Karachi Before 1900


Bird’s Eye View, Clifton Road
Photograph with a view looking along Clifton Road in Karachi.

 Napier Mole Bridge to Keamari

Napier Mole Bridge to Keamari
Photograph taken by an unknown photographer in Karachi, c.1900, with a general view along the iron Napier Mole bridge connecting Karachi with Kiamari

 The Empress Market

The Empress Market
Photograph of Empress Market in Karachi, taken by an unknown photographer, c.1900,

The Empress Market was constructed between 1884 and 1889 and was named to commemorate Queen Victoria, Empress of India. It was designed by James Strachan, the foundations were completed by the English firm of A.J. Attfield, and the building constructed by the local firm of ‘Mahoomed Niwan and Dulloo Khejoo’. The building was arranged around a courtyard, 130 ft by 100 ft, with four galleries each 46 ft wide. The galleries provided accommodation for 280 shops and stall keepers; at the time of its construction it was one of seven markets in Karachi.


Bird’s Eye View, Clifton Road
Photograph with a view looking along Clifton Road in Karachi.

 Karachi City Street View

Karachi City Street View
Photograph of a busy street scene in Karachi, taken by an unknown photographer

 Trans-Lyari Market

Trans-Lyari Market
At the end of the nineteenth century the Trans-Lyari Quarter of the city was made up of a cluster of poor settlements mostly consisting of reed and mud plastered huts with some more permanent dwellings. At this time one-quarter of the population of Karachi lived in this area across the Lyari River.

 Karachi Gymkhana.

Karachi Gymkhana
The British had also developed the concept of gymkhanas or sports-houses which provided facilities for all sorts of sports and games for the colonial population in the sub-continent. The Karachi Gymkhana Club, located on Scandal Point (later Club) Road, was a large Tudor-style building, constructed in 1886.

 Bird's Eye View Victoria Road

Bird’s Eye View Victoria Road
Photograph with a view of Karachi looking in a northerly direction along Victoria Road, with St Andrew’s Church visible in the distance, taken by an unknown photographer, c.1900.

 Bird's Eye View Suddar Bazaar

Bird’s Eye View Suddar Bazaar
The Saddar Bazaar at Karachi followed a typical gridiron plan; all the major north-south streets of the Bazaar were laid out at right angles to Bunder Road, Frere, Somerset and Elphinstone Streets which along with Victoria Road, linked the northern part of the cantonment to the southern part. The area soon developed into the most fashionable part of the city, supplying the needs of both its civilian and military parts.

Clerk Street, Suddar Bazaar

Clerk Street, Suddar Bazaar
Photograph with a view looking along Clifton Road in Karachi.

 Part of the town of Karachi (Sind), with Mud Houses; Camels and Villagers in Foreground - April 1851

Part of the town of Karachi (Sind), with Mud Houses; Camels and Villagers in Foreground – April 1851
Water-colour of Karachi (Sind) by Henry Francis Ainslie (c.1805-1879), April 1851. Inscribed on the front of the mount in red ink is: ‘Sindh, part of the native town of Kurrachee, 1851.’
Originally Karachi was a small village made up of a cluster of fishermen’s huts on the three islands of Manora, Bhit and Baba. Due to it’s location at the western end of the Indus delta the town has traditionally served as an important gateway for trade into central Asia. With the development of its harbour it gradually grew into a large city and an important centre of trade and industry.

Note: Got these pictures in an email. So glad my friend sent it to me. Amazing pictures. So much space in Karachi. Love them..
## for bigger pictures, click on them and on the Flickr page click “All Sizes”

All pictures are property of British Library.

28 Comments so far

  1. xia (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 4:30 am

    Great Pics. Thanks for sharing.

  2. sarah (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 4:38 am

    Very NIce pics, KARACHI Look SOOO PeAcEfUL soo SImple & SOOOOO CLEAN; one of A Kind !!!!:D

  3. UnHolySaint (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 4:44 am

    cozy pictures… a place to proud of.

  4. wasiq (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 5:28 am

    dekha khadda market aur zamzama pey pheley pani hota tha……Masha allah.

  5. Asad (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 5:40 am

    Great pictures. Thanks a lot for sharing. I dont know when we lost this organization and planning. It looks that founders of this city envisioned a planned modern city. All the cities abroad are so planned. You can go on mapquest and get the exact directions to your destination. I drove so much in USA and one thing which amazes me is this organization.Each street is named and planned. I think our City planners should also focus on this aspect. Its never too late.

