For final destination, from Hyderabad, one can take Super Highway North, which is a safe, heavily patrolled by police dual carriageway, to Bhit Shah. The town is located 48 kms (29 miles) from the city of Hyderabad.
This town is home to the tomb of a sufi saint of Sindh - Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. The tip is covered on my Pakistan page as 'Kingdom of God'.
The tomb is housed in a complex that has a rest house, a library, conference hall and a museum.
Bhit Shah also has an ancient Buddhist stupa.
Here, I would just like to mention that this town and the tomb itself is a great place to see Sindh's culture. Sindh is the south-eastern province of Pakistan with Karachi as its capital.
Shy but friendly Sindhi villagers, dressed in traditional dresses, come to pay homage to the great saint and ask for God's blessings.
Inside the tomb, the guard will extend all possible help to you to take some good photographs.
From Hyderabad, you can move north on the Super Highway.
9 kms (5 miles) from Hyderabad is the Miani Forest, an area that is historically significant as the battlefield of the Talpur and British armies in 1843. This natural reserve has now been developed as a recreational centre with some wildlife also visible.
You can buy good quality natural honey and garden plants from its nursery.
At about 98 kms (57 miles) from Karachi, begins the small town of Thatta with its distinct Makli Hills graveyard declared as a World Heritage site.
This is the world's biggest Necropolis with an estimated 500,000 dead people populating the graves. Some documentries have reported about 1 million graves. This is lot of dead people. One would shiver with fright if Michael Jackson's Thriller were to become real here :-)
I will soon upload a picture of the graveyard.
In the town of Thatta (100 kms / 60 miles from Karachi) itself, there is famous Shahjahani Mosque with its beautiful architecture.
This mosque was built in 1647 during the reign of Mughal King Shahjahan, also known as the builder King.
The mosque is built with red bricks with blue colored glaze tiles probably imported from another Sindh's town of Hala.
The picture here shows a view of the exterior of the mosque. The worn out look is due to torrential Monsoon rains of couple of days ago.
For a beautiful view of the interior, see my Pakistan page.
Some 9 miles on the Highway past the turn for Keenjhar Lake, there is another graveyard of historic importance named Sonda. All the graves are decorated with carvings of horse and rider or jewellert.
The stretch of road between Thatta and Hyderabad is least traveled. One hardly encounters any traffic.
There are some good restaurants in the heart of the city of Hyderabad for lunch. Shopping specialties include bangles and confectioneries from the famous Bombay Bakery.
Just outside of the city, there is Kotri Barrage on mighty River Indus that flows through the entire length of Pakistan. The barrage was built by the British in 1880's and is worth exploring on both upstream and downstream sides of River Indus. Many canals emerge out from here and the embankments offer good places for family picnics.
The downstream side of River Indus does paint a gory picture in that it is much more a drying river than it used to be. River boats ply and can be hired for boating in the river.
Families tend to play and build sand castles on the sand flats.
On the Manora Island (now can be called a peninsula as a road leads there from the main land over sand banks) exists a traditional lighthouse, which is still operational. Manora is now connected via 12 km cause way from sandspit.
We visited this light house on April 1, 2007, and it turned out that in 1889 on the same date, this lighthouse was inaugurated. So it was a nostalgic visit as well.
The first lighthouse on this Island was built in 1851, which was 50ft high (focal plane 120 ft high). This was replaced by the current light house which is almost 91 ft (focal plane 148 ft high) and is made up of sand stone. Only have side is painted in red and white strip (courtesy of Mobilink who used a view of this tower in the commercialized song), and the other half is its original form.
According to Ken Trethewey, this is the second oldest light station in the former British Indian Empire. It is in the restricted zone as Pakistan Navy has its bases around. Karachi Port Trusts is the keeper of this lighthouse, and you are not allowed to go inside and climb it (now that was a shame as it could be an attraction made to cater tourists).
However I got a sneak photo of the winding stairs going up:) As Pakistan is land of connection, you will need to get KPT’s higher officials permission to climb it.
It is said that PHOTOGRAPHY is strictly forbidden on this Island due to proximity to the port, harboring Naval ships and other installation. However I read somewhere that Navy and KPT are going to abandon this Island and hand it over to some UAE construction company to build a resort here. I pray profusely that they do not touch the old monuments and natural beauty of this Island.
The issue that divided the sub-continent fortunately did not divide the rich heritage left in both countries (i.e. Muslim, Hindu, Christian, etc architect, monuments, etc).
