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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Karachi-Thatta-Hyderabad; 2007 family vacation

After end of 2006 family vacation in China and Hong Kong during school term holidays, we set our mind to bring the children to Egypt, the land of Pharaoh to see Pyramids and Sphinx. I have look into few alternatives with the Egyptian tour agent and received quotes for air fare from Karachi to Cairo. However, everybody voted to spend their December 2007 vacation in Karachi. Due to that, Syahirah, Nasrul and I explored Greece and Qatar in June 2008 since we had cancelled the Egypt trip.

Nazhif at the Jinnah Mausoleum

The first weekend, we went for city tour, to the most attractive monuments that I checked from the web. 1 of them was visiting the Jinnah Mausoleum.The white glowing marble tomb complex are visible from far distance. The Mausoleum building was designed by Mumbai based Indian architect, Mr Yahya Merchant. It is made of white marble with curved Moorish arches and copper grills reset on the elevated 54 square meters platform. The mausoleum is located in a 53 hectare park and the size of the building is 75x75m on ground and 43m high, built on an 4m high platform.

Family photo at Jinnah Mausoleum highest platform

We left to visit the Frere Hall, however was told that no photos or visit allowed as it was a tight security and restricted area. Please read my earlier post "Karachi Historical Building" to understand why it was not open and no photography stop is allowable.

Illegal photo taken before it was stopped by the guard in December 2007

The following weekend, we drove to Thatta district to visit Shah Jahan Mosque and Makri Hills. It was a journey of 130km in a comfy van, suffice for the 6 of us. Daim became a tour guide cum driver, our hero that day. It was a pleasant journey though the children keep on complaining about the dirt's that becoming annoying to them. As for me, I was too enthusiastic to visit the beautiful "Jama Masjid" built by the late Mughal Empreror, Shah Jahan in 1647. 

On the road from Karachi to Thatta district

The famous Shahjahani Mosque with its beautiful architecture has been on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage list since 1993 in the town of Thatta. UNESCO World Heritage Centre retrieved the title on 10th February 2011. The late Mughal King Shah Jahan, also known as the builder King, built the mosque using red bricks with blue coloured glaze tiles probably imported from another Sindh's town of Hala. 

Family photo with 366 year old Shah Jahan Mosque

The mosque has overall 33 arches, 93 domes and it is world's largest mosque having such number of domes. It has been built keeping acoustics in mind. A person speaking inside one end of the dome can be heard at the other end when the speech exceeds 100 decibels. It was a gift from Shahjahan to people of Sindh for their hospitality. 


The Shah Jahan Mosque is an example of highly defined tile work where white, green and blue tiles have been combined into a fine mosaic. Unlike other Mughal buildings such as the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, the building has a negligible amount of pink sandstone. Characteristic of this mosque is that it has no minarets and a single dome over the central prayer hall.


I truly adore the inside decor, the design and the whole architecture perspective of the mosque. It is a precious gems of Pakistan, should it is much safer from internal chaos. How sad that this kind of places does not receive international attention due to its locality. 


When I finished exploring the mosque, I snapped below photos of a long sour faces of my children. They had a discomfort being stared or rather a display items while waiting for me. To console them, we quickly left the compound and headed to Makli Hills. How to stop people from staring as they are obviously looks different from the locals.


We found the Great Necropolis of Makli without much difficulties. The vast old necropolis, with thousands of graves, is situated nearby the Shah Jahan Mosque. It hosts the tombs of Jam Nizamuddin, Satihoo, those of Isa Khan Tarkhan the Younger and of his father Jan Bababoth, of Tarkhan rulers and Mughal officials. The tombs compound reflecting so much of Mughal architecture.


Thatta may be the site of ancient Patala, the main port on the Indus in the time of Alexander the Great though there’s much debate about the authenticity of the claim. Ahmad Hasan Dani, director of the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisations, Islamabad, concluded that “there has been a vain attempt to identify the city of Patala. If ‘Patala’ is not taken as a proper name but only refers to a city, it can be corrected to ‘Pattana’, that is, city or port city par excellence, a term applied in a later period to Thatta, which is ideally situated in the way the Greek historians describe”.

