What is Karachi like?

Published: October 9, 2013

Karachi symbolises love and compassion mixed with endurance and peace. PHOTO: REUTERS

Karachi is to Pakistan what Pakistan is to the rest of the world – a place of contradictions! It is a really difficult task when one has to explain this city to a person who has only been exposed to it via the media.

However, deep down, I enjoy this task.

So on one Friday morning when there was not much work to do, I received a question from an anonymous blogger asking:

What is Karachi like?

Instead of sending a brief textual reply, I did this:

Well…

Karachi is lame,

Photo: ONLYINPAKISTAN.TUMBLR.COM

Yet it makes sense.

Photo: Humans of Karachi/Citizens Archive Pakistan

Karachi is serious,

Yet it knows how to smile.

Photo: Humans of Karachi/Citizens Archive Pakistan

Karachi is cheap,

Yet it is fancy.

Karachi is conservative,

Yet it is open minded.

Karachi is orthodox,

Yet it is contemporary.

Karachi is dirty,

Yet it is beautiful.

Karachi is crowded,

Yet it is peaceful.

Karachi is backward,

Yet it is modern.

Karachi is dangerous,

Yet it is safe.

Karachi is old,

Yet it is new.

Karachi is all sorts of things!

Karachi is love.

Photo: Humans of Karachi/Citizens Archive Pakistan

Karachi is compassion.

Photo: Humans of Karachi/Citizens Archive Pakistan

Karachi is endurance.

Photo: Humans of Karachi/Citizens Archive Pakistan

Karachi is bizarre.

Photo: Humans of Karachi/Citizens Archive Pakistan

Karachi is patriotism.

Photo: Humans of Karachi/Citizens Archive Pakistan

Karachi is chai (tea).

Photo: Humans of Karachi/Citizens Archive Pakistan

Karachi is paan.

Karachi is so many things that I can go on forever!

The city of lights has a roller coaster journey for anyone who wants to explore this metropolis and all its contrasting beauty.

Check this page for more on this beautiful city.

PHOTOS: CITIZENS ARCHIVE OF PAKISTAN, HUMANS OF KARACHI AND THE INTERNET

This post originally appeared here.

Ferya Ilyas

Ferya Ilyas

A sub editor on the Web Desk of The Express Tribune. She tweets @ferya_ilyas (twitter.com/ferya_ilyas)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • farheen

    I LOVE THIS ARTICLE. THANKSRecommend

  • Parvez

    That was absolutely brilliant………a picture is worth a thousand words and so true.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    K for Karachi K for KaleidoscopeRecommend

  • Sameer H.

    Hey.. ferya .. great analogy of karachi moods .!!! I have been following ET for 2 years daily and this is my first ever comment.. scintillating job..Recommend

  • rehman1

    its still not lahore:P hahahaha!!!Recommend

  • Khi

    Ya mean khi is bipolar!! LolRecommend

  • Ahmed Shah

    Beautiful pictures , Job well done (Y)Recommend

  • Tanveer Hussain Jeddy

    loved the article… a picture speak 1000 words.. bravo….Recommend

  • Muz

    Wow!

    My two cents: Karachi is Target Killing vs Karachi is Abdus Sattar Edhi!Recommend

  • bleh

    BEST BLOG IN A WHILE! LOVED EVERY BIT OF IT!!!Recommend

  • ahmad

    Nicely illustrated article…………I am basically from Punjab BUT when I got admission in University of Karachi in early 1980s it was a dream come true and living in this wonderful city for next 5 years made me what i am today(shukar Alhamdolillah)……………..Thanks God I went to karachi …Thats why I call it as my second home.Recommend

  • Silent Observer

    What a great way to start my day. Karachi is Life :)Recommend

  • Anonymous

    Karachi <3Recommend

  • bharat

    i want to visit Karachi. How are Indians treated in Karachi?Recommend

  • Waqar

    lolxx….haters will always be haters….first line sums it all.

