15 things that make Karachi a very special city

Happy 70th Independence Day my fellow Pakistanis!

I feel like I have been out of the country for a little too long, and can’t help feeling all patriotic, nostalgic and Pakistani on days like today. Regardless of the time apart, it will forever be my favourite, and hold a special place in my heart.

Interestingly, during my last visit (it has been a year already!), I noticed a pattern in my preferences. I often visit the same places that I have gone to for last many years, despite a bustling and ever-growing retail and F&B scene – I am a creature of habit, I realised.

So today I am sharing my top 10 must-visit/must-experience places in Karachi, along with 5 more that I have recently discovered in Karachi and absolutely love. This is my kind of ode to our beautiful country, and a reminder that there is always so much to look forward to when it’s time to take a break from the expat life.

  1. Shellz Spa – Since 2009, I have been a Shellz Spa loyalist. Mazhar, one of the pedicure specialist at the salon, gives the best pedicure I have ever had. I had troubled feet back in the day, courtesy terrible shoe choices, and he cured them in a matter of weeks. I always walk out with baby soft feet. No trip is ever complete without a trip to Shellz, Zamzama.
  2. Dilara – do you remember the first time you got waxed? Or got your brows shaped for the first time with a thread? I do, and both were with Dilara. A sweet Afghani girl, she comes to our place, and offered all kinds of cosmetic services – waxing, threading, facials, manicure, pedicures, etc. I love her for waxing. Send a private message if you want her contact details please.
  3. Nando’s – Sigh. My stomach just did a somersault. I love Nando’s, and try to squeeze in at least two visits during a trip. Funny enough, my order hasn’t changed since 2007 – peri bites for starters, quarter chicken meal (extra hot) with rice and wedges, and the infamous chocolate cake if I have someone to share it with. YUM!
  4. Walkeaze – I have dinosaur feet, and if it weren’t for Walkeaze, I’d probably be in a size-too-small sandals forever. Walkeaze isn’t the most fashion forward shoe brand, but they are sturdy, with all-inclusive sizes, endorse kitten heels, and do get creative with designs every now and then.
  5. Generation – if you like kitsch, colours and flowing silhouette, you would love Generations as much as I do. I do find them slightly over-priced sometimes, but never have I walked out empty-handed from their store. From ethnic tops to three-piece formal wear, they have an expansive store with a variety that would appeal to even the most discerning palette. And they have an online store as well!
  6. Ego – Love kurta and denim combo? Then head to Ego. They mostly stock tops, and are a working girl’s haven. Where Generations is all about colours and kitsch, Ego is chic and lean. And they have an online store as well.
  7. Royals – I do like my food greasy, so it should not come as a surprise that I shamelessly endorse Royals at Sindhi Muslim. But it’s not food that all four of us (sisters) go to Royals for – it’s the cold coffee. It’s insanely rich and delicious, and you can take it away with you. Or order online via FoodPanda.
  8. Cafe Clifton – Chai. Enough said. Address: Khayaban-e-Shamsheer, Karachi 75500, Pakistan.
  9. Aphey – Another decade old favourite, Aphey has been my go-to hairstylist for a very long time. In fact, I have never been able to trust anyone else for a major cut or colour. She gave me my first red-head, ugly blond highlights (in retrospect, of course), and is the only person who I would allow to chop 8 inches off my hair.
  10. People – and even if all the above disappeared​ from the face of Karachi, I would still visit for my people. My folks still (adamantly) live there, and so do some of my best friends.

And now, please make way for brands and places that I have recently discovered, and am adding to the list of must-visit/must-experience. Breaking free from habits and monotony with…

  1. Rang Ja – I went to their store at Dolmen Mall, Tariq Road, and had to be pulled out so I at least had enough money for a ride home. I loved almost everything (minus the kurtis – most were very 1995). They had amazing bottoms (I wore one for my sister’s mehndi), and some nice vest and bags too. A treat for someone who loves colours – check out their online store to get an idea.
  2. MM by Masarrat Misbah – I went to Depilex for the first time in Sept 2016. I have known about it since forever, but just never got around to visiting. This time, I was booked in for facial and makeup prior to my arrival, courtesy Mom and Bobby (my youngest sister). I have done a separate post to review their facial and mani-pedi services;  while their services were nice, it’s the makeup that I fell in love with. I got a gold eye liner, two long-lasting lipsticks in Scarlet Fury and Impulse, and the infamous silk foundation. And loved it. If you’d like to read a detailed review, please check it out here. You can check out their entire range here.
  3. Kolachi and Papa Roti – No, I didn’t visit Kolachi for the first time recently. In fact, I had my first sorta-date with Mr. N there (or was it it’s neighbour, Sajjad?). Regardless, I wasn’t a fan, until recently. Good food, decent ambiance and a stellar view make a decent combo, don’t you think? Now Papa Roti, it was my first. I couldn’t understand why would anyone pay so much for tea and bun, but you have to have it to understand. The aroma itself makes it worth it. It’s fresh and decadent, and so INDULGENT. Love it!
  4. Careem – how did we function before Careem!?? With Autos that said ‘dekh, magar pyaar se‘, of course. Since moving out and driving on Emirati and German streets, driving in Pakistan is a challenge. So for last couple of years, I’d use Autos to sneak out (drivers are your parent’s private detectives, just FYI). Anyway. So I tried Careem this time, and loved it. It’s competitively priced, fleet has a variety of automobiles and drivers are verified. Safe and convenient.
  5. Port Grand – not a first, but this visit was definitely memorable. Maybe the company made all the difference. Thank you Fatma Khalil.

Oh Karachi, how I miss thee!

If there are any spots that you think I must visit, please let me know. Help a wandering expat, and have a fabulous 70th birthday Pakistan!

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