This very large port (pop. 11,800,000) on the Arabian Sea is a city of two sides: It's dirty and noisy, but with some exciting ancient and modern attractions. The gap between Pakistan's rich and poor is unescapably evident in Karachi: Filthy slums irrigated by open sewers close to the downtown district contrast with the elegant villas and leafy streets of its more upscale residential areas.
If you see only its commercial side, one night will be more than enough in Karachi, but if you have the time to explore the city and its environs further, three days will seem rushed. Political violence erupts sporadically, but it is still possible to visit the city. Ever since the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl from a downtown restaurant in 2002, foreigners should be aware that militant groups are targeting foreigners for kidnapping. Several parts of the city, particularly those inhabited by Afghan refugees, are dangerous. One indication of how risky the city is considered is that U.S. Consulate staff are only allowed to eat in public restaurants if accompanied by armed guards. Travelers should be alert to signs of danger and listen to English-language radio broadcasts while there.
Among Karachi's sights are the Bohri Bazaar and the Jodia Bazaar, the white marble Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah Mausoleum and Garden (honoring the Father of Pakistan), an aquarium and the Dhobi Ghat, where laundrymen boil clothes and then whip the dirt out of them on rocks. Also worth visiting are the Defense Housing Society Mosque (212-ft-/65-m-high dome) and the National Museum (closed Friday).
There are beaches about 15 mi/24 km away, and beach huts may be rented for the day on Hawkes Bay or Sandspit, both about an hour from town. (The only beach where women can wear shorts or bikinis without drawing unwelcome attention is at French Beach on Hawkes Bay.) If time permits, go bunder boating: Sail-driven bunder boats, each crewed by three or four Pakistanis, can carry five to 10 passengers for cruising or crabbing (if you do catch crabs, the crew will prepare and serve them as you sail back to the wharf). If you're interested in any other fishing, take your own tackle. Scuba diving is another possibility. If you're there in October, you may be able to watch the turtles lay eggs in the sand.
Other sights easily seen on half-day trips include the hot springs in Manghopir and, in Banbhore, the remains of a first-century-BC port city with what might be the oldest mosque in Asia. A full-day trip can be taken to see both Thatta and the Chaukundi Tombs. In Thatta, see the 17th-century Shah Jahan Mosque, with its 93 domes, and the million red-sandstone graves in the necropolis (60 mi/100 km east of Karachi). The carved-sandstone Chaukundi Tombs are on a high plateau about 18 mi/29 km northeast of Karachi. Karachi is 700 mi/1,125 km southwest of Islamabad.
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