City Walk – Sarafa Bazaar & Gao Gali

By the start of 17th century, the port in Thatta was dysfunctional due to the accumulation of silt. Sindhi merchants who operated from there decided to setup a new port on the shores of present day Karachi. The built a fortified settlement which had two gates, Kharadar and Mithadar. Kharadar opened towards the sea and Mithadar opened towards Lyari river. The fortification and gates were brought down by British and the Karachi as a city grew far beyond original boundaries. The areas of Kharadar and Mithadar take their name from those gates. These are the oldest settlement of Modern Karachi.

I find myself near Wazir Mansion on a Sunday and a friend who lives in Kharadar agrees to walk with me through the streets without a purpose. It is right before the elections and the streets are adorned with flaglets of different political parties. We reach Sarafa bazaar, a maze of streets known for its goldsmiths.

Despite being the oldest part of the town, Sarafa Bazaar does not give this impression. Most of the buildings have been brought down to accommodate new development. Wazir Mansion, the birthplace of Jinnah which is little further from the bazaar will give you a fair idea of how a family lived in these quarters more than a century ago. There are some more beautiful buildings near Wazir Mansion but most of them have gotten modified to meet present day demands. People have multiplied, the area has not. Proximity to the port has not helped either. A lot of buildings have been converted into godowns. Arif Hasan, the brilliant archivist of Karachi once said that Architects don’t learn but buildings do. The buildings in Kharadar have adopted and you can sense it when you walk past them.

We come across a kid who is collecting dust in one of the streets of Sarafa Bazaar. Our friend tell us that the dust is sold later because it contains tiny gold particles coming out of goldsmiths’ workshops. People buy this dust and filter it to collect gold particles.

We find several stone facades rising above shops. Most of them have been built at the turn of 19th century. We walk into Gao Gali, perhaps given the name due to the presence of various butcher shops. The street is as narrow as Sarafa Bazaar but there are more stone structures in reasonable condition. We see a decorated door and we try to make sense of its presence when a shopkeeper tells us that it is the entrance of of ‘Sheeran Wala Mandir’, a temple popularly known for two lion sculptures which guarded the entry gate. They disappeared post partition. No one knows who took them away. The place lost its charm. The place is closed and no one knows who manage it.

We keep walking towards Kakri Ground where we had parked our car initially. We see more stone structures and they are suffering as badly as their counterparts in other parts of town. The narrow streets are fascinating and I can imagine a bicycle tour happening here had we taken our choices correctly in past. But right now we have to contend with present state of affairs.

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Categories: City Markets, City Walk

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3 Comments on “City Walk – Sarafa Bazaar & Gao Gali”

  1. August 12, 2018 at 11:51 pm #

    Keep sharing, stay motivated, stay connected

  2. August 17, 2018 at 7:29 pm #

    A sad reality – but I always leave your blog with a relief that at least someone is documenting it. Keep doing what you are doing. Ironically, its a breath of fresh air to see Karachi’s history documented from the eyes of a karachite online.

  3. Muhammad Afzal
    September 10, 2018 at 2:35 pm #

    Wonderfully captured. I have been to these streets on hundred of occasions, but its difficult even for me accurately recognize the buildings in these pics.

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