Thoughts. Words. Action.

A Few Days in Karachi

After a 16 hour flight from San Diego to Dubai, a six hour layover in Dubai, and a close to two hours flight, we landed at the Jinnah International Airport at Karachi.  A little after 4 am, the airport was very much alive, with four flights having landed within a couple of hours of each other.  The immigration lines were very long, but if you are lucky enough to know someone who knows the right people, you can be escorted through the queues, as if breaking straight through the walls of a human maze.  It can be a little awkward and embarrassing, but such are the privileges available in some parts of the world. The air outside was cool and fresh, with almost no traffic on the roads.  Drivers in Pakistan, like in most developing countries, rarely acknowledge the lane dividers, be it on a highway or a smaller street.  But in those early morning hours, the driver was truly the king of the road, weaving around the sporadic obstacles that materialized in the form of slow moving cars, or even slower moving two-wheeled buggies pulled by donkeys. Despite consistent rumors over the years (or is it the conventional wisdom of Karachi’ites?) about Karachi’s breakup into smaller pieces, Karachi is still a vibrant, thriving city of somewhere between 18 to 20 million, with all the headaches that go along any metropolis that continue to grow in a more unplanned than planned way.  Bad traffic, frequent electrical outages, and an infrastructure that seems to have been thought out, but whose execution and maintenance is at the mercy of the current political party is in control.  One could live with all this – after all over 20 million people do, but the lack of safety – frequent minor highway robberies of cell phones, cash and jewelry is what makes someone who is more familiar with the predictability of a western society think twice about visiting Karachi.  But sometimes there are commitments to be kept that trump security concerns, such as the wedding of a niece. When you go to Karachi, you go for the food, and for the shopping.  In addition to the already tantalizing and taste bud enhancing Pakistani cuisine, the localized versions of American (McDonalds, KFC, steaks), Mexican and Chinese fares are all worth tasting.  Everything is a little bit spicier, a little bit tastier and for Western tourists, dirt cheap, even in fancy restaurants.  Places like BBQ Tonite, Habib’s, Red Apple, and Kolachi not only give you a...

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