    Karachi is to Pakistan what Pakistan is to the rest of the worldRecommend

  • Faizaan Ahab

    I mildly disagree… As articulately as the article has been summed up, I strongly believe every possible city is comprised up of elements of such general contradictions… Its a very universal description of ‘a’ city as opposed to ‘the’ city, Karachi!
    However, I must acknowledge the supporting documentation – the collection of images is cherry picked and Karachi specific… and very aptly used!
    Interesting (visual) read, none the less!Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    Excellent photo blog!Recommend

  • Dajjal

    Karachi is like a public toilet with the flush broken, the pipes clogged and people lining up to use it….Recommend

  • Ismail Azeem Zubairy

    Thank God its not ;)Recommend

  • Ali Tahir

    A very nice photo blog.Recommend

  • Huzefa

    WOW, Beautifully explained :)Recommend

  • Irfan Ahmed Burney

    I think I just fell in love with Karachi all over again…Recommend

  • mhammad ovais khan

    karachi is the city where outsiders are usually more welcomed then their indwellers :P BTW my uncle came last month from india obviously he loved the every bits of vibes of karachiRecommend

  • Random Karachi Citizen

    PHOTO CREDIT!???? Who took these photos??…its a crime not to mention that!Recommend

  • Syed Muhammad Ayaz

    loved it.. :) amazing compilationRecommend

  • Afia

    Very nicely done, but epic fail not to have mentioned that the photographer for seven of these photographs is Khaula Jamil. Please give credit where it is due. And keep up the positive posts.Recommend

  • Anshuman Tripathy

    Excellent photo blog. I would say every city (be it New York or Karachi, is made up of contradictions). The same could be said for all Indian cities too. Although most of Indian cities of today don’t make news for Terrorism, extortion and bomb blasts as many Pakistani cities do. I would say that present day Karachi reminds me a lot of Bombay in the 90’s. But the Govt soon got their act together and cleaned up all the filth.
    I can see from the photos that karachi would certainly be a beautiful place if terrorism,gang wars and religious indoctrination is brought under control. I would also love to visit it someday.
    And I have to say this, from the photos of Karachi you have posted I can make out a close resemblence with the muslim dominated areas of Bombay (Bhindi bazaar,Kurla east and haji Ali area).Those areas used to be riot prone during the early 90’s but now are very peaceful and are frequented by tourists. Do visit sometime if you get the chance.Recommend

  • ss

    Missing Karachi :'(Recommend

  • bharat

    Thanks,hope to visit someday.Recommend

  • Sensible

    Loved it!Recommend

  • Moby

    Beautiful!Recommend

  • idiobat

    Yes, a lot of these pictures seem to be taken from the Humans of Karachi page. Crediting them would be nice.Recommend

  • Anshuman Tripathy

    Publish this ET…I’m being reasonable here

    Excellent photo blog. I would say every city (be it New York or Karachi, is made up of contradictions). The same could be said for all Indian cities too. Although most of Indian cities of today don’t make news for Terrorism, extortion and bomb blasts as many Pakistani cities do. I would say that present day Karachi reminds me a lot of Bombay in the 90’s. But the Govt soon got their act together and cleaned up all the filth.

    I can see from the photos that karachi would a beautiful place if terrorism and religious indoctrination is brought under control. I would also love to visit it someday.

    And I have to say this, that from the photos of Karachi you have posted I can make out a close resemblence with the muslim dominated areas of Bombay (Bhindi bazaar,Kurla east and haji Ali area).Those areas used to riot prone during the early 90’s but now are very peaceful and are frequented by tourists. Do visit sometime if you get the chance.Recommend

  • not-so-karachiite

    this makes me fall in love with khi all over again!!!
    thanks dear :DRecommend

  • ahmed hafeez

    feryaa you r best writer in the world!!Recommend

  • What!?

