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.
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