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Tuesday, March 27, 2007 


Mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Karachi is a very interesting place. What I find very interesting is that the airport is very well maintained. Outside the airport is another thing. Karachi is kind of...chaotic, in terms of traffic that is. The trip to the hotel from the airport was quite exciting, filled with honks and beeps, and veering here and there in between gaily colored buses. You could see motorcyclists without helmets zooming by blaring their horns, warning everyone that they're there, and to respect their space. Cars were covered with dust but underneath the coating, you could see small square box cars of some bygone era, to new model corollas and accords. Buses were partitioned in the middle to separate the men and women, and if there was no more space inside, there's a ladder at the side to climb on to the roof!

Roads in Karachi are quite well maintained, and the buildings along the main road are brightly lit with neons. Billboards advertising "Coke!" and the latest handset from Sony, littered the skyline. Despite all this, you'd catch glimpses of some back alleys which are run down, and full of debris. Sometimes I'd see a bare area with rubble and I couldn't help think whether it was from an explosion or was it just progress? Once in a while I'd see metal umbrellas with a cement wall built up to just a foot before touching the brim of the umbrella. I'd guess these are in-city bunkers. I'd also see some, what I'd guess surface to air cannons, decorated to be part of the city. Maybe all these things are remnants of a bygone era of Karachi. But, the current state of Karachi is emphasized once we got to the hotel, there was a metal detector and our bags were screened, even outside food is restricted from entering the hotel. A car bomb exploded once in front of a hotel here, so security is more than welcomed.

Alcohol cannot be found in Karachi. Unless you buy local brew from the hotel you stay at, or bring it in yourself (only non-Muslims). I don't drink, but I find this quite amusing, as I followed some people to try and hunt this elusive elixir all over town at night.

Karachi has a few good places to visit, such as the Mausoleum, Et-Tooba Mosque, and Mohatta Palace. Most places are quite cheap to visit, such as the Mohatta palace only cost us ten rupees each. Also, the palace doesn't allow DSLRs in, but small cameras are ok.
Et-Tooba Mosque is a huge dome, with quite good acoustics. The guide brought us into the place, walked quietly to the middle of the dome and gave a dormouse cough, it was heard throughout the inner mosque. I enjoyed that the most.
The mausoleum is located in the middle of a huge expanse, with a garden leading up to several flights of stairs to the monument, it reminded me of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.. Inside and out, were several armed guards. Small girls with flowers to sell followed us everywhere trying to charm us into buying from them. Their monotonous chirping wasn't welcomed by the guide who kept chasing them away.

Et-Tooba Mosque
7000 small mirrors make up the sparkle on the ceiling.

Besides, going around to see buildings, I managed to look at carpets. Silk carpets which are amazing in detail. All hand made, and smooth to the touch. They shimmered and changed tones as you walked around it. I was shown one which took five years to make, the size was barely six feet long, but the intricacy was astounding! The price was too, at five thousand US dollars, but you DO pay for quality.

I kind of enjoyed my stay there. Besides the places that I visited, I had great company to wile the time away. I know most trips aren't going to be this enjoyable, but it's been a great experience.