|Karachi, the largest and the most populous city of
Pakistan presents an interesting and colourful combination of the old and new. The narrow
twisting lanes and alleys of the old city throb with life along-side the wide metalled
roads and elegant modern buildings. Within the city, talented artisans with age-old skills
produce handicrafts of exquisite beauty.
Karachi offers a variety of pleasant attractions: wide sunny beaches, deep-sea fishing, yachting, golf and horse racing all-year round. Its restaurants provide a wide choice of Pakistani and Western cuisine. Its markets and bazaar offer and endless variety of exciting shopping including indigenous handicrafts, rugs and carpets of rare design and beauty.
Karachi's recorded history goes back to the 18th century when it was a small fishing village known as Karachi-jo-Goth. With the development of its harbour it gradually grew into a large city and an important centre of trade and industry. Its selection as capital of Pakistan in 1947 added to its importance and tremendously boosted the rate of its growth and development. Although the seat of Government has now been shifted to Islamabad, Karachi still remains the epicentre of commerce and industry.
Located on the National
Highway, 27 kms from Karachi, Chaukundi tombs comprise of innumerable sandstone graves
with strangely-carved motifs, date back to 16th-18th centuries in Sind. The Chaukundi
Tombs are archaeologically interesting. The tombs are constructed out of slabs of rocks
stacked into elongated pyramids of cubical stones and carved with exquisite designs, the
origin of which remains a mystery.
About 64 kms (40 miles) east of Karachi is Banbhore, an archaeological site which some scholars identify with Debal, the port of city where the Arab General Mohammad Bin Qasim landed in 712 AD. This site is 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 etc. Banbhore is one of the Pakistan's old and most popular folk- stories Sassi-Pannu.
Situated 70 kms (about 52 miles) from Karachi. Haleji Lake is considered to be largest water fall sanctuary in Asia, and is the main reservoir for Karachi. Its 1-1/2 km off the Thatta road from the village of Gujjo. Thousands of birds of over seventy species migrate here in winter from Siberia and stay through January and February. The birds include flamingoes, pelicans, pheasant-tailed jacanas, herons, ducks, partridges and agrets. It is a paradise for those who love birds.
about 98 kms (61 miles) east of Karachi. At one time Thatta was important as Sind's
capital city and as a centre for Islamic arts. From the 14th century four Muslim dynasties
ruled Sind from Thatta, but in 1739 the capital was moved elsewhere and Thatta declined.
It was believed that this was the place where Alexander the Great rested his legions after
their long march.
The town is dominated by the Great Mosque built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jehan which has been carefully restored to its original condition. The mosque's 33 arched domes give it superb acoustics and the tile work, a whole range of shades of blue, is equally fine. Situated on the outskirts of the new town it is surrounded by narrow lanes and multi-story houses made of plaster and wood which are top by badgirs, the wind catchers designed to funnel cool breezes down into the interiors of buildings. They are also quite common in Hyderabad.
The bazaars of Thatta are known for hand-printed fabrics, glass bangles and Sindi embroidery work in laid with tinny mirrors, one of the more world known handicrafts of Pakistan. Thatta is a fascinating town which appears to have scarcely moved out of the 18th century and is only slowly catching up with the modern world.
Hyderabad, 164 km north of Karachi the second largest city in Sind and one of the largest in Pakistan. Hyderabad is five km from the eastern bank of the Indus changed its course away from Khudabad, at that time the capital of the region, the new capital was shifted to Hyderabad. In 1766 the Kalhora ruler constructed a fort half a square km in area and it still stands today. In 1843 the British arrived and defeated the Talpurs, completing their conquest of Sind.
In the old city, buildings are topped by badgirs that look like chimneys on roof tops. They catch the cool breezes which blow steadily in a south-west direction for 40 days from late April each year. Hyderabad is hot for most of the year, although in autumn and winter the temperature dips down to around 24 C . In the old sections of the town, cows still roam the streets giving it a distinctly mediaeval atmosphere.
On the northern side of the hill on which Hyderabad is sited there are tombs from the Talpur and Kalhora periods. The tomb of Ghulam Shah Kalhora is one of the finest, although its dome collapsed and has now been replaced by a flat roof.
Also worth a visit is the Institute of Sindhology's museum at the University of Sind. It has displays on all aspects of Sindhi history, music and culture depicting the lifestyles of the desert tribes. Infrequent GTS buses go to the campus, otherwise take a miniwagon to Jumshero, across the river from Hyderabad, and walk the 1-1/2 km to the university.
Kirthar National Park
This park may be visited for recreation education or research but shooting is forbidden. A four hour drive north- east from Karachi, of the Super Highway (for 4 WD vehicles only) takes the visitor deep into the heart of Kirthar National Park, again preserve measuring over 3,000 square kilometers in the Kirthar hills and a good destination for 3 day trip if the bandits are brought under control. October to February is the most comfortable...that is, coolest...time to go but the flowers bloom during the (relatively) wet monsoon in August.
