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From Karachi, the megacity of around 30m population, with few traffic lights and the secret of its colorful and bedecked buses - REPORT

Baku, April 24, AZERTAC

Azerbaijan's national air carrier AZAL made its first flight from Baku to Karachi, Pakistan on April 18. Within the visit, AZAL and its partner Mian's Group of Companies organized a media tour with the participation of media representatives.

AZERTAC presents a report from the media tour.

Old city of Karachi

Located on the coast of the Indian Ocean, Karachi, a tiny fishing village first sprang up in the middle of the 17th century on a safe land open to the sea. Karachi with its favourable geographical features, was developed into an important port by the British in the middle of the 19th century. The British considered Karachi to be of military-strategic importance and a principal port for the export of products in the Indus River region. In 1878, the city was connected to the rest of British India by rail. By 1914 it had become the largest grain exporting port of the British Empire. By 1924 an aerodrome had been built, and Karachi became the main airport of entry to India.

The first capital of Pakistan

After independence in 1947, Karachi became the capital of Pakistan till 1959, when Islamabad was selected to serve as the new capital city. After the independence of Pakistan, a significant number of Muslims emigrated from India and settled in this city. Thus, the city experienced a major economic and demographic transformation. In later times, Karachi became a major commercial and industrial centre of the country. Even today, Karachi serves as a transportation hub and plays a significant role in mobilizing trade in the region through its two largest seaports, Port of Karachi and Port Bin Qasim, and one of the busiest international airports of the world. Karachi Stock Exchange is the largest and oldest stock exchange in Pakistan with at least 540 listed companies in 2020. Besides, Karachi controls Pakistan's trade with abroad and Central Asia, thus, Karachi's ports handle approximately 95% of Pakistan's foreign trade. Karachi is also home to major automobile manufacturing companies. Production enterprises of "Toyota", "Suzuki Motor Company", "Millat" tractors, "Daihatsu", "Hinopak motors" are operating in the city.

 

National Bank of Pakistan operating in Karachi

However the capital of Pakistan was moved to Islamabad in 1960, the National Bank of Pakistan still operates in Karachi. The State Bank Museum, which has a great history, operates in the city. It is the only museum of its kind in Pakistan that offers an insight to creation of money, its printing, circulation, regulation of Pakistani Currency. It has in its display all notes that are or were in circulation including a vast collection of current and historic coins. The Coins Gallery displays the techniques with some original dies of coin making in Pakistan Mint, also include some old machines, the process of coin making along some tools, and a documentary covering the whole process of coin minting in Pakistan Mint. The Coin Gallery is divided into two parts, Pre Islamic Gallery and Islamic Gallery till to the Present-Day period Coinage. The Pre Islamic Gallery exhibition starting from barter system, seals used as coins by Indus valley people, punch-marked coins dated from 6th century B.C. The pre Islamic Gallery also displays some uncommon bar copper and silver coins, Indo Greeks including an uncommon bronze coin of Alexander the Great and several other unique coins, Indo Scythians, Indo Parthian, Kushans, Guptas, Indo Sassanians, Hindu Shahis. The Islamic Gallery exhibition starts from the coinage of Arab Governors of Sindh, some uncommon Sultanate coins, Mughal coins, later Mughals, British Indian, and then coinage after 1947. The currency gallery contains a complete collection of Pakistani currency notes since its inception in 1947.

 

Quaid-i-Azam Mausoleum and historic palaces of Karachi

Karachi is home to Quaid-i-Azam Mausoleum, a monument to Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. It is an iconic symbol of Karachi and ranks first among the city's landmarks. The architectural design of the tomb, which was completed in 1970, is modern. It's set at the top of a stepped pyramid in a small park. Built in 1958-68 from the design of a Turkish architect, it is minimalist and stark. The white marble structure makes some concession to traditional styles with a square plan and supporting a semicircular dome.

Jinnah served as the leader of the All-India Muslim League from 1913 until the inception of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, and then as the Dominion of Pakistan's first governor-general until his death.

He is revered in Pakistan as the Quaid-e-Azam ("Great Leader") and Baba-e-Qaum ("Father of the Nation"). As the first governor-general of Pakistan, Jinnah worked to establish the new nation's government and policies, and to aid the millions of Muslim migrants who had emigrated from neighbouring India to Pakistan after the two states' independence, personally supervising the establishment of refugee camps. Jinnah died at age 71 in September 1948, just over a year after Pakistan gained independence from the United Kingdom. He left a deep and respected legacy in Pakistan. Several universities and public buildings in Pakistan bear Jinnah's name. The mausoleum complex also contains the tomb of Jinnah's sister, Māder-e Millat ("Mother of the Nation") Fatima Jinnah, as well as those of Liaquat Ali Khan and Nurul Amin, the first and eighth Prime Ministers of Pakistan respectively.

"Mohatta Palace" is a palace museum located in Karachi, Pakistan.

In 1927, Shiv Rattan Mohatta, a successful Marwari entrepreneur from Rajasthan, commissioned a palatial house in the affluent seaside neighbourhood of Clifton in Karachi.

Mohatta had made his fortune as a ship chandler and trader. The architect commissioned for his palace, Ahmed Hussein Agha, one of the first Muslim architects of India, had come from Jaipur as chief surveyor for the Karachi Municipality. Ahmed Hussein Agha designed several buildings in Karachi, but Mohatta Palace proved to be the coup de maître of his professional career. He built the Palace in the tradition of stone palaces in Rajasthan, using pink Jodhpur stone in combination with the local yellow stone from Gizri. The building was acquired by the newly formed Government of Pakistan in 1947 to house the country's first ever Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was subsequently the formal residence of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, sister of the Quaid e Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In the '60s Mohatta Palace was dubbed Qasre-e-Fatima. It was acquired by a public trust and opened as a Museum from 1980.