    Karachi is bleeding! let’s not glorify this depressing city and write about stuff to set things RIGHT in the city! This is juvenile.Recommend

  • Jaffar

    Karachi, today, is a violent urban jungle with an assortment of lowlifes keeping the population hostage to their bastardly instincts. Consider the list of culprits.
    There are the scions of Baloch and Sindhi sardars and waderas who move around in SUVs with guards brandishing weapons (note that they do so because their elders are bigger scum, thank you). Then there are the children of the urban rich who, having failed to instil urban values in the sardars and waderas, have adopted the latter’s rural-medieval mindset. There are crooked politicians, their guards, political storm troopers; criminal gangs, ranging from thieves and robbers to land grabbers to extortionists and murderers to hired guns; cops on the take; a government split along ethnic lines; anyone who can rent a gun and settle a score. Finally, add to this list the Taliban terrorists and sectarian killers and you have, dear non-Karachi-ite reader, what is Karachi.Recommend

  • rehman1

    IGNORANCE IS BLISS:PRecommend

  • Saad

    Well ! One of the best blog on ET I have even read(read seen) !Recommend

  • Saad

    You are most welcomed bro ! :) Whether you visit Karachi , Lahore or any other city of Pakistan, !You will feel welcomedRecommend

  • Veen

    Not only our Karachi but Pakistan is LOVE :)Recommend

  • Zen.one

    You don’t wear the label on your forehead that you are an Indian. Karachi has the largest number of people migrated from India. It is quite a cosmopolitan city, the pictures posted here doesn’t show the better areas of the city. You can visit it any time, you are welcome here.

    Here is a link which will give you hundreds of pictures of Karachi

    http://www.defence.pk/forums/pakistan-tourism/3713-pictures-cities-karachi-96.htmlRecommend

  • Bushra

    Zabardast! Made my day :)Recommend

  • Ghostrider

    Very creative…it could not have been explained in a better way… HR of ET must be commended for hiring you.Recommend

  • Ayman

    thats what i think about my city..it has every color !!!Recommend

  • Hina Nasir

    Listening good comments from a punjabi person first time and i really felt good..Recommend

  • Atul ARORA

    This wonderful homage to Karachi by Ferya Ilyas is what it is – homage to Karachi.
    Pray tell me the need to bring in India, Bombay, muslim dominated Bhendi (not Bhindi) bazaar … into this?
    You, perhaps cannot think without comparisons, appreciate without denigrating. You have every right to love or hate Bombay – only it has nothing to do with Karachi and Ferya Ilyas’ view of Karachi!
    Please learn that the beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder – he or she does not have to see the object of appreciation through your eyes (comparison).Recommend

  • tai

    Lahore is to Pakistan what mr burger is to karachi. Go figure that one outRecommend

  • Kinza

    karachi is judgy :PRecommend

  • Tahir Nadeem

    Yet another elitist from uptown Karachi dousing us downtowners with her arrogance and highbrow mightiness. Whatever her scene may be, her article is an insult to us downtown karachitesi. All the “beauty” and “compassion” she has ascribed to the uptown affluent class and all the “backwardness” and “dirt” she has hurled at us privilaged downtowners. What she calls “dirt” and “backwardness” exists in karachi becasue the upper class expolits the lower classes in all things that matter. There is today no power loadshedding in clifton and dha while our downtown areas have 3 consecutive hours of loadshedding hapenning 3 times a day. So obviously the up side of karachi is brighter and beautiful. Uptown Karachi is safe becasue the “creme de la creme” is well safeguarded by those in the power echelons who have residential stakes there. The rich indulge in the lavishness of Port Grand just a kilometere from Agra Taj colony where life is a hard day’s work everyday. I am disgusted enough with this article to have no futher desire to autopsy its carcass.Recommend

  • Ali

    Still… Lahore Lahore aye!Recommend

  • Peter Pan

    Excellent!Recommend

  • Jake Fargo

    Lahore is to Punjab what Karachi is to PAKISTAN! ;) Chotay loag, choti batainRecommend

  • Californian desi

    With no intention to offend. But truly Pakistan is not seen by world as “place of contradictions” ….. it is generally remembered as country which harbored Osama Bin Laden and is a epicenter of Terrorism.Recommend

  • Imran

    Missing Karachi so much… but its still sad that Karachites and Lahoriets are still fighting… Karachi is my City and I have been to Lahore couple of times and they both have their own set of qualities that doesn’t overlap completely… So please be patient and tolerant . I would love to see similar article on Lahore or any other City :DRecommend

