Karachi, the largest and the most popular city of Pakistan presents an interesting and colorful combination of the old and new. The narrow twisting lanes and alleys of the old city throb with life alongside wide metallic roads and elegant modern buildings. Within the city, talented artisans with age-old skills produce handicrafts of exquisite beauty.
Karachi offers a variety of pleasant attractions: wide sunny beaches, deep-sea fishing, yachting, golf and horseracing all year round. It restaurants cater to a wide choice of Pakistani and western cuisine. Its markets and bazaars offer an endless variety of exciting shopping including indigenous handicrafts, particularly rugs and carpets of rare design and beauty.
Karachi's recorded history goes back to the 18th century when it was a small fishing village known as Kalachi-jo-Goth. With the development of its harbor, it gradually grew into a large city and an important center of trade and industry. Its selection as the capital of Pakistan in 1947 added to its importance and accelerated its rate of growth and development. Though the seat of Government shifted to Islamabad, Karachi still remains the center of commerce and industry.
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Hyderabad, once the capital of Sindh and now the third largest city of Pakistan, is one of the oldest cities of the sub-continent. Its history dates back to pre-Islamic times, when Ganjo Taken (barren hill), a nearby hilly tract, was used as a place of worship. The city traces its early history to Neroon, a Hindu ruler of the area from whom the city derived its previous name, "Neroon Kot" (Fort of Neroon). The next important phase of its history began when the Indus changed its course from Khudabad.
The monuments of the Kalhora and Talpur rulers and the bazaars of the city are worth visiting. Stretching from Hyderabad fort to the Market Tower is Shahi Bazaar, where well-stocked shops are housed on both sides of a winding street, and alongside a maze of tiny lanes that run off it. Good buys are calico, embroidery, bracelets, lacquered wood furniture, hand-loom cloth, "sousi" and "ajrak", "rilli", block printed colorful "chadars" (shawls) bangles, shoes and glazed tiles. Hyderabad is connected with the main cities of the country by road, rail and air links.
On the west bank of the Indus, 350 miles from Karachi lies Moenjodaro (Mound of the Dead), an archaeological site which has been rated amongst the most spectacular of the world's ancient cities. Considered one of the earliest and most developed of urban civilizations, Moenjodaro flourished from the third to the middle of the second millennium B.C., when it vanished, leaving only traces of its culture. Moenjodaro, along with Harappa - some 800 miles away - formed part of the Indus valley civilizations and it is now generally believed that these were the cities, referred to in the Rigveda, that were destroyed by Aryan invaders.
The urban planning at Moenjodaro was pragmatic and at a high level. Its main thoroughfares were some 300 feet wide and were crossed by straight streets that formed blocks 400 yards in length and 200/300 yards in width. The walls of the city's mud-brick and baked-brick houses were designed to ensure the safety of its occupants so that in times of earthquakes the structures collapsed outwards. It had an elaborate covered drainage system, soak pits for disposal bins, a state granary, a large and imposing building that could have been a palace, and a citadel mound with solid burnt-brick towers on its margin. Judging from the remains, the Great Hall was probably the most striking of its structures, comprising an open quadrangle with verandahs of four sides, galleries and rooms at the back, a number of halls and a large bathing pool perhaps used for religious or ceremonial bathing.
In upper Sindh, this is the most important town. More than 2000 years ago the town was at Armor, nine kms (6 miles) east of the present site, but was relocated in 962 A.D., when owing to an earthquake, the Indus diverted its course to its present channel. By the 13th century the twin towns of Sukkur and Rohri were bustling river ports that reached their zenith in the 17th century.
Worth visiting here is the Minaret of Masum Shah. This light house shaped brick minaret was built by Mir Muhammad Masum, a local soldier appointed Nawab of Sukkur by the Emperor Akbar. The tower is slightly tilted and is 84 ft. in height, 84 ft. in circumference with an equivalent number of steps leading up to its top. Masum Shah is buried, along with other family members, in a pavilion near the minaret.
The Thar desert is located in the Tharparkar District and is continuation of the Rajasthan arid zone. The District derives its name from the desert it houses. Of a total area of 28,170 sq. kms. (11,404 sq. miles) most is arid except for the coastal belt on the south. The desert area has a colorful heritage with its own distinct folklore, culture, flora and fauna. Some of the major towns bordering the desert are Naukot, Mithi, Nagar Parkar, Chachro and Islamkot that are market centers, situated amidst mud-and-brick houses, narrow lanes and bazaars, where good buys are items such as tribal embroidery and silver jewellery. Accommodation available in the town is not recommended but the rest-houses there is a suitable alternative, though some lack basic facilities such as running water. August and September are the best months for a visit as precipitation is then highest and the area at its greenest. Also recommended is the period from December to February when day time temperatures are cool and the nights cold.
This old town is on the other side of the Indus, opposite Sukkur. The ancient city of Aror is a few miles to the east, its ruins lying on the edges of a low limestone range. Of its historical past, not much remains. Places to visit in Rohri are : The shrine of War Mubarak (1545) built by Mir Muhammad Kalhora. A gold and jewel encrusted casket enshrines the hair of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H.), that is displayed to the faithful for general viewing annually on the 2nd of March. On the outskirts of Rohri is the SATHBHAINASTAN, the Tomb of the seven Virgin Sisters. According to legend, vowed not to ever show themselves to any man and had themselves locked in rooms. When a licentious Nawab decreed that all beautiful girls be sent to him, one legend has it, that the sisters were swallowed up by the ground in a minor quake. Close to the War Mubarak is the Jamia (Akbari) Mosque (1584) built by an officer of Emperor Akbar. Having been frequently damaged and undergone repeated repairs, little of the original wall-tiles remain.