The Magnificent Mohatta Palace

Monday, November 28, 2016 Hiba Moeen 3 Comments

History I believe would have been much more interesting had we been taught more about historic architecture and the life that existed within it. Perhaps that life still wanders along the corridors of their architectural wonders, the remnants of which sometimes make the former inhabitants twist and turn with agony. However, Mohatta Palace, with its Indo Saracenic architecture is one such place that seems to have the privilege of having preserved an invaluable heritage with great poise. A step inside the now museum would take you back to the 19th century that you would not want to come out of.

Rumour has it that sometimes you can hear people partying at the palace at night with no one visible; however rumours can be shunned with rationality and logic until logic suggests that spirits exist, not to mention the haunted houses around. It’s a beautiful neighbourhood nonetheless! It makes you want to explore the nearby deserted houses as well.

Mohatta Palace is a combination of Mughal, Victorian, and European architecture that had been built with Jodhpur stone, hence, the yellowish pink hue. This used to be the abode of someone with great taste; an affluent Hindu Marwari entrepreneur from Rajasthan, India by the name of Shivratan Chandraratan Mohatta got this magnificent palace built in 1927 as his summer home. The astute architect who took on this brilliant project was Agha Hussain Ahmed who had travelled from Jaipur for an assignment as chief surveyor for the Karachi municipality and Mohatta Palace was to emerge as the most astounding master piece of probably his entire career.

The palace spreads over an area of 18,599 square feet and the impeccably designed domes, balustrades, spandrels, brackets, and railings, form the exquisite fa├žade. There are large rooms on the ground floor which were designed for entertainment with more private facilities on the first floor. The terrace faces the Arabian Sea which would have opened to a spectacular view back in the early 20th century.

Mohatta Palace was home to the Mohatta family for two decades until finally they decided to leave for India at the time of partition in 1947. It is when the Government of Pakistan acquired the building and had the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stationed at the premises. Later, in 1964, Fatima Jinnah moved to live here, following her demise, her sister, Shireen Jinnah started living at Mohatta Palace till she too also passed away in 1980 after which the place was sealed.

In the year 1995, the Government of Sindh decided to buy Mohatta Palace in order to convert it into a museum which till date serves education and entertainment at the same time. It was opened for public in 1999 and I remember our school took us for a visit the same year when the Talpurs’ treasures were displayed. The silver furniture, those real ruby, emerald, and sapphire studded daggers, and the coins of that era were some of the best things I have seen in a museum. Forget the Mughal or the Talpur era, I want to travel back to the 90s to my school days I dearly miss sometimes!

These days the museum has a cartography exhibition on display, titled as, ‘Drawing the Line: Rare Maps and Prints’. The exhibition showcases historic maps and prints of areas that add up to Pakistan’s land along with neighbouring territories of Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia, India, and China. Below is a picture of the Mohatta Palace Museum Gallery Guide which I got for a donation of Rs. 300. Once you visit this exhibition and read the guide, you’ll know how sophisticated Islamic history was, considering the Muslim cartography and architecture.
This picture includes a vintage Felca winding watch which is owned by my sister since 30 plus years
And how could I not include the picture of this splendid painting of Mohatta Palace made by my art teacher, Mr. Hanif Shahzad. You wouldn’t want to take your eyes of this marvellous piece of art! I am in awe of how much talented a person can be.

Picture snapped using my Samsung Galaxy Note 5
As far as the palace is concerned, the only drawback in the view is the tall ugly buildings in the background but don’t worry, please seek help from Photoshop. Softwares like this come in handy sometimes.

The palace aka museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 am to 6 pm and the ticket is only wroth Rs. 30, it’s free however for students, children till a certain age, and senior citizens. Public transport is also easily available, as far as buses are concerned; those that have the palace fall in their route are Super Hassan Zai, Bus No 20, and N.

Here’s more from my trip to history.
Know your history, know your roots and get to acquaint yourself with the treasures of your homeland! Just observe what we are still left with …

All Pictures photographs were taken using my Nikon D3100 unless otherwise stated.


Samhan Housing, the Independent Real State Brand!

Friday, November 25, 2016 Hiba Moeen 1 Comments

It looks like housing projects are on the rise in Pakistan with Karachi producing several housing units per hour it appears. The province of Punjab isn't left far behind anyway with renowned names making the headlines nowadays.Therefore, the real state industry has quite a lot to witnessed in years to come.

Given the progress of real state, there is now a brand called Samhan Housing that has been devised, following the success of Samhan Group of Companies' projects in Gujranwala and Sargodha. To commemorate this, a launch event took place at Royal Palm Lahore and was attended by real estate aficionados from all over the country and included members of the Samhan Group.