There is a small Hindu temple Shri Varun Dev Mandir (? exact name to be verified), overlooking westerly the Arabian sea, and sadly and shamefully, it is in complete neglect. Its walls, rooms, etc have become a ‘toilet’ for revelers visiting Manora’s sandy beaches. In addition sea breeze is eating away the structure from whatever is left, and the rich carvings on the mandir are slowly eroding into oblivion.
The mandir is situated in the middle of Manora, easily visible from the main road. One can not miss it. It is claimed that this temple is more than 1,000 year old. Tales abound that the temple of Kali Mata (the goddess of evil), is located somewhere on an island near Karachi. However our Hindu community is reluctant to discuss this (see DAWN article).
Do not know if this is till functional, there was a padlock on its entrance.
Although there are many easy-to-reach beaches in the close vicinity of Karachi – such as Sea View, Hawks Bay, Sands Pit, Cape Mount, Gidani, Russian Beach, etc – but if you wish to go off-the-beaten-path with a pleasurable and long drive then Malir Khand, situated on Makran Coastal Highway on the way to Gwadar/Ormara, makes a really good case.
Unlike other traditional Karachi beaches, which attract hundreds of thousand visitors on a typical holiday or weekend, Malir Khand provides with a very peaceful and rush-free environment. The water is crystal clear, ideal for swimming, the landscape is really picturesque, with rocks and the highway in the background, and the ambiance is serene and tranquil.
The beach is located around 100 km from the Eastern entrance (Karachi side) of the highway and around 200 km from Karachi city center so adequate planning for logistics is a must. Keeping extra fuel gallons is highly advisable as there is no or very low quality fuel available on the highway. The direction is quite simple; first head towards North on the RCD Highway, then after passing the Hub Choki look for the Makran Coastal Highway sign on your left, take the left turn to join the highway, pay the toll and enjoy your journey, before you would have travelled 100 km on the highway you will see Malir Khan sign on the left with the coastal line, park your car off-the-road by helping yourself, and have a great trip.
There are some amazing sphinx like natural rock formations off Makran Coastal Highway; a treat to watch along with a pleasurable long drive along the crystal clear coastal line. A rare sight, indeed, in Pakistan. This includes a naturally carved statute “Princess of Hope” as named by Angelina Julie and other mind-boggling formations. We were caught in a sheer surprise on our way to Ormara when watched these formations and kept on debating that whether they are natural or man-made.
This is an easy day trip from Karachi and can be clubbed with Malir Khand beach and Mud Volcanoes.
Click this for some out-of-the-world views.
Just across the KPT lighthouse is a small gem of a Church, St Paul. This church is even older than the light house and was constructed in 1868.
It is built in a simple yet traditional manner with tall cathedral like roof, and a small assembly hall that must have catered to the old Christian inhabitant of Manora (some still exisits). Services are offered each Sunday at 0900 am by Rev. Saleem Dawood.
However it is in bad shape with its original work completed cemented over, however inside its old wooden trusses are still intact, but in ill health. I hope that the exterior is someday restored to its original form.
Pakistan’s largest National Park is situated about 200 km west of Karachi. It is easily accessible from the Makran Coastal Highway, but to enter its surroundings, you will need a 4x4 and a guide.
Usually the local people living in the small villages around Hingol serve as guides.
Hingol reserve covers approx 600,000+ hectares. The park is renowned for its beautiful
terrains, vegetation, and wild life. In addition there is also an old Hindu temple, Nani Mandir
situated deep inside the National Park.
On the outer edge there are various active mud volcanoes which are visible from the main road.
The Hingol river is infested with Crocodiles!!! And because the terrain is untouched, its gorges can become dangerous during rainy seasons due to flash floods.
Built in 1644 and 1647, was a gift from Shah Jahan to show his recognition of hospitality he received whilst seeking refuge from his dad, Jahangir.
Shah Jehan mosque is a superb example of crafty tile work. Its 93 domes and 33 arches with varying sizes add to their architectural beauty. The domes have been exquisitely laid in a mosaic of radiating blue and white tiles. It is said that these domes were also natural amplifiers, where the Imam reciting on one end could be heard in the back.
For more info, see my Thatta pages
Shah Abdul Latif (1690-1752) was Sindh’s greatest sufi poet. His teachings were about tolerance and co-existing peacefully. He also preached against social injustices such as feudalism and religious bigotry.
