Most of you probably know about The Super Savari Express, but if you don’t – let me just quickly tell you what it is..
What is Super Savari Express?
It’s Pakistan’s FIRST tour company showing you around the alternative and unseen sights of Pakistan using local and ethnic modes of transportation. The Super Savari Express in Karachi, gives you a tour of the old city on a decorated mini bus driving through different neighborhoods showing off the city’s colonial architecture, diversity and hidden gems.
It is such a cool idea and no wonder it is so successful! It’s a venture started by two young enterprising Karachites with the love of their city in their hearts and on a mission to promote the diversity and the hidden side of their beloved city.
So lets get to the details of the trip.. I booked with Super Savari Express 2 weeks prior to our arrival in Karachi, through their Facebook page. Once we arrived, we made the advance payment (Rs 2500 per person for adults and Rs. 2000 for children under 12.. Toddlers free) to reserve our spots for the tour scheduled on 1st of January 2017 from 8 am – 1pm. We were asked to meet them near Karachi Gymkhana at 7:45 am and other than that I had no idea of what the itinerary was.. or any other details.
The first day of the new year, we left home early morning to explore the city we call home. I was not sure what to expect of the tour. Since I was born and brought up in Karachi and not ‘burger’ enough, to have never been on a mini bus ( I come from a very humble background and have sat on these mini buses quite a few times during my university days), I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. Plus, I had heard mixed reviews about how some people found it boring while some grumbled that it was expensive etc etc. So fingers crossed, we left for GymKhana with no expectations at all.. me, my husband, my 8 year old daughter and my sister.
When we reached there, there were 5 beautiful buses with all their glory, ready with some excited passengers clicking silly pictures away with the buses( and I am guilty of that as well! ). The very freindly staff (bus drivers, conductors and helpers) were wearing Super Savari t-shirts, so we could easily spot them.
Most of the people were like us, who grew up in Karachi, settled outside of Pakistan and were accompanied by their ‘born abroad, confused desi kids’…. or people visiting with their ‘gora’ friends/family to attend a wedding in Karachi. Basically the Clifton/Defence ke Karachites, who probably had never hopped on a mini bus before or even ventured ‘pul ke us paar’ (the other side of the city).
So we joined this excited crowd, and hopped on to the Super Savari Express. My daughter was blown away by such a pretty bus, she had never seen from the inside.
Lets talk about our itinerary for the day….
1st Stop: The FreeMasons Lodge
Also commonly known as Jaadu Ghar, is a historic building built in 1914, during British rule near Zainab Market.
We hopped off the bus and went inside the main gate, but were not allowed to go inside the lodge.
The building was taken over by the government after Freemasonry was banned in Pakistan in 1972 when Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was in power. In the early 1990s it was allocated to the Sindh Wildlife Department, and it is now used by the Sindh Wildlife Department Conservator for offices.
Though I must have crossed this area a zillion times, but never knew anything about this beautiful building.
2nd Stop: Sindh High Court and Kabootar Chowk
From the FreeMasons Lodge, we drove to the Sindh High Court sitting on the roof of the bus! (YES!!! We were given the option to do so!). Though I have been on a mini bus a number of times, this was too tempting to resist and a rare opportunity for me and my daughter alike.
We drove around the Kabootar chowk, but didn’t get off the bus..
And frankly, I was too happy with the view from the top of the mini bus.. I didn’t want to get off… and I clicked my camera away..
And spotted some Kawwas (crows) at Kabootar Chowk too!
3rd Stop: Saddar
We drove past the Sindh Provincial Assembly, still sitting on top of the mini bus, enjoying the chilly winds of Karachi winter and a very rare view of Karachi from the top of a bus!
Witnessing some very rare sights of whats behind the painted walls..
And the electrical wires, up close.. in fact too close for my comfort 🙂
The streets were so quiet on a Sunday morning, Saddar almost looked unrecognizable to me!
What a rare sight that was!
4th Stop: Mohammed Ali Building
We stopped in front of Mohammed Ali building, another gorgeous old building in Saddar. As we hopped off the bus, and gathered in front of the building, Jahanzeb (one of the guys behind Super Savari Express and our tour guide for the day), gave us a little brief about the history of it..
The buses left us here with the SSE team and we took the streets of Saddar on foot.The SSE team accompanied us on foot, making sure we were all together and for our security they would stay around us.. almost encircling us as we all roamed the streets of the Saddar.
Next to the Mohammed Ali building, there is a Ideal Life Insurance Building.. another old colonial structure.
5th Stop: Fazal Manzil
We walked towards another old building, where I have been before but never noticed some of the details.. Its called the Fazal Manzil
The building is still used as a residential building…
It was built in 1929 A.D.
6th Stop: Kachi Memon Masjid
We then walked past the Kachi Memon Masjid, though we didn’t go inside it.
7th Stop: Parsi Fire Temple
We then walked past the Parsi Fire Temple. Though we didn’t go inside the temple, luckily the Priest was leaving the building and we had the honor to meet him. He was so sweet when I requested to take a picture of him.
8th Stop: Empress Market
We then walked all the way to Empress Market.. absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of Karachi (lol!)
