City Walk – Heritage Walk with PCCC

One of the things people reminisce the most about yesteryear Karachi is the luxury to walk its streets freely. It’s not just the mental block since some of us don’t have an option but to walk. The new localities in Karachi lack infrastructure such as footpaths, zebra crossings etc which make an area conducive for pedestrians. Add to it uncertain security situation and result is a nightmare for pedestrians. Lack of public transport resulted in production of small cars and cheap bikes which further diminished the need for walking streets. Years went by and we almost forgot the good old habit of leisurely walking the streets. Why is it even important? It might not be for some but for others it will open a whole new world of observations such as the impact of weather on our surroundings. The timing of spring blossom and the type of birds which circle our city’s flora. First signs of approaching winter. A closer look at architectural elements of heritage buildings. Frivolous? I bet not.

Pakistan Community chowk has taken some fantastic initiatives since its inception and Heritage Walk is quickly becoming flagship activity of all. It is well thought of and managed. A lot of hard work has gone behind it. No one is going to tell you about it but as a tour operator myself I can vouch for it. A lot of mohalla sazi, hours of networking with residents of the area making sure that they are not threatened by visitors with cameras. Karachi is not a tourist city anymore. People with cameras are still an anomaly despite recent interest in heritage buildings and areas.

We reach Pakistan Chowk in time for registration where we meet Shaheen Nauman who is our guide for the day who is helped by a young assistant. The group includes families with children. Women outnumber men participants.

We start the tour by looking at Sarnnagati Building which is popularly known for its British Council library which is not there anymore. There was an old tailor shop by the name of Tailor De Pak which most of the doctors from Dow Medical College frequented for getting their gowns stitched. The proprietor was given notice recently. Our next stop is water trough near Pakistan Chowk which is a reminder that the city once run by animal drawn transport. It is also a reminder of philanthropy of old town residents and value with which this city was founded. We walk towards Sevakunj Hosel briefly stopping at a gem of a building which is known as Sandoza Building for it briefly hosted an office by the same name. We make our next stop at Sevakunj hostel which is a reminder that Pakistan Chowk once bustled with student life when NED city campus and DJ Science college students resided here and frequented cafes around Aram Bagh. The building is abandoned except for ground floor where one will find printing press and medicine shops. Small roadside vendors put up their stalls here on Sunday morning also. We walk length of the road making brief stops at Hasan Building, known for Ansar burney trust office and other heritage buildings. There I notice a beautiful clay pot which has survived burnt of times against all odds. We walk to the far end reaching Bunder road where we look at beautiful building hosting Pioneer Bookshop. I have frequented this bookshop in recent past but it looks magical early in the morning. We walk back and turn into Gari Khata where people have started going about their morning business. They look at us amusingly but are welcoming. We make a brief stop at Gari Khata mosque and then left towards Botal Gali through cycle market. There are architectural elements so distinct and noteworthy that are missed due to hustle bustle of the market and traffic but there is plenty of time to discuss and photograph. We turn to Botal Gali and walk back through Hasan Ali Affandi road taking note of heritage buildings on our way through Paper Market.

Perhaps the most rewarding experience is walking into Adamjee and Megharaj Dawarkadas Nagpal buildings. The former with its wooden screens is gem of a piece. While one part of it has been abandoned there are families living in part closer to the main entrance. The later is in dire needs of repairs but has carefully detailed staircases and openings. A joy to behold. A testimony of immaculate stone masonry and craft of yesteryear architects, designers and workers. There is an argument for saving these heritage buildings and there is a counter argument. These buildings and area are an important edifice of Karachi’s history. It is a documentation of an era. An era which defined Karachi as destination to be at. It could inspire generations to come. Just like it does in rest of the world.

We break for breakfast at a cafe where we munch on halwa puri and talk about our experience. This is where we get to know each other. The knowledge and curiosity among the group only gives hope for better days to come. The session continues in Pakistan Chowk Community center where we have tea.

This heritage walk should be a must on everyone’s agenda especially as the weather gets better.

Categories: City Walk

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One Comment on “City Walk – Heritage Walk with PCCC”

  1. Wasiq Khan
    October 18, 2018 at 9:23 pm #

    Thank you Karachiwalla. Great piece. Inspiring to see that Karachi has a community of people interested in urban renewal, walkable public spaces, and preservation of its architectural heritage.

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