), Phase 1, Defence. This mosque is often claimed to be the largest single-domed mosque in the world. It was built in 1969 of pure white marble with a dome 72 m in diameter which covers the central prayer hall which can accommodate a congregation of 5,000 persons. The dome is balanced on a low surrounding wall with no supporting pillars and has a single minaret standing 70 m high. This mosque is a major tourist attraction in the city due to its modern architecture. Non-Muslim visitors are welcome, although avoid visiting during the prayer times and on Fridays.
- Mohatta Palace Museum (فریئر ہال), Hatim Alvi Rd, Clifton. Tu-Su 11:00-18:00. Another fine British Raj building, completed in 1928, but has an architecturally resemblance to palaces in Rajasthan. It was built with pink stone from Jodhpur in combination with the local yellow stone from Karachi, creating a fusion of Rajput and Mughal architectures. The palace was built by an ambitious self-made businessman from Marwar as his luxurious summer home and then became the residence of Jinnah’s sister, Fatima, after he left Karachi for India in 1947. Now, it offers a diverse range of activities for both the casual and informed visitor.
- Quaid-e-Azam House (Flag Staff House) (قائد اعظم ہاؤس), Fatima Jinnah Rd(opposite Avari Tower Hotel). Th-Tu 09:00-16:00, F 09:00-12:00. This beautifully maintained British Raj building with is an important National Monument, once owned by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who lived there from 1944 until his death in 1948. His sister, Fatima Jinnah lived there until 1964. This is yellow stone double strayed building comprising of three rooms at ground and three in first floor is worth a visit, and you can see Jinnah and Fatima’s private apartments, with period teak wood furniture and accessories such as relics used by Jinnah. The structure of building is limestone masonry with wooden trusses supporting the roof which is covered by red ceramic Mangalore tiles. Free.
- Quaid-e-Azam's Mausoleum and Museum (Mazar-e-Quaid) (مزار قائد), MA Jinnah Rd, Jamshed Quarters. The final resting place and magnificent mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (known as Quaid-e-Azam or "Great Leader"), is a prominent impressive landmark of Karachi made entirely of white marble with impressive north African arches. It was completed in the 1960s and designed by Mumbai based, Indian architect Yahya Merchant. The tomb is fabulously built on a 4 m high platform made of white marble with curved Moorish arches, copper grilles and a four-tiered crystal chandelier gifted by the people of China.
Fifteen successive fountains lead to the platform from one side and, from all sides, terraced avenues lead to the gates. In the interior of the grave complex, there are three graves in a row and one to the north. The northern one, which is decorated with a series of black floral designs at the base, belongs to Fatima Jinnah, Jinnah's sister. Out of the three graves, the northern one belongs to Liaquat Ali Khan, who died as Prime Minister of Pakistan. The extreme southern grave belongs to Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar. In the middle lies buried Nurul Amin, who rose to be the Vice-President of Pakistan. All these graves are made of Italian white marble, and they are of the box type, like the sarcophagus of Jinnah, placed on a triple base. But the sides of these graves are tapering inward while that of Jinnah is diverging outwards. These are all plain graves, except that of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, which has a basal floral ornamentation.
Official and military ceremonies take place here on special occasions, especially on 23 March, 14 August, 11 September and 25 December. Dignitaries and officials from foreign countries also visit this place.
Around the mausoleum is a 53 hectare park "Bagh-e-Quaid-i-Azam" laid in the format of Islamic art, with fountains all around it, fitted with spot-lights which project light on the white mausoleum and making the glowing tomb able to be seen for miles at night. The tomb is guarded at all times and after every 20 minutes there is a ceremonial position shift of the honour guard and, every 4 hours, the guard is changed.
In addition to the tomb, you can also see a small museum housing various artefacts used by Jinnah such as cars, dinning sets, bedroom furniture, swords and guns from is private collection. The location is usually calm and tranquil – which is significant considering that it is in the heart of one of the largest global megalopolises. Open Sa-Tu, Th 10:00-13:00, 14:00-17:00; F 09:00-12:00.
- Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Shahrah-e-Iraq (near the Empress Market). Built in Gothic Revival style and opened in April 1881, it's currently the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi and can accommodate at least 1,500 worshippers at the same time. It's a protected monument because of its outstanding architectural beauty. The cathedral's grounds are adorned with a white marble monument to Christ the King.
