If you live in Karachi, there’s no way you’ve never visited or at least thought about visiting Saddar Town, one of the most unique and historical parts of the bustling metropolis. From housing century-old buildings to modern markets selling everything from antiques to electronic items, Saddar Karachi is a haven for historians and shoppers alike.
During the British colonial era, Saddar was considered the central business district of the city. In fact, even after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, it remained a hotspot for foreign tourists and dignitaries, owing to its status as the central district of Karachi, then-capital of the country.
Over the years, the timeworn red-brick buildings have begun to crumble and deteriorate while the old wooden houses have been replaced by modern apartment complexes and shopping malls. According to the latest census report, the population of Saddar Town is somewhere around 1 million, maybe even more.
However, despite being one of the oldest and most densely populated business districts of the city, the sprawling town of Saddar Karachi has not lost all its charm and uniqueness.
In fact, it is the perfect blend of old and new, as it not only celebrates history but has also adapted to the latest trends and modern infrastructure.
History of Saddar Karachi
The concentration of ancient buildings in Saddar Karachi designed in Gothic Revival style is a testament to its historical importance. Since the British Empire, Saddar is considered as the core of Karachi, all major offices, markets, churches and schools were located in this area.
The busy town of Saddar, which houses some of the most impressive examples of colonial-era architecture in the entire region, maintained its status as the central district of Karachi even after the partition. Up until 1967. It was home to almost all important federal offices. However, when the capital was shifted from Karachi to the newly-built Islamabad, these offices were replaced by those of the provincial government.
Location of Saddar Karachi
The modern-day Saddar Town comprises a majority of the oldest settlements of Karachi.
Two most important neighbourhoods in the town, Kharadar and Mithadar, date back to the pre-colonial era. Since the word khara means ‘salty’ and the word mitha means ‘sweet,’ the names of these areas literally mean ‘Salty Gate’ and ‘Sweet Gate,’ referring to the two main gates of the Walled City of Karachi. While one of the gates opened towards the Arabian Sea and the other towards the Lyari River, hence the names.
Furthermore, Karachi City Railway Station and Karachi Cantonment Railway Station are located in the vicinity. Karachi port and Clifton beach are also a stone’s throw away.
What Makes Saddar Town Unique?
These are some of the things that make Saddar such a unique part of the city.
- Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
- Empress Market
- National Museum of Pakistan
- Karachi Port Trust Building
- Frere Hall
- Habib Bank Plaza
- Merewether Clock Tower
- High Court of Sindh
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Dating back to 1881, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Saddar Karachi is arguably one of the oldest churches in Sindh. Initially, a church was built on those grounds back in 1845. However, once the Catholic community in the area began to grow, the 170-foot cathedral was built next to it. The two structures stood side by side until 1885 when a storm destroyed the church.
The stunning red brick building, large stained glass windows and the incredible Monument to Christ the King make St. Patrick’s Cathedral one of the most beautiful churches in Pakistan. Moreover, it can house over 2,000 worshippers at once.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral is also one of the most significant churches in the area.
One of the most well-known landmarks in Karachi, Empress Market in Saddar Karachi was named after Empress of India Queen Victoria. The construction of this iconic market began in 1884 and was completed in 1889.
Today, hundreds of years later, Empress Market still operates as one of the most diverse markets in the city. If you haven’t been there yet, you must check it out as shops inside the premises sell everything from fruits and meat to textile and crockery. Despite being located in the most congested area of the city, Empress Market remains extremely crowded throughout the week.
National Museum of Pakistan
Since its inception in 1951, the National Museum of Pakistan was located in the historical Frere Hall building. However, in 1969, the government of Pakistan relocated the museum to a separate building at Burns Garden in Saddar Town.
This museum is a must-visit place for all those living in Karachi. With a PKR 20 entry ticket, visitors can observe the historical artefacts displayed in the museum, spanning from pre-historic era up until the creation of Pakistan. Children below the age of 10 only have to pay PKR 10 to enter the premises while student groups can check out the National Museum of Pakistan completely free of cost.
Karachi Port Trust Building
Located in the Kharadar neighbourhood of Saddar Karachi, the yellow-stone Karachi Port Trust Building is one of the most significant landmarks in the city. Dating back to 1915, the impressive structure was designed by an architect named G. Witted, who is also credited with designing the Gateway of India in modern-day Mumbai.
It now serves as the headquarters for the Karachi Port Trust.
The architecture of KPT building appears to have been influenced by all British, Hindu and Gothic style. However, the large dome at the top of the structure reminds of the ancient Roman architecture. Moreover, teak wood, which is an extremely expensive building material, has been used throughout the building.
Considered one of the most iconic colonial-era buildings in Karachi, the famous Frere Hall in Saddar Town is a symbol of the city’s regal heritage. Constructed between 1863 and 1865, the stunning Venetian-Gothic style structure was named after a British official named Sir Henry Bartle Frere, who also went on to become the Governor of Bombay in Colonial India.
Frere Hall was originally meant to serve as the Town Hall of Karachi. However, it now serves as an exhibition space and a library for the residents of Karachi. Meanwhile, the vast gardens around the historical building are used to hold festivals throughout the year. The Sunday Book Fair at Frere Hall is also very popular among book lovers across the city.
The interior of Frere Hall is also extremely beautiful, making it a major tourist attraction in Karachi.