I had always seen Empress Market from the outside.. but had never dared to enter it.. So this was another FIRST for me..
We walked past, Bohri Bazar and saw some very interesting street vendors.
9th Stop: Tit Bit Book Stall
We then walked back, all the way to one of the oldest book stalls of Karachi.What we found there was priceless.. Vintage comic books dating back to 60’s and 70’s. And needless to say we bought them all 😀
We finally found our buses parked near the Tit Bit Book Stall. (Phew!)
10th Stop: Breakfast at Jehangir Restaurant
All this walking around Saddar, made us really hungry and just in time for a desi Anda Paratha breakfast at the Jehangir Restaurant, next to Tit Bit Book Stall.
After stuffing ourselves with the anda paratha & chai.. we finally sat again on our royal safari (Aaah.. by this time, I was envying my sister for wearing proper walking shoes unlike me who was walking all this time in my khussas!)
11th Stop: Quaid-E-Azam House/Flag Staff House
The Quaid-e-Azam House, is the former home of Mohd. Ali Jinnah, who lived there from 1944 until his death in 1948. His sister, Fatima Jinnah lived there until 1964.
It was bought by Quaid e Azam in 1943 at the cost of Rs. 115,000 from its Hindu owner.It is now converted into a museum and we got to venture inside it (which I have heard is not open for public).It was quite an experience to see the home of Quaid-e-Azam..his study, his room and some of his personal belongings.. his life up close and personal. Photography wasn’t allowed inside the museum, but there are some really cool 360 degrees views recently published in Dawn. Check them out HERE.
12th Stop: St. Patrick’s Cathedral
I have seen this church everyday for 2 years of my life, when I was studying in St. Joseph’s College, but was unable to see it from inside ever. So this again was another first for me to able to see the St. Patricks Cathedral from the inside.
It used to be the largest Cathedral in Karachi and can seat up to 200o people at a time, until the opening of St. Peter’s Church Karachi, which is the largest Catholic church in Pakistan. It can seat 5,000 people.
Built in 1878, this is one of the oldest churches in Sindh.
We gathered for a group photo there, with the SSE team
13th Stop: Pakistan Chowk
The only time I ever visited Pakistan Chowk, was for the printing of my wedding card (and that’s why you probably would have visited too!). Our Super Savari stopped at Pakistan Chowk, and we got off the bus and gathered around Jahanzeb once again who gave us an informative brief.
The area was a Hindu majority residential area earlier and the buildings still have the signs of that. The grill of the balconies (Jharokay) of these homes have ‘Om’ sign on them. (Something that I never noticed before! Another first!)
The place, which we have known as ‘Araam Baagh’, was originally called ‘Raam Bagh’. It was after the partition that the name was to changed to Araam Bagh.
Pakistan Chowk recently underwent a rehabilitation for people, by the people of Karachi, to come and enjoy this public space. And we did see people using this space to the fullest .. there were artists sitting there, painting and sketching away..
Last Stop: PIDC House
We hopped on back on our bus to our last destination.. to get the very famous Meetha Paan from PIDC.The team fetched us paans while we sat in the buses. On our way, we passed through Tower and the famous Truck Art Wall.
We then went back to Gymkhana where we started off and that was the end of the trip on a very sweet(Meetha Paan) note!
The trip was AMAZING! I had a great time… knowing my city .. witnessing it with a totally different perspective. And the BEST part for me was the liberation of the fear that I always felt in Karachi (had a few incidents during my karachi life that made me scared of Karachi). Being a mother, I would always avoid taking my kids to public places in Karachi like beaches, malls etc.. taking them to places like Saddar or Empress Market was OUT of question!
But I didn’t feel that fear at all! It didn’t cross my mind once! While I sat on the roof of a mini bus with my daughter, and wind blowing through my hair.. I felt that fear fly away! (literally!)
So a HUGE thank you to the SSE team, for giving us a safe environment to witness our city and show our kids the other side of the city.. to show them the diversity of our culture, our roots and humble beginnings…
Jahanzeb, was absolutely wonderful as a tour guide.. he was knowledgable, sweet and funny! Though it was a huge group (probably because of the holiday season), he made sure he connected to each of us on a personal level and that was wonderful to see! Some one so passionate about his city ,its people and his own commitment!
What I Would Have Liked To See..
Though I think that the tour was amazing, I would like to suggest a few things.
- I would have liked to know the places we are gonna visit prior to booking the trip, so I would know what to expect. I know a couple of people, who thought they were gonna visit an ‘xyz’ place and were disappointed if the tour didn’t go there.
- Secondly, other than the ‘undiscovered’ Karachi, it would be nice to have another more ‘touristy’ route which included popular Karachi landmarks like Mazar-e-Quaid, Frere Hall, Mohatta Palace etc. So people can choose what interests them more
- the Undiscovered Karachi Tour or
- the Touristy Karachi Tour
I would have taken my kids and some ‘gora’ friends/family for the Touristy Tour, while I would have gone on both, myself! 🙂
An absolute MUST trip if you are visiting Karachi and would like to see and show the city you grew up in, to your kids in a safe, fun and Karachi way! Totally worth it!