It's been only two years since this entity entered the real state industry and given the quick success, their future seems quite favourable. Their claim of fame is their cost effective housing project called Samhan Homes which not only ensures timely possession for the home owners but also high quality raw material being used, thus providing good value for money. Following some of these recent projects, the group now plans on launching their residential projects in Lahore, Attock, and Islamabad.

Present at the event were Saleem Hanif, Chairman Samhan Group and Sheraz Khan, Head of Sales & Marketing, Samhan Housing. 

Saleem Hanif, Charman Samhan Group.

Saleem Hanif expressed that the entity now envisions diversity in business with the launch of their independent real estate brand, Samhan Housing. Through this, they will target all budget segments so as to provide the society with affordable high quality residential solutions. Meanwhile, Sheraz Khan spoke to the audience regarding the group's future plans and how they foresee making Samhan Housing, Pakistan’s premium and most trusted real state player.

The entity is has a diverse experience in various industries given their expertise in real estate, defense logistics, Information Technology, IT, the telecom sector, and media & advertising. Ever since the established of the Samhan Group of Companies in 2009, there has been no looking back when it comes to new ventures and progress.


Frere Hall, Another Architectural Wonder of Karachi!

Friday, November 18, 2016 Hiba Moeen 4 Comments

After having visited the Quaid-e-Azam Museum House we decided to hit the road across and step into the same historic era by visiting the Frere Hall for some photography and book shopping. It is another relic of the British Colonial era and abode to hundreds of pigeons too that are fed by people on a daily basis.

Frere Hall was built in honour of Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere (born March 29, 1815, Brecknockshire, Wales—died May 29, 1884, Wimbledon, Surrey, Eng.) who was known to be very active in the regional economic development of Sindh which he was the Chief Commissioner of from 1850 to 1859. He was later stationed in Bombay where he served as a governor; afterwards, he was stationed in South Africa. 

Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere (Picture taken from

The hall is located near Fatima Jinnah Road and is opposite Marriot Hotel. Its construction commenced in 1863 and took two years to complete; 1865 witnessed the construction of what we see as the remnants of the Frere Hall. It was initially used as a Town Hall during its early years where several busts including that of King Edward VII’s were displayed; it also accommodated oil paintings by Sir Charles Pritchard who was the former Commissioner of Sindh. Frere Hall is surrounded by two lawns; namely, the Queen’s Lawn and the King’s Lawn which had been renamed as Bagh-e-Jinnah after the Independence of Pakistan. The Hall’s library is known as the Liaquat National Library which is closed for some odd reason. It is known to have more than 70,000 books and is one of the biggest libraries in Karachi. Inside the hall is the Sadequain Art Gallery which too was locked up, probably because of Sunday.

The Venetian Gothic look had been given to the hall by the architect, Lieutenant Colonel Clair Wilson whose work was considered among a dozen others as the rest of the architects faced stiff competition and he was finally chosen to design this building. It’s a palpable reflection of the British architecture with its ribbed vaults and multiple pointed arches, not to mention the perfectly calculated buttresses that support the entire structure. The cost of this architectural magnificence was Rs. 180,000 out of which Rs. 170,000 were paid by the municipality while Rs. 10,000 were paid by the government. 

There are some very old trees which really make you wonder why our city is deprived of the glorious greenery like this. And yes! There are squirrels, which seem to have become extinct in Karachi as the trees are slain by ignorant fools. Oxford dictionary describes a squirrel as ‘an agile tree-dwelling rodent with a bushy tail, typically feeding on nuts and seeds.’ These creatures’ frolic around trees is refreshing to say the least as they search for food and chase others in their dray. Here are two pictures that I took of them as I was finally able to shoot these lovely rodents … with my camera of course.

If you are a book lover, Sunday is the best day to visit the Frere Hall as there are book stalls that sell some very interesting books of a wide variety of genres including classics. 

Know your history, know your roots, and plant trees please! 

All pictures were snapped with my Nikon D3100.


Quaid-e-Azam’s House: A walk through History

Saturday, November 05, 2016 Hiba Moeen 3 Comments

Cherish the remains of history in Karachi till they last as the concrete jungle is taking over the entire metropolis like wild fire; no matter what direction you look at, all you see is a 15 or 16 storey building erected as a monster (though some even look nice), thus blocking sunlight and affecting wind direction substantially. These make you wonder where we got such an abruptly growing massive population that old properties need to be sold for new and uglier projects.

Amidst this entire construction lie some very old houses that take you back in history thus making your curiosity question the existence of humankind in different eras.  If you look at the old construction in Saddar, especially the Parsi Colony, old churches or the Cantt Station vicinity, you would fall in love with the yesteryears and admire the 18th and 19th century for its invaluable treasures. Unfortunately time travel is limited to movies and books only so you’re left with no choice but to admire what’s left of it.