  6. Imran (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 6:05 am

    Great pics! :)

    Posted a link to these in the Johnny’s Karachi thread. The photos are in my Zorpia group (same pics, only re-engineered to a 1024 x 768 wallpaper size) – part of a “Karachi” wallpapers collection, if you just can’t get enough of Karachi as well :)

  7. ash (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 6:35 am

    gorgeous !!!

  8. Adil Najam (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 9:44 am

    These are amazing pictures. Not only for the historical record but for their clarity. How teh city has changed. Must confess that apart from (maybe) the one on Empress Market, I would never have guessed that any of the others was Karachi.

    Just a thought, maybe you might want to build a repository of posts, links and information on the history of Karachi here on the Metroblog. There have been a number of interesting pieces on that here and it would be a service to have them accessible in an easy-to-find way.

    P.S. We, at ATP have also had a couple of such pieces. One by Bilal Zuberi on The Story of Karachi and another on Whisling in Karachi and the city’s Jazz past.

  9. sarah (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 10:37 am

    @ waqas : u Can reconize KAddA MARKeT AND ZAMZAM IN THose Pics, …..!!!!:D

  10. Faisal (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 11:27 am

    Notice the tress in the first, third and fourth pictures? It seems so peaceful and planned. Obviously back then you didn’t have the construction mafia eyeing every piece of available land to construct ugly high-rises. If our planners had maintained the standard, Karachi could’ve been a beautiful city. But ofcourse you had to cater to the millions of refugees too.

  11. Original-Faisal (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

    Beautiful pictures.

  12. tooba (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 12:56 pm

    apart from the few landmarks….Karachi doesn’t look like Karachi at all! beautiful! =)

  13. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

    Amazing and it reminds me famous Mir Taqi Mir shair for Delhi but it fits well for Karachi too.

    Karachi jo ek shahr tha aalam mein intikhaab
    Hum rehne wale hain usi ujre dayar ke


  14. Teeth Maestro (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

    Great pictures – I too had received the email but am glad you took the time to format them into this post – they are truly nostalgic

  15. Raja Islam (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

    Awesome !
    i like these old pictures of karachi.

  16. Kashif (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 6:56 pm

    I was getting a pics in chain mails last few days. Good to see they have made to KMB as well :)

  17. Haseeb A (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

    Simply awesome

  18. MB (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

    Karachi was so clean and beautiful.

  19. Poo Poo head (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 8:24 pm

    After 50 years, when my grand children would see pics of San Francisco , they would say how much SF has changed. They would say it looked much peaceful then and I would say but you have modern life. You could reach from San Jose to San Francsico in 5 minutes and for me it was 90 minutes but then they would say say no your time was awesome and at that time I would say “pathetic” as I am saying right now.

    Change is always for good and it is inevitable my friends.

  20. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on January 29th, 2007 @ 10:30 pm

    Modern doesn’t mean mismanaged and unorganized. I think everyone here is talking about a discplined city rather an ancient one.

  21. Sufi (unregistered) on January 30th, 2007 @ 12:43 am

    pph, I have a good feeling that your grandkids will surely have better things to do than to listen your bs :P

  22. talal (unregistered) on January 30th, 2007 @ 7:12 am

    its very difficult for karachi especially, but the time will come when pakistan will experience the same simplicity and clarity in its planning and architecture!.. ssss….it has been done before and it can be done again..

  23. mansoor (unregistered) on January 30th, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

    lovely post sufi!!

  24. Khekhe (unregistered) on January 30th, 2007 @ 6:05 pm

    This is Saddar, Gym Khana and Empress Market? Wow. I feel alien to this city now. I feel like I don’t know this place at all.

  25. wasiq (unregistered) on January 31st, 2007 @ 2:49 am

    that is so not fair….i was saving it for today.:-p

  26. irfan bham (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2007 @ 10:34 am

    the pics are awesome..the city was so clean and properly planned.Although modernization and development has a cost and we dont have mud houses in urban areas anymore but the cost in terms of beauty, cleanliness,serenity, planning and ever growing pollution is absolutely unbearable.It simply shows that expansion of the metropolis without any proper planning is a game of corruption so tightly knit in all norms of our every day life and the best part is…we cant do anything about it..but suffer.

  27. Nuha (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

    Irfan, there’s nothing wrong with mud houses; they’re much better suited to Karachi’s climate than those awful concrete monsters that are like a plague across the city.

  28. zeeshan (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

    I am actually blind here! No way this could be Karachi. It’s so beautiful, so peaceful and well-planned. I wish it were like that even now! But like someone has already mentioned in a post above… “Karachi had to cater to the MILLIONS of Afghan Refugees”

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