In 1713, the Sufi poet married Bibi Saidha Begum. It was a love marriage. His wife died at an early age, before she could have any children. Shah never married again.
In 1742, Shah Abdul Latif decided to settle in Bhit, meaning "The Sandy Mound". Thus the town is now called “Bhit Shah.” He was a music lover. One day he ordered the musicians to play music. They played continuously for three days. When they stopped playing from pure exhaustion, they found the poet dead. He died in 1752, and is buried in Bhit. A mausoleum (Darga) was later constructed there.
Fearing that people might ignore his poetry, he destroyed all his writings by throwing them in the Kiran Lake (which is now dried up). But at the request of one of his disciples, the sufi poet asked another disciple, who had memorized most of his verses, to rewrite them.
March in the hot and cold (weather)
There is no time to sit down
Lest there should be darkness
And you don’t find the
footprints of your beloved
Shah Abdul Latif’s Urs, which is the death anniversary of a sufi saint, is held each year on the 14th day of Safar (2nd Muslim Month, after Muharram). This is big affair, where devotees from everywhere transcends to this town. The Urs lasts for three days, where singers, playing only tamboora (string instruments looks like a sitar, but with few strings), recites his poetries from Risalo. There are other activities organized around this festival.
Bhit Shah is on the main highway, approx 45 km from Hyderabad (200 km from Karachi). Going north on the main highway, on your right you will see 4 crossed swords (archways), and approx 3 km in is the Darga of the Sufi saint.
Around 4 in the afternoon, some of his devotees gather around his tomb and sing Shah Latif's poetry from his collection Rsaloo using only tamboora as their instrument. The music and poetry was mystical. I wish I had my video camera to record the music.
On the edge of Karachi, lies a vast expanse still unexplored. One of this gem is the Hub Dam, situated 75km from Karachi off Northern Bypass. This is also where the so called "Grand Canyon of Sindh", Kirthar range starts.
The dam provides fresh water to the inhabitant of Karachi. To get to this spot you travel on the Super highway towards Hyderabad. About 10km on it, you will reach Northern Bypass (right after Al Habib restaurant). Take the Northern bypass and after you travel approx. 30 km, you will reach an intersection (cross road). One road is going towards Quetta (straight) another turning left towards Mangopir/Site and one going right to north. A sign board Hamdard University marks this spot. Keep going straight for another 25km till you reach Hub Dam.
Unfortunately there is nothing developed there, but this spot makes a nice picnic spot. Take all your eatables/drinks along with you as there are no shops around. There are some spots where you can get down near the water. A good place to swim, ride a boat, or throw rocks.
Warning: Northern bypass is mainly used by heavy traffic going in or out of Karachi. Some of these truck drivers think they are driving for INDY 500. Be careful of such trucks trying to overtake on this double track highway.
Green Turtle watching is an activity organized by the WWF during the nesting season from September to December. The visit takes place preferably when it is high tide and always at night (around 0900 pm). This activity lasts about 2-3 hours.
Visitors are able to see the whole process: Green turtle coming out, digging 2-3 foot pits, laying eggs, closing the pit, and sliding back to the sea. During the digging and egg laying process, visitors have to be very quite, no lights, no photography. Once the process is over, the guides may allow you to take flash photos, depending there are no other turtles nearby. Once the egg laying and closing the pits have finished, Sind Wildlife Department tags the turtle, and once the turtle slides out, immediately digs the eggs out and replant them in protective hatchery nearby.
The trip starts at WWF wetland center (a bit difficult to find at night as there are no lights), where one is debriefed about the turtles, shown a small documentary, what no to do when near them, and than taken to the field. The participants are able to see the whole nesting process - digging pits, making egg chambers, laying eggs, closing the chamber and sliding back into the sea. The whole process takes about 2 - 3 hours.
It was a lucky day for us as that night it was a joint operation between WWF and SWD for recovery of eggs. And we saw the whole life cycle: nesting, recovery, hatching of new eggs, and release of hatchlings into the sea.
We were told that these green turtles exists in only 11 countries, with Pakistan being one of them, The migration of these turtles are to India and Africa. And they return to this 5 km stretch of Sandspit, where they first walked.
Note: We asked Dr. Fehmida why they didn’t release the turtles straight in the water? Her answer was that they need to smell, feel, and touch the ground so they can return to the same spot; 20-30 years later to lay their eggs.
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