What I have in mind right now is the Quaid-e-Azam Museum House located near the Frere Hall, ironically not many people are aware of its existence or worse yet, are even totally oblivious about the history that lies inside it. Even I myself got to know that it’s a museum and is open to the general public when I read an article by the photojournalist, Danial Shah. This museum is open for the general public from 9 AM to 4 PM on a daily basis other than on Wednesdays; it is guarded by the Rangers that are stationed for its security as they perform their duties under the scorching sun or the shade of a giant tree (thankfully, old trees have not been chopped down as per the general habit of our locals) killing time into whiffs of smoke. Outrageously enough, you would even see the packets of cigarettes studded into the tree roots that have surfaced on the ground, you can simply acquaint yourself with all cigarette brands they consume and decide not to discard them properly.
Anyway, I planned up to visit with a friend of mine and admired the place so much that I visited it again with my niece and nephews after three weeks. There is a tour guide, Mr. Rasheed at the Quaid-e-Azam Museum House who has been serving this piece of history since 40 years or so, his knowledge is at par with any history aficionado as he discusses historic topics and asks some questions about topics we have long forgotten after getting done with schooling.  His down-to-earth nature is among the attractions of the stunning architectural monument that would lure you further into knowing this piece of history.
Rasheed - The tour guide
What now is known as the Quaid-e-Azam Museum House was designed by the British Architect, Moses Somake (June 6, 1875 - April 6, 1947) and was built in 1868, covering a massive land worth 10,241 square yards. This legendary architect is famous for his various other historic projects in Karachi, some of which are Karachi Goan Hall, Edward House, Mules Mansion, and Bai Virbaijee Soparivala Parsi High School. This house was termed as the Flagstaff House as from 1940 onwards it was rented by the British Indian Army and allotted to senior officers, including General Douglas D. Gracy who later became the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Pakistan Army.

There is a stone slab placed that has brief information printed upon its surface, underneath it are the words, ‘Gift from Pakistan Army’. It states that the Quaid purchased this house from Sohrab Katrak (former mayor of Karachi) in 1943 for a price of Rs. 115,000. He would visit it often, though he lived at the Governor General House. After Jinnah’s demise, the house was inhabited by his family; his sister, Fatima Jinnah shifted here on September 13, 1948 and continued living at his residence until 1964 when she decided to move to the Mohatta Palace. Upon the demise of Shirinbat, Jinnah’s last surviving sister; the house was given under the supervision and care of the Quaid-e-Azam Trust. Later, the Government of Pakistan decided to buy it from the Trust in February 1985 and renamed it as the Quaid-e-Azam House. It was opened for public on November 25, 1993 although most of us are still unaware about this splendid structure we pass watching quite often during our daily commute.

A picture collage of the stone slab and the facade of the museum

Mr. Rasheed walked us through the historic place through the back entrance as the front gates were closed and the balcony above sealed for some time bound preservation purpose. “Our Quaid was a very sophisticated person and a highly dignified personality, he never bowed down in front of anyone irrespective of his/her designation,” says he, “Unlike the politicians of the present era, he led a life that was an example for everyone.” He then sighs at the present day situation of the country and the political chaos that has engulfed us all in it vicious jaws. He tells us about the visit of the Quaid’s daughter at the invitation of General Pervaiz Musharraf back in 2004 and how she broke down at the very history in front of her that she was part of. To our surprise he tells us that there was a time when the sea was visible from here.
“Who coined the name, Pakistan?” Mr. Rasheed asks us, shame on our forgetfulness and ode to the history lessons long forgotten, he then tells us that it was Choudhry Rehmat Ali who named our motherland, Pakistan in 1933.

Archway towards the back entrance
As we walked inside, the relics from many years ago seemed to welcome us with their hopeless hollow outlook yet highly attractive in their vintage glory. There was a dining room with a dining table that had a seating arrangement eight people; the walnut tree wood dining table was beautifully carved to add to the sophistication of the entire place. There hung a beautiful pen drawing of Fatima Jinnah that was drawn by Sara Akhlaq in 1963, I don’t know why it has been labeled as a pencil sketch because it’s not a pencil sketch at all but rather a very well made pen drawing. So I hope they correct it soon.
Pen Drawing by Sara Akhlaq - 1963
Below are some photographs mounted on the walls of the museum. Pakistan has not witnessed such great politicians ever since this time.

Below is Jinnah's cup that had a very unique characteristic, it would tell through a change of beverage colour if it was poisoned. This particular tea set was a gift from Japan.

Jinnah's Tea Cup - A Gift from Japan

Know your history, know your roots and get to acquaint yourself with the treasures of your homeland ... This, ladies and gentleman is the Quaid-e-Azam Museum House!