One of the city’s most iconic landmarks is Quaid-e-Azam House Museum, also known as Flagstaff House, a house museum dedicated to the personal life of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. This house is currently under the protection of the Department of Culture, Tourism, Antiquities and Archives. Jinnah bought this luxurious property 70 years ago. Jinnah, who was sixty-six at the time of the purchase, had planned to move into the house after retirement. However, after moving here in 1947, he could only live in the residence for a short time. However, after Jinnah's death, his sister Fatima Jinnah lived in this house for 16 years.

Colourful decorated buses - symbols of Pakistan

There is an amazing tradition in Pakistan - there are not ordinary vehicles on the roads, but brightly decorated buses and trucks that look like works of art.

More than 10,000 artists work on unusual bus and truck arts in Karachi, which is more than just cultural expression, it’s also a deeply rooted tradition that can cause a business boom for drivers. In addition to traditional patterns and colors, portraits of local politicians and world celebrities are often painted on the vehicles. It should be noted the unique truck art of Pakistan costs owners a lot money, but every year the number of people who want to decorate their car is increasing.

The locals call the decorated buses "The soul of Pakistan". The extraordinary tradition of decorating trucks has its roots in the days of the raj when craftsmen made glorious horse drawn carriages for the gentry. It could be understood from the cart that the cart belonged to a rich and respectable gentry. In the 1920s the Kohistan Bus Company asked the master craftsman Ustad Elahi Bakhsh to decorate their buses to attract passengers. Bukhsh employed a company of artists from the Punjab town of Chiniot, whose ancestors had worked on many great palaces and temples dating back to the Mughal Empire. This started an unending competition among the truck owners which brought much diversification to the art of truck painting. The truck drivers take great pride in making their trucks look beautiful.

Even today, the patterns on vehicles attract attention and tells where the driver is from. For example, artists from Quetta and Peshawar decorate heavy trucks and buses with wood. Their counterparts from Rawalpindi, on the contrary, use plastic in their work. Special elements are used to make the truck glow 24 hours in Karachi. Additionally, camel bone jewellery is also offered in Sindh.

Few traffic lights, low level of traffic jam

Karachi is a world mega city with population of over 30 million. During our observations in the city, we came across a small number of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. However, traffic congestion is not a matter in the downtown or in the surrounding area. The reason is that there are few cars in the city. So, the vast majority of the population uses motorcycles and rickshaws. Sometimes they go to the destination with three or more individuals sitting on a motorcycle.

Karachi beaches

The city of Karachi has a large number of open and closed beaches for public. It should be noted that the local population does not use the beach much. Beaches open to tourists are presented with foreign names. For example, the French beach in the city of Karachi is known for its mesmerizing nature and clean sand. This is one of the few beaches in the city where one can swim and do water sports. The beach has many beautiful rocks and cliffs that create a unique atmosphere. Additionally, it is beautiful location and excellent picnic area with washrooms and fresh water. Here you can enjoy fresh sea air and beautiful views of the Arabian Sea. The sea here is almost always calm, and the depth of the shore is only 1.5 meters. Thanks to the crystal clear water of the Arabian Sea, fine warm sand and convenient location, this place attracts many tourists every year.

Pakistan keen on developing tourism relations with Azerbaijan

Highlighting the Pakistan-Azerbaijani tourism relations, executive director of Sindh Tourism Development Corporation STDC Syed Feyaz Ali Shah said that the flights between the two countries create conditions for visitors and the development of tourism relations between the two countries. He noted that the city of Karachi creates major opportunities for evolving of tourism, investments and especially coastal tourism.

“Karachi is a megacity with a population of 30 million and is the principal commercial city of Pakistan. It creates immense opportunities for visitors from all countries, especially Azerbaijan. We invite tourists from all regions to visit Pakistan, which enjoys a combination of desert, mountain and ocean," Syed Feyaz Ali Shah added.

According to him, tourism relations are evolving further thanks to air and sea ports of the city. Karachi is rich with its history, culture, archaeology and traditions: "We invite students, teachers and archaeologists from Azerbaijan to visit Pakistan and get familiar with its history and culture. In order to further develop tourism relations between the two countries and bring people closer together, we must learn our languages and exchange mutual experiences. In order to develop tourism relations between the two countries, I invite AZAL and the Tourism Bureau under the Azerbaijan Tourism Agency to our country. The fraternal relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan should be further developed."

Amer Said Mian, the General Sales Agent (GSA) for Azerbaijan Airlines in Pakistan, said that Pakistan is a key market for AZAL due to its strategic location, close cultural ties and the growing demand for air transport between the two countries. Additionally, Pakistan's vibrant economy and tourism sector make the country an attractive destination for airlines looking to expand their route networks.

"We are constantly analysing the market, its efficiency and needs, and if possible, we are ready to further expand our presence, increase capacity and serve passengers," said Amer Said Mian.

Zeb Khawaja, Chief Executive of the Pakistani tourism company "Zeb Travels", described Azerbaijan as a very foremost city for Pakistan, because the Pakistani people love Azerbaijan very much.

"I organized group trips to Gabala and Baku last year, which made an impression on Pakistani tourists," said Zeb Khawaja. He added that Pakistani private companies will also show interest in organizing Baku-Karachi flights in the future.

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