Five furnished rest house with cooking facilities and running water are situated on the edge of a wide valley in the centre of the park at Karchat. They are bookable through the Sind Wildlife Management Board, which also hires out tents to those wish to camp. Some food is available if ordered well in advance, but it is better to take your own food, drink and bedding.
The rolling valleys and contorted, rugged lines of the Kirthar hills form a natural haven for Urial sheep, ibex and chinkara gazelle. Jungle cats, desert cats and even the occasional leopard or desert wolf also prowl the park, but you would be extreme lucky to see them. Pangolins (scaly anteaters), porcupines and monitor lizards are more in evidence.
Other attractions in the park are 18th century Chaukundi style tombs at Taung and pre-historic archaeological remains at Koh Tarash. The enormous Rani Kot Fort is also within the park, two hours by jeep from Karchat. Rani Kot is about four hours from Karachi via the Super Highway and Indus Highway.
At Moenjodaro (Mound of
dead) in the west bank of the Indus in Sind have been found the remains of one of the
earliest and a most developed urban civilisations of the ancient world. Discovered in 1922
Moenjodaro once metropolis of great importance forming part of the Indus Valley
Civilisation. Moenjodaro 4,000 years old brick ruins of the Indus Valley Civilisation city
The Indus Valley Civilisation flourished from 3,000 to 15,00 BC, making it contemporary with the ancient civilisation of Egypt and Mesopotamia. At its height, it comprised atleast 400 cities and towns along the Indus and its tributaries, covering most of the present-day Pakistan and stretching north-west as far as modern Kabul and east as far as modern Delhi. The water ways were the main highways connecting the empire, and flat bottomed barges almost identical to those still use today plied the rivers from city to city. Few of the cities have been excavated.
The most imposing remains are those of the great bath which consisted of an open quandrangle with verandahs on four sides, galleries and rooms at the back, a group of halls on the north and a large bathing pool. It was probably used for religious or ceremonial bathing. Nearby are the remains of the great granary, possible public treasury where taxes were paid in kind. Testifying to the high developed and artistic sensibility of the Moenjodaro people is discovery of necklaces pendants of beads ear rings and anklets of ivory and mother-of-pearl, vessels of silver, copper and browns and polished stones weights and measures which suggest the existence of strangest civic regulations.
From coins and poetries discovered, archaeologists believe trade and cultural links existed between Moenjodaro and the contemporary civilisations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Various objects d'art found at Moenjodaro include burnt clay male and female figurines, and models of the bird, steatite bust of a noble man or a priest- king, wearing a loose robe on which the trefoil pattern is engraved and small dancing girls in the browns with slim figures and flat negroid features. Figural art is best illustrated by steatite seals bearing life like representations of animals and mythological creates such as is the unicorn. The ruins of this Indus Valley Civilisation face eminent danger from the rising water tables and salinity. Government of Pakistan in cooperation with UNESCO is making all possible efforts to avert this danger and save Moenjodaro.
Kot Diji site is 25 kms (15 miles) south of Khairpur town in the Khairpur District of Sind. Archaeologists say that the discovery of this pre-historic site has furnished information of high significance since it pushed back the pre-history of Pakistan by atleast an other 300 years from about 2,500 BC to 2,800 BC. Evidence of new cultural element of pre-Harappan and pre-Moenjodaro date has been found at Kot Diji. The excavations there have proved that the Indus Valley Civilisations people borrowed or developed some of the basic cultural elements of the Kot Dijians. The site consists of two parts: one comprising the citadel area on the high ground where the ruling elite lived and outer area inhabited by the common man. The Kot Diji culture is marked by well- furnished well-made pottery and houses built of mud-bricks on stone foundations. In fact, the Kot Dijian ceramics through different in form and technique are no way less artistic then the sophisticated back-on-red pottery of Harappans. The Harappans borrowed some of the basic culutral elements from Kot Diji. The Harappan decorated designs such as the "fish scale " intersecting circles and the pipal leaf pattern were evolved from the Kot Dijian decorated elements like the horizontal and wavy lines, loops and simple triangular patterns. There is a no proof yet of the place or the regions from where the Kot Dijians arrived in the Indus Valley. Kot Diji situated between Ranipur and Khairpur on the highway from Hyderabad, on the east bank of the Indus close to Rohri. Worth site trip.
North of Larkana the landscape becomes luxuriant, and in Sukkur the railway line and the highway split up, with a road and rail tracks leading north-west to Quetta via Sibi and Jacobabad, while another highway and railway line go via Rahimyar Khan and Sadiqabad straight to Multan. Sukkur is a sprawling town, with beautiful mosques, gardens, shrines and madrazhis (Muslim religious schools). A desert oasis town, similar to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, it also boasts many havelis, however, unlike those of Jaisalmer, the Sukkur variety are decorated with geometric, floral designs and painted in a variety of bright, contrasting colours.Just across the Indus is Rohri, also fairly prosperous and an important rail and road junction.
The two towns, 5 km apart and 544 km north of Karachi are linked by the Landsdowne and Ayub bridges, which are extremely beautiful. There is a medieval mosque with porcelain-tiled walls, and eight km away are remains of the ancient city of Aror where Alexander the Great is said to have camped.