"Al Fajr: Karachi" Karachi by zinneke
Karachi Travel Guide: 470 reviews and 1,005 photos
When I departed Bru-town and my comfortable if not damp life in la Villette by train from the Brussel Zuid Station/Bruxelles Gare du Midi to travel by the TGV/Thallys to the Charles de Gaulle Aero port for a Gulf Air flight to Karachi via Abu Dhabi I wasn’t really aware of how long of day in time and distance I had gotten myself into. It just doesn’t make any sense that in this day and age that to go the distance from Brussels to Karachi in one day might well not be enough for the mind. Maybe to make such a shocking change in one day isn’t right. To understand arriving in a curious place like Karachi from a Western vantage point of a life like mine I should not have been in Brussels and Abu Dhabi on the very same day. Perhaps it is only by train or bus or ship (or horse or camel or foot) involving smaller increments of distance dispersed over quite a few number of days that the human mind and consciousness can really adequately travel. The point is when arriving into the unusual and thrilling world of Pakistan from the cold and gray of Belgium perhaps one needs to pierce the layers of the many dominions that fill the web of reality between these two very different lands. Maybe it is better to start out in Brussels and spend the night in another land with another language, customs and currency and people. Indeed this might be the best way to travel to build a better more peaceful planetary future. Until it becomes a viable option to travel overland easily and safely between here and there (wherever those places might be) we as people might not understand our planetary whole and our relationship to one another. It’s just a thought that shouldn’t be lost to our modern day arrogance in our shared capacities to shrink the planet while consequently making everyday life more hateful for increasingly disparate places. On the other hand the best airline I have yet flown was Gulf Air which is proving that carriers don’t have to be packing their customers onto flights without a token nod to the proportions that allow communal dignity in the air. Certainly the staff aboard the plane was the most respectful and courteous I have interacted with in the unfriendly skies of today’s post Ronald Reagan’s deregulated airlines.
But this is supposed to be about Karachi. I don’t travel by air very well and perhaps that is why I expend a great deal of time armchair traveling overland from Brussels with the help of Lonely Planet and Virtual Tourist dot com. Sometimes I think Brussels is a damp crotch of the western world: A virtual cosmic intersection that everyone at one time or another must pass through and experience whether they want to and like it or not. Perhaps Brussels is for the modern day traveler on the journey of life a certain stopover, otherwise known as Purgatory if you will. Brussels like Purgatory can be approached in two ways – you can either be mad or resent that you are here as often many are or you can just be here and then begin to look at what is here and see what is very often overlooked or seldom seen even by the Belgians themselves. You’ll probably find more than you’ll be comfortable in admitting to amuse yourself with! Certainly that continues to my experience here in Belgium.
After leaving Abu Dhabi the night flight passed over Al Ayn which looked like a multifaceted jewel lying on the desert floor far below. Al Ayn doesn’t transliterate in spelling very well from its actual Arabic spelling but it does make one wonder where the name Alan actually comes from. I must have fallen asleep for awhile at that point for the next view was the nightlight sparkles of the crescent of Karachi city lights hugging the Arabian Sea. Normally everywhere I travel is covered with clouds which provides some sort of depth to air travel, however, when flying over Arabia where there weren’t clouds provides a different sensation to travel. Clouds are always slung low over Brussels which tend to shape the place. Often times the sky overhead here is like an opaque Tupperware brand lid on the bowl of a crater that the city of Brussels rests in. The lid is not very far above and you really don’t feel like when you fly into town here that you have arrived on descent without passing through that opaque layer of white. Consequently seeing Karachi tilt and bank from right to left as we approached was something new to see out the window – I’ve flown enough and should know this already but I always tend to fly between the same two cloudy places.
After landing in Karachi with Umer somewhere nearby on the flight the Karachi airport greeted us with warm spiced air in the very early hours of the morning. It’s an easy enough airport to arrive into certainly a better experience for me there than many more familiar airports which I won’t bother to name. After gathering our luggage and queuing for immigration standing in a crowded irritable hall of weary travelers and weary with the night airport staff – Umer in one line and me in another – in one of those places where a mass panic attack seemed on the verge of becoming a reality. It was then I realized no matter how irritable I am or the people around me we are all in this together and I might do my fellow standing passengers the graciousness of not falling into a sour mood of negativity. So applying some basic ideas of the here and the now: I am here in a miserably long line in a foreign place at an odd hour now jet lagging - standing in a crowded room teeming with impatient vibes… I am going to just ‘be’. So there I stood. Ignoring my feet and legs anyways they were sitting on a plane for a long time they might as well now stand until deep vein thrombosis sets in even further. I won’t worry about being pushed forwards and now backwards and side to side to side by strangers. Neither am I going to wish I were somewhere else. I just accepted the line and the wait and strangely all of what was annoying about that became an illusion and washed away revealing the humanity of another place. Then it became my own turn to get my passport checked. I wasn’t sure how my passport would go over in this part of the world. Certainly my Visa raised an eyebrow and the person who studied my passport for quite sometime had an incomprehensible expression a gruff of some sort which could have been a sneer or a bureaucratic attempt at a welcome. Then the fellow disappeared to speak to someone else with my passport. Time slowed down for me and simultaneously sped up for everyone else. It wasn’t déjà-vu or vertigo something altogether else. Maybe it was just the realization that I had pierced a restraining layer that separates lives on planet earth.
And then it happened: Al Fajr arrived over Karachi. The broadcast occurred within the halls of the airport the pre-dawn call to prayer began its scratchy electronic cry. The Pakistani immigration officer stamped my passport with a foreboding grimace that might have been a strict attempt at a smile or something different. The crowd and the exhaustion passed away for a moment and I felt like I had arrived on a journey that began with an idea to find a place within the realm of the call to prayers on this planet. I would never have expected this journey to start with Pakistan and in Karachi but it did and there and then in that airport before dawn I heard the first call to prayer without the help of a television or radio. Of course I wanted to hear this live from a minaret from a fellow with a booming voice without the help of electronic amplification but I had to start somewhere and what better place than with the invincible generosity of the Pakistani people from their citadel of Islam for a land!
This is how Karachi, Pakistan welcomed me alongside Umer. His cousin who’s marriage we were traveling to attend and Umer’s mother and auntie where waiting for us after we got our stamps. The doors opened and the warm fragrant morning air of winter in Karachi unfolded around us. We piled in a small car loaded with us all and our luggage and made off to someplace for the night. Was that a palm tree already in sight for these sore Northern European eyes? Upon arriving there we were given sweet pastries that almost looked Belgian but tasted entirely different then bed in an apartment packed with people sleeping everywhere in six rooms and not enough doors. That morning one of Umer’s cousins graciously greeted me in bed in our shared rooms with a cup of sweet milky tea (or was it coffee?) and toast… I later realized it was chai and this was how my first day in Islamic dominions came to be. Now as I write this I want nothing more than to return to that happy congenial place. The place that can only be summed up in the single beautiful and dramatic poetic word: Karachi.
- Pros:Astonishingly friendly and outgoing citizens
- Cons:Getting over the trend in the Media is the hardest part about enjoying Karachi
- In a nutshell:Extraordinary Mega City along the Arabian Sea
Statistically the greatest threat to a person in Karachi or anywhere on the planet for that matter is going to be from... more travel advice
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