Learning from my failure to write up my trip to Kenya, here are short, initial observations on Karachi:
- Guns – I have never seen so many weapons. All in the hands of police but big guns nonetheless: pump action shotguns, AK47 look-a-likes and chunky, mounted machine guns in concrete pill-boxes at the airport and embassies.
- Hawks – roosting on the top floor window ledges of my hotel and swooping down, riding the thermals in lazy arcs. No idea what they are (something of a bird-watching theme, I know) but they are large, brown and slightly ragged looking but as with all birds of prey – serene, superior, aristocratic and cool. A gaggle of deposed and slightly down at heel monarchs.
- The US Consulate – twenty foot high concrete walls topped with six feet of razor wire; an outer ring of massive concrete traffic-stoppers; concrete sentry posts with gun muzzles alive and alert; a Z-shaped entrance with triple barriers. It is rumoured that no one has ever escaped.
- On one side of the Consulate, the land bears a tired "For Rent" sign; on the other, the Marriott is no longer "the address".
- Food – on my colleague, Vaqar’s recommendation, I tried the Sheraton’s Pakistani restaurant, renowned for its food from all regions of Pakistan. The food was fantastic. Despite my light appetite, I particularly enjoyed the Tiger Prawns in ajswein (?). I also tried a Chicken Biryani which was marvelous and, of course, a nan bread the size of a small continent.
- Mango Juice – everywhere. It’s the mango season. Num num num.
- Traffic – Scooters, horns, motorised rickshaws, enthusiastically decorated buses, horns, scooters, two lanes / three cars, impossible gaps.
- Dusty streets
- Humidity – step outside to instant white-out. Wish I’d brought my contact lenses instead.
- People – friendly, courteous
- Energy and bustle – despite the decay in some areas, despite the odd beggar, despite the heat, a real sense of commerce and enterprise and growth.