A Tourist In My Own Town: Zahra Travels Pakistan

Identifying as a Pakistani-Canadian, home has been the only place on the map I hesitate to point to.

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Like anyone with a past, I also had someone in my life before Toronto swept me off my feet. It’s hard to imagine that I’ve spent just as much time in Karachi as I have in Toronto yet I know little to nothing about my birth city. Each city has its own soul and Karachi is no exception. Notorious for being on the list for one of the most dangerous places on Earth, I’ve happily called it home for 9 years.

I last stepped on Pakistani soil in 2013 and I wanted nothing more than to go back to my good ol’ suburban Markham. However, this time around, I’ve come to appreciate my roots, history, and culture while not being constantly angry at the heat, poverty, and mass conservative mentalities. Travelling Toronto and internationally gave me the confidence to admit my ignorance towards my richly cultured city. I took a deep breath and typed in “Karachi” in Trip Advisor’s search bar. There has to be more to this city than just food and shopping, I thought to myself. So I made a list and checked it twice and set out to be a tourist in my own town.

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Frankly speaking, I hit a road block on stage one of my quest because I couldn’t find a male to drive me anywhere. Even if I could drive, I didn’t have a car. My dad is a workaholic and wandering alone as a woman in Karachi is a big fat no-no from my family. Granted my disappointments don’t seem too much like #firstworldproblems, I’m still a part of the privileged few that can afford to make these demands.

To get my way, I did what any daughter would, emotionally blackmail my family and make friends who have cars.

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The first point my friends took me to was Hill Park. A cute amusement park on a hilltop. She also took me to Bounce, where we were the only twenty-somethings jumping among little kids. More than the rides, I enjoyed the company at the sleepover after.

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The second, for which I booked my dads weekend, was Mohatta Palace Museum. Pictures weren’t allowed inside the palace but my traveler side devoured the ancient cartography and traditional textile exhibits. I also got a chance to pick up some cute postcards and souvenirs in the gift shop.

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Camels make me insanely happy so my cousin took me to Sea View. Sadly, unlike locals, I didn’t ask the corn man to touch the corn before cooking it and we got stuck with some raw bullshit.

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Never in his life has my dad taken a half day off from work but one Tuesday afternoon he spontaneously called me to come downstairs to go to Qaid -E -Azam Mazaar, a childhood favorite of mine. Qaid-E-Azam was the founder of Pakistan and is still a beloved figure of our country. People from all over the province come here to celebrate his efforts for the independence of our nation.

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My dad also took me to an old British building from the time of colonization. Frere Hall started out as a theater and eventually ended up becoming a library/ art gallery. Unfortunately, we got there after 5 pm and the library closed. But the staff there was nice enough to show us around regardless.

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My friend’s in-laws decided to plan a road trip to Balochistan and take me with them. Pakistani hospitality, seriously, though. Fun fact, Pakistan has 8 out of the 13 biggest mountain ranges in the world. Which is great because the province of Balochistan contains a whole lotta them to explore and climb. My sister and I mainly chilled with her grandma who is a top notch adventurer. Shoutout to the Selani family, thank you!

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With everything said and done, what I feared most came true. Hours before our flight home, we were robbed while in our car. Watching my loved ones victimized really hit me, hard. Through traveling, we often nitpick what we see and tuck the rest under the rug. There are always two sides to a country. We get to see the touristy safe places but the bitter truth is that a huge chunk of the population is considered lower class and desperate to keep food on the table in these so-called “exotic places”. It upset me that this happened but after cleaning up my dad’s bruise, I realized how common it was, and just because I’m a tourist, I am not exempt from the exposure of the negatives that locals face daily.

I’m heading back to Karachi for my sister’s wedding in December 2016 so stay tuned for that!

I got around to editing a short video for the 10 days I spent in Pakistan, nothing fancy though, enjoy!

xoxo,

Zahra

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