- Sindh High Court, Shahrah Kamaal Ataturk. Built in 1929 entirely out of pink-hued Jodhpur sandstone and one of the most imposing buildings in the city. Architecturally, it's a combination of local and Roman styles.
- Swami Narayan Mandir, M.A Jinnah Rd (Opposite KMC). The most popular and busy Hindu temple in Karachi is belongs to the Nar Narayan Dev Gadi of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, a Hindu sect established by Swaminarayan. This large temple with a worth watching facade was built in 1849 and is worth a visit.
- Christian cross. An unusual addition of Karachi skyline is 140 foot tall Christian cross which is belived to be Asia's tallest cross. This massive symbol of Christianity faith stands tall at the entrance to city's largest and oldest Christian cemetery "Gora Qabaristan" is a bid to represent the Christian community in the country which is only 1.5% according to official estimates.
Karachi has a justified reputation as a concrete jungle, but there are some nice pockets of greenery within the city. Some city parks are very well-maintained and most popular such as Bagh-e-Ibn-e-Qasim Park, Boat Basin Park, Hill Park, Nisar Shaheed Park and Jheel Park are located, which offers birds eye view of the city.
- Bagh-e-Ibn-e-Qasim (Bin Qasim Park) (باغ ابنِ قاسم). A popular and well planned park of the city opened in 2007. It is the largest family park in South Asia built in memory of the 8th century Muslim conqueror Muhammad Bin Qasim. The park consists of extensive lighting, pathways, a turtle pond, 20 stone canopies and lush green spaces with hundreds of thousands of unique rose saplings planted throughout the park. The Lady Loyd Pier runs down the middle of the park providing spectacular views of the park so try to visit the park in the late evening when the park is lit. Attractions include: Lady Lloyd pier, Jahangri Kothari Parade, a century old amusement park called Funland, an underground Hindu temple, and a mosque. A food court and shops are also inside the park.
- Hill Park, PECHS. built on a hilltop offers birds eye view of Karachi and is a popular picnic spot where you could spend some good time to relax and enjoy the park's calm and peaceful atmosphere. On Saturday and Sunday evenings the hill park swarmed with families and become a crowded spot. Have many amusement play land spots, a fast food centre, restaurants, and an artificial lake inside the park. One can take a nice view of Karachi skyline from this park.
- Karachi Zoo (کراچی چڑیاگھر), Garden East Area, Jamshad Town. Established in the year 1878 and originally known as 'Mahatma Gandhi Garden', this is one of the oldest zoos in Pakistan. There are around 500 different species of birds, 180 species of mammals and nearly 200 species of reptiles in some 107 cages. Attractions include "White Lions", "Mumtaz Mahal" and the "Elephant House", where two female African bush elephants born in Tanzania, named 'Noor Jahan' and 'Madhu Bala' were brought. A Mughal Garden including Mughal-style fountains, established in 1970, occupies a major part of the zoo with green lawns and seasonal plants. The garden is famous for different varieties of roses and other flowers that are exhibited there. A "Natural History Museum", is also one of the famous attractions of the zoo with stuffed animals, skins, antlers, horns and feathers. The Municipal Aquarium is also located in the zoo. It was constructed in 1953 and has a total of 28 tanks which contain a total of around 300 fishes from about 30 species. There is also a boating lake and a "Reptile House" which is one of the few reptile houses in Pakistan. There are 13 species of snakes and lizards. Newly born hatchlings of turtles, tortoises, terrapin and crocodilians are also exhibited. Rs 10.
- Sindbad Amusement Park, NIPA. In Karachi, there are three indoor Sindbads located inside Dolmen Mall Clifton, Dolmen Mall Tariq Road and Dolmen Mall Hyderi. They include a mix of the latest video games, redemption games as well as kiddy rides. Sindbad at Dolmen Mall Clifton also includes the largest indoor playground in Pakistan, with three storeys of soft play. The play ground includes slides, ball pools, ball shooters and trampolines. Karachi is also home to two outdoor Sindbads located at Nisar Shaheed Park and NIPA.