A tomb at Makli Hills necropolis built in 1559

Thatta city, formerly commanding the delta of the Indus, was the capital of Lower Sindh from the 14th century onward. Some suggested that the name derived from the word "Thab" implying closeness of population, while others find its origin in the common word Thatta, a crowd or assembly of people. The city was destroyed by Mirza Jani Beg in the 16th century. During the ruling period of the Samma dynasty, Thatta was the capital of Sindh for 95 years. Between 1592–1739, it was governed in the name of the Mughal emperors of Delhi. In 1739 however, following the Battle of Karnal, the province was ceded to Nadir Shah of Persia, after which Thatta fell into neglect as the Indus river started to silt up. Between 1652 and 1660, the Dutch East India Company had a small trading post in Thatta. This competed with the English one, which was established in 1635 and closed in 1662. A second British factory was set up during the Kalhora period, in 1758, which lasted until 1775. In the early 19th century Thatta had declined to a population of about 18000. To the Arabs it was known as Dibal and the remnants of the brick wall from the Mirza Isa Tarkhan period were still visible at that time.

Other Tombs at the Makli hills necropolis

On the 3rd weekend, our family drove up through Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway also known as Superhighway, connecting the 2 cities in less than 2 hours drive of about 157km in distance. But before touring Hyderabad of Sindh Province (not Hyderabad of Andhra Pradesh in India), I asked Daim to make a detour to Bitshah town, near Hala to visit the birthplace and the mausoleum of the famous Sufi Saint, Shah Abdul Latif. In 2007, I have not explored much about Sufism until last year where I fallen deeply in love with the Sufi's life.

Beautiful Dome inside Shah Abdul Latif mausoleum
When you enter in Bhit Shah, you will see crowds of people walking on the road, cars and motor bikes parked on left and right, restaurants, sweets shops, locals Jewelry shops and tons of beggars will cover you, most of which children and women. Their approached pissed my children’s off. Daim dropped us and we walked inside by leaving our on the entrance and get along to pay a visit at Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s Shrine in Bhit Shah.

The wall reflected the wall decoration of Piazza Del Duomo of Florence, check here "Florence Del Duomo photos"

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (1689 – 1752) is a famous Sindhi Sufi scholar, mystic, saint, poet, and musician. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the Sindhi language. His collected poems were assembled in the compilation Shah Jo Risalo, which exists in numerous versions and has been translated to English, Urdu, and other languages. His work has been compared frequently to great Persian poet Rumi. He had emerged as a very popular figure during his lifetime, due to the increasing and growing numbers of his followers.

Sufi swirling dance at the mausoleum compound, peaceful movement!

Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro, a famous ruler of the Kalhora Dynasty whose rule began in 1757 built the grand mausoleum for Shah Abdul Latif in Bhittai on 1762. For the last 8 years of his remarkable life, Shah Latif lived at Bhitshah. A few days before his death, he retired to his caved-shape room and spent all his time in prayers and fasting, eating very little. On his death bed, he said "Wind blew! The sand enveloped the body, whatever little life left, is to see the beloved". I differ with the way his follower's worship him which I found it was a bit un-Islamic way, as we, the monotheist only worship Allah, not even the 25 Prophets nor Jesus.


We were a bit surprised to see Hyderabad city as the city is no difference with a crowded packed Karachi of 18 million peoples. Hyderabad is the 2nd largest city in the Sindh province and the 5th largest city in Pakistan. The city was founded in 1768 by Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro upon the ruins of a Mauryan fishing village along the bank of the Indus. Formerly the capital of Sindh, it serves as the HQ of the district of Hyderabad. The last Battle of Amir Talpor and British took place in this city in 1843. Before the creation of Pakistan, it was known as the Paris of India, for its roads used to be washed with river water.

Entrance to the mausoleum compound

After a lunch at KFC, most safest place to go, we went looking for the ruler mausoleum located somewhere in the city territory. Saddened by the condition of his mausoleum as compared with what he built for the sufi, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, much visited and well taken care off. The tiles laid inside the tomb chamber was simply being removed by the locals.

The mausoleum of Mian Gulam Shah, nearly ruin, totally neglected - what a waste!!

Hyderabad is stationed close to important architectural digs like the pre-Harappan Amri located at 110 km from the city, thus, the region holds extreme importance to archaeologists the world over. The city is also known for its medical and educational institutions. It is also home to one of the oldest universities in the region, the University of Sindh.  

That was the last exploration in the Sindh Province. The following years, 2008 & 2009 we met almost all Malaysian resided in Karachi and had more fun in Karachi with them. Everytime I proposed to visit Gwadar or Islamabad, they all said "NO, it's not safe to travel".
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