  • Sameer Ahmed

    JESE khi uska shauhar aye!Recommend

  • Adnan

    Oh crap.. the insecure girls are here..Recommend

  • Usman

    Good Job Done ….Indeed Karachi the land of opportunity.The world second best performing Stock Market in the world ….still investment poring in the city development of Bhahria town ,Tallest Building of Pakistan ..new Motorway DHA Phase 9 & 10 education City and textile city shows how great this city is and what lies in the future ..for me my Karachi is my New York.Recommend

  • Zaid Abbasi

    Excellent try to portray the positive image of our city. I recently came back from a trip to KPK and Northern Punjab, and without any doubt, Karachi has become infamous in the eyes of non-Karachiites. People up there are scared to come here. All they have heard are crimes about Karachi through hear say or Tv. Obviously, that has shaped the city’s image in their mind, and tbh I don’t blame them.Recommend

  • HS

    love you dear author for coming up with such a brilliant piece!
    with every heartbeat i miss khi.Recommend

  • Amra ahsan

    great job !!! fell in love with the city again!God bless my city!Recommend

  • Shehzad

    Positive comments by Ahmad gutted by a hatred and biased comment of Hina NasirRecommend

  • Rashida

    Both Karachi and Lahore are unique and beautiful in their own ways.Recommend

  • Bilal

    This article is about Karachi. Karachi I repeat Karachi. Why do insecure Lahori’s and Indians start trolling over here with their my city is better than your city comments. No body cares cuz I repeat this article is about Karachi. So lets just appreciate the beauty of Karachi. Thank YouRecommend

  • Fatima

    this applies on every city of Pakistan. Besides all these features.. these contradictions are to be found in the whole world!Recommend

  • Hussain

    more than juvenvile, this blog just shows two spectrums of Karachi, anyone who lives here would know that the peaceful/green/bright pictures are from the more affluent part of the city and ones with fires/garbage/cheap markets are from the less developed parts of the city.
    all the author is highlighting is the stark income and social differences that exist in Karachi, – its actually quite sad!
    2-3 images from a mall doesn’t prove the fact that its a safe and fun city. try doing that same flash mob out in open streets, tell me if you will be comfortable taking public transportation?Recommend

  • danish zuby

    This is such an amazing presentation. Well doneRecommend

  • islooboy

    karachi is prime et burger territoryRecommend

  • islooboy

    why i hear this often may be what you were told during childhood was all liesRecommend

  • islooboy

    look at Islamabad in skyscrapercity why dont youRecommend

  • hz

    i love this so trueRecommend

  • Mr Mustafa

    A beautiful depiction of Karachi! True to its core! Two thumbs up Ferya! Being a ‘born and bred’ Karachiite.. there are things about the city I wouldn’t want to admit.. but this depicts those very truthfully too! As I said beautiful!
    More surprising is that fact that alot of Indians seem to be very intrigued by Karachi and express their desire to witness this city of contradictions with their own eyes! Two thumbs up to you too for being good citizens of this world!
    However, whats rather more disturbing is the number of Lahori’s who just don’t seem to be very happy at all! Guys this is Pakistan we are talking about! Karachi or Lahore even Pind Dadin, its all Pakistan.. we are all Pakistani’s! So please just grow up.. and atleast show some unity on a forum being seen all over the world! Recommend

  • Mr Mustafa

    That is actually the sad truth about us. People forget that Pakistan was once actually a dignified country. Where only news of peace harmony and goodness came from. Now people have forgotten that past and just know it as the country which is a pain the worlds a**.Recommend

  • M

    I love this :) honestly warms my heart!Recommend

  • kashmala

    Loved every bit of it. Beautiful representation of Karachi.Recommend

  • hafza majeed
  • Rahim

    Wonderful…Recommend

  • skyrust

    karachi is good,, but lahore lahore aee..Right??? ;-)Recommend

  • Abdullah

    “karachi is BIRYANI” now could you forget that! :DRecommend

  • Imran Jadoon

    I’m a karachite and this is exactly the Karachi I know. Loved seeing all the photos. Beautifully done! Recommend