Habib Bank Plaza
For the longest of times, Habib Bank Plaza on I.I. Chundrigar Road was not just the tallest building in Karachi but also Pakistan. In fact, it even held the title of ‘Tallest building in South Asia’ for a few years. This 22-storey architectural marvel serves as the head office of Habib Bank Limited and is still considered one of the tallest skyscrapers in Karachi.
One of the most famous landmarks in the ever-growing City of Lights, Habib Bank Plaza in Saddar Town is about 101 metres high. The construction for this plaza started in 1963 and ended nine years later in 1972. It is located right in the middle of the largest financial district of the country, sometimes referred to as ‘Pakistan’s Wall Street.’
Merewether Clock Tower
More commonly known as Tower, Merewether Clock Tower on I.I. Chundrigar Road is also one of the busiest locations in Karachi. The landmark itself doesn’t get a lot of visitors, it’s the surrounding market that attracts a lot of shoppers throughout the day.
Merewether Clock Tower dates back to 1892. Then-Commissioner of Sindh Sir Evan James had it built as a memorial for his predecessor, Sir William L. Merewether. The tower is about 102 feet tall and has a giant bell at the top along with four clocks on each side. The highly detailed structure was constructed in the Gothic Revival style.
High Court of Sindh
The building of Sindh High Court, the highest judicial institution of the province, dates back to 1929. Initially, the historical complex in the heart of Saddar Karachi was meant to house five judges and had one main building.
However, more buildings had to be added over the years as the complex now includes offices for Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Advocate General Sindh, Secretary Ministry of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs along with Registry of the Federal Sharia Court and Sindh Bar Council, to name a few.
Other Notable Landmarks in Saddar Karachi
These are some of the other important places in this historic town adding to its uniqueness.
- The provincial assembly of Sindh
- Arts Council of Pakistan
- Sind Club
- KMC Building
- Old Radio Pakistan’s Building
- Regional Passport Office
- Pakistan Stock Exchange
- Wazir Mansion
- Election Commission
- Karachi Press Club
- Khaliqdina Hall & Library
Restaurants in Saddar Karachi
When it comes to restaurants in Karachi, Burns Road in Saddar is considered one of the biggest and most significant food streets in the city. For those who love authentic desi food, eateries and kiosks on Burns Roads are a must-visit. Some of the oldest restaurants in Saddar Karachi are located on this street.
Some of the other notable and historical establishments in Saddar Town include Chaudhary Farzand Ali Kulfi, Sabir Nihari, Zahid Nihari, Peshawari Ice Cream, Baloch Ice Cream, Hijaz Dairy, Dilpasand Bakery and Fresco Sweets, to name a few.
However, since this unique town depicts the fusion of old and modern, you can also find outlets of all national and international food chains in Saddar Karachi.
Markets in Saddar Karachi
Saddar houses some of the oldest and most unique marketplaces in the entire city.
The sprawling Bohri Bazaar was established years before the creation of Pakistan, which means some of the shops there are almost 100 years old. From stores selling clothes and crockery to hardware and wooden items, you can find everything in this market.
Zainab Market, one of the most beloved shopping destinations in Karachi, is also located in Saddar. Surrounded by a number of shopping centres, Zainab Market is popular for selling export quality leather goods, denim, handicrafts and antiques.
However, if you want to purchase anything from here, you will need to learn a few tips on how to haggle successfully.
Similarly, Jodia Bazaar is also one of the oldest wholesale markets in Pakistan, dating back to the pre-partition era.
Saddar Electronic Market
Saddar electronic market sells everything from phones and laptops to household electronic items such as TVs and vacuum cleaners. The most popular electronic markets in Saddar are located at Regal Chowk and Abdullah Haroon Road.
The Cooperative Market in Saddar is perhaps the best place in Karachi to buy wooden and metallic handicrafts along with antique items that you won’t find anywhere else.
Meanwhile, Gul Plaza in Saddar Karachi is famous for its collection of shops selling luxurious home decoration items.
Schools in Saddar Karachi
Since Saddar is considered the oldest settlement in Karachi, the area is home to some of the oldest schools in Karachi.
Some of the most historical schools in Saddar Karachi include:
- St. Joseph’s Convent School
- St. Patrick’s High School
- The Mama Parsi Girls’ Secondary School
- Bai Virbaiji Soparivala Parsi High School
- Karachi Grammar School
These schools offer both matriculation and O/A-level systems of studies and are known for providing high-quality education.
Some of the oldest and most revered higher education institutions in Karachi, private, semi-private and government, such as St. Joseph’s College for Women, D. J. Sindh Government Science College, Sindh Muslim Law College and Government College of Commerce and Economics are also located in Saddar.
Is Saddar Karachi a Good Area to Invest in?
Being the economic hub of the city, Saddar Town has always been a popular area to invest in Karachi.
If you are looking to buy flats in Saddar Town Karachi, there are a few apartment complexes you can check out. On average, the cost of a 2-bed option in Saddar Town ranges from PKR 25 lakh to PKR 1.6 crore. As for a 3-bedroom apartment in Saddar, the price varies from PKR 30 lakh to PKR 1.9 crore.
For those hoping to rent an apartment, a 2-bed flat in Saddar Town costs around PKR 25 thousand and PKR 35 thousand per month. On the other hand, the rental trend of a 3-bed unit starts at PKR 30 thousand and can go up to PKR 50 thousand.
Of course, the prices of properties in the area vary vastly depending on the project, infrastructure, facilities, location and distance from nearby markets.
For more information about the facilities and buying trends in different areas of Karachi, stay tuned to Zameen Blog – the best real estate and lifestyle blog in Pakistan.