The Hidden Beauty of Karachi – Part 1: Trepidation

Karachi is a city much abused by the global media. To some it is correct as the former capital of Pakistan has become wracked with lawlessness and crime, overrun by political violence, gang shootings, and even suicide bombings. If one were to Google the top 10 most dangerous cities in the world, Karachi slips in with the following description:

Karachi is the most dangerous of the world’s mega-cities, with a murder rate of 12.3 per 100,000 residents. None of the world’s 13 largest cities come within 25% of Karachi’s exceptional murder rate.

Amongst the political in-fighting and lawlessness, Karachi has become especially famous for its motorbike riding assassins, known as “target killers”. For $700-$1000, these target killers will assassinate police, protesters, businessmen, and political opponents.

Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan. It’s also its largest seaport and financial hub and home to between 14-21 million people.

Suffice to say, when I was informed that I would be visiting Karachi on assignment, I was perturbed at best, and with good reason also. The last time the company sent a team out to Karachi in 2010, they were robbed at gun point for a measly $32.

That being said, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and complete my assignment. My friends warned me about going, some of whom were originally from Pakistan!

Things were off to a shaky start when we landed in Pakistan, clearing customs was a breeze, however Pakistan decided to welcome my estranged alter-ego “Ayam Naseer” instead of myself, as was evident by the hotel rep that was there to greet me. It would turn out that the misspelling of my name would not be my greatest calamity of the night.

Mr. Ayam Naseer is NOT impressed...

Mr. Ayam Naseer is NOT impressed…

It just so happened that I was all alone in the hotel’s shuttle meant to pick up guests from the airport. Not wishing to offend the driver (by sitting in the back as I was told), I requested to move to the front seat (which would also give me a first hand view of the streets), no sooner had I attempted to make my way across from the back seat to the front did I see a burly, old cop bedecked in white, signaling the shuttle to stop. It was evident by his body language that he was a no nonsense type of guy, and the driver seemed agitated at his attitude.

Had he appeared friendlier, I would have attempted to dissuade him. No such luck

Had he appeared friendlier, I would have attempted to dissuade him. No such luck

When the driver returned he was downtrodden, having just received a ticket for braking in the middle of the street, his license confiscated. I offered to pay the fine (and did), and added a little extra as an attempted compensation for the time he would spend attempting to get his license back.

The Sheraton hotel had intense security, given a bombing a while back. Cars have to pass through a checkpoint with armed guards that inspect the passenger side door with a device as well as look through the trunk, once you are cleared they let down the giant barricade before you, and then there is a second barricade prior to driving up to the hotel.

Sheraton Karachi Security

Sheraton Karachi Security

Sheraton Karachi Security

sheraton karachi security

The first barricade

sheraton karachi security

Security rating: 10/10

sheraton karachi security

the second barricade

Kindly ignore the graffiti on the opposite side!

Kindly ignore the graffiti on the opposite side!

I followed a strict regiment within the hotel; lights out by 12am, wake up at 6:30am, be out of the room by 6:50am and down at the gym, stretch, cardio, weights, relax. Be done by 7:30am, head to breakfast, be finished by 8:00am, back up to my room for a shower, a change of clothes and off to work by 9am.

The Egg Station (far left) had an amazing chef who picked up on my morning habit and would prepare my order in anticipation of my clock work arrival at 7:30am!

The Egg Station (far left) had an amazing chef who picked up on my morning habit and would prepare my order in anticipation of my clock work arrival at 7:30am!

Sheraton Karachi - Room, Breakfast & Gym (14)

Orange Juice!!!! FRESHLY SQUEEZED!

Orange Juice!!!! FRESHLY SQUEEZED!

I do have a bone to pick with the culinary delights of Karachi, as was evident in the hotel’s wide array of breakfast items. And that bone is actually, bones! I tend to properly masticate my food, and the presence of bones in such items as sausage, mince meat etc. make me a very cautious eater, which I do not prefer.

First breakfast, by process of elimination, this was reduced by the end of my stay

First breakfast, by process of elimination, this was reduced by the end of my stay

Sheraton Karachi - Room, Breakfast & Gym (11)

The gym..

The gym..

not too shabby...

not too shabby…

right?

right?

Luckily the pool had warm water!

Luckily the pool had warm water!

Sheraton Karachi - Room, Breakfast & Gym (6)

Sheraton Karachi - Room, Breakfast & Gym (5)

Sheraton Karachi - Room, Breakfast & Gym (3)

Sheraton Karachi - Room, Breakfast & Gym (2)

spacious

spacious

the room

the room

The first day at work was pleasant. To my chagrin, I found myself always gravitating towards the right side of the car believing it to be the passenger side, always to the amusement of my hosts, who were most pleasant in the office and ever so helpful. They added to my anxiety by informing me not to venture out on my own!

In the end, they were only looking out for me, as will be clarified later 😉

Attempting to decipher street signs and advertisements decorating the road proved to be a mind-boggling task, as my brain attempted to read out the words in Arabic (near-same letters) only to come back at me saying, “what on earth are you trying to say you moron?!” for although it looked like Arabic, it made little sense to me as it was in fact Urdu. Mind you, one can understand a few words, almost one out of ten, the rest just fly over head like the many eagles and crows crowding the skies of Karachi.

It was not until I was paid a visit by a police officer whilst at work during my first week that I realized, fear is in the eye of the beholder. I perceived Pakistan to be a threat to my safety, and the city of Karachi perceived me to be an equal threat (given my country of origin and on a lesser [or more important scale] first name!).

Next up, the culinary delicacies of Karachi!

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

September 2011 ( View complete archive page )

error: Sorry, Ctrl+C/V disabled; if you wish to use this content please contact us :)
%d bloggers like this: