Many think of Karachi as a chaotic and dangerous metropolis, but behind the veil of its nefarious media reputation lie sites and sceneries that deserve to take the limelight instead. The history, culture, cuisines, and experiences that are found here are as unique as this huge South Asian city itself. Hang in there as Culture Trip reveals the best things to see and do in Karachi city.
Let the Chaukhandi tombs transport you to the 15th century
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and only 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away from the Karachi airport, this ancient necropolis is a must-see when visiting the city. The Chaukhandi tombs attract archaeologists and tourists alike with its elaborately carved sandstone slabs layered on top of each other to form a pyramid-esque shape. Its decorations are typical of the region of Sindh, and the graves there mostly belong to the Sindhi tribe of Jokhio. It’s estimated that they were built between the 15th and 18th centuries when the mighty Mughals ruled the Indo-Pak subcontinent.
Experience a night of Dhamal and Qawali at a Sufi shrine
Sufism, brought to the limelight by Rumi, has a strong presence in Pakistan as well. There are many Sufi shrines that one can visit in Karachi to get a sneak peek into their mystical worlds. Many a night, there will be singing, playing the Dhol and dancing called Dhamal, and when it’s the death anniversary of a Sufi poet, there are often Qawali performances that take place to celebrate the saint. If your curiosity is stronger than your desire to stay away from overly crowded areas, then you will be good. Otherwise, it’s best that you pay your respects on an ordinary afternoon instead of the anniversary of a saint’s birth or death.
From handmade mirror-work crafts and stone jewelry to traditional embellished fabric, you’ll have plenty of pretty souvenirs and style statement pieces to choose from in Karachi’s oldest variety market at Zaibunissa Street. It’s a treasure trove full of everything ethnic in the country, from Sindhi Ajrak to Kashmiri Pashima and everything else in between.
Relax for a night at any of Do Darya’s open-air restaurants by the sea and devour salty, spicy delicacies such as prawn masala, chicken karahi or a kebab platter with various meats. Warning: Once you finish your meal, you may be left licking your fingers!
The museums of Karachi are a gateway to the city’s historical and current traditions and architectural wonders in their own right. Boasting Rajistani architectural design, Mohatta Palace is a perfect spot to glimpse into the artistry of the past or awe at the modern exhibitions that regularly show there. The much older Frere Hall is not just an art gallery but a piece of art itself and stands as evidence of Pakistan’s colonial past. Also worth stopping by is the Quaid-e-Azam Museum, which is dedicated to and named after the founding father of the country.
Islamic buildings, especially mosques, are easily recognizable because of their domed roofs, marbled exteriors, tall minarets, and spectacular geometry. Tooba Masjid is no exception to the rule, but its unique low dome built from pure white marble helps it stand apart. The mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam is another splendor of Islamic design that will make you stop and stare. It was inspired by the Samanid Mausoleum in Uzbekistan.
Catch and cook your own fresh seafood on the way to Manora
Booking a sailboat to Manora Island from Karachi is a fun way to sail in the seas and spend a day at the beach. You can make arrangements with your captain to go fishing; you can then grill the catch right there on the boat. Picture a sunny day, crispy fresh seafood cooked with salt and lime, and a swaying boat in a vast blue ocean.
Sea View may be crowded, but it also has lit up buggy rides that you can zoom around in on the shore. There are also many horses to befriend and ride, and if you are into some slow-paced fun, then there is the good old Mr. Camel who will bobble you through the crowds. There are also many street food outlets to nurse your tummy once the shenanigans are over.
Soak in the warm waters of the Arabian Sea at French Beach
French Beach is a favorite among locals because of its unique location and private admission. If you have a friend or a friend of a friend, you need not worry because Karachiites are hospitable old bums who will adopt you as their own and make sure that you have all the folly that you possibly can. Also, alcohol on these private sands is not discouraged, unlike in all other public places in Pakistan due to it being illegal.