Chief Chef Makkah Continental Speaks About Karachi. Afzal Durrani, the chief chef of Makkah continental Hotel who is also my uncle, on a brief visit to Karachi had an interesting exchange of dialogues about Karachi with me. It was not an intended interview but his thoughts and views for the city were so interesting that I could not resist but to share it with you.

75 years old, living in Makkah for the past 45 years, this old man started his carrier in a weaving mill when he came to Pakistan in 1948. Not satisfies with his job he started working in a Malabari (hotel) Restaurant in Sadar from where he learned the basics of cooking. After a few years time he was appointed at the Pearl Continental Hotel Karachi as assistant to the chef. Soon after his new job his mother (who was and is still in Meerut, India) got him married. About five years later he was presented an offer to work at the Makkah Continental Hotel. An opportunity to work in the holy city of Makkah and also the promised raise and free accommodation was an offer he could not say no to. Appointed as chef at the Makkah Continental he worked hard and was later promoted to chief chef. Today he is the most celebrated chef in the whole of Saudi Arabia. He has two children both married, his daughter in Karachi and his son in Lahore.

The conversation struck when I asked him:

Me: What was the first thing that struck you about Karachi, because you were visiting the city after five years. Durrani: After landing at the Karachi airport we boarded a cab, It was early in the morning there was almost no traffic on the roads. Suddenly we came to this intersection, the signal was red, we were supposed to stop but much to my surprise the cabdriver ran through the red light. I was stunt, than anger took over me and I shouted “Are You crazy ?” At which he replied with a grin on his face, ” Don’t worry sir, this is Karachi, I can ignore all the red light even in broad day light and no one will stop me, and even if a traffic sergeant does decide to stop me I will give him a 50 Rupee note or for a worst case scenario I have this DIG’s card who is my close relative, I will show it and I will be free to go home”. For me this was shocking, In Saudi no one is above the law and here law is just worth a 50 rupee note.

Me: I know you were in India on 12 May, what was your and people’s reaction their over the 5/12 events?

Afzal Durrani: On May 12th me and my wife were at a railway station in Delhi. We were waiting for our relatives to arrive when a women who had somehow from our conversation had figured out that we were from Karachi pointed her finger to a television set which was showing disturbing picture of bloodshed. I couldn’t read Hindi so I asked “what’s happening?” . It is when she said “Look what is going on in your city Karachi, your own people are killing each other”. Ashamed and shocked to see the bloodshed, I told the lady that my daughter is in the same city, and asked her to read the details of the news for me. It is when she read out all the details later she prayed for the welfare of our daughter, she even offered her mobile phone so I could call my daughter, but I told her that I will call her later. In the end when we were about to leave she said to me “When you go back to Karachi tell the people there how a few fools brought the shame to the whole of your country. It is sad how people are shedding their own brother’s blood just for political reasons. Tell them not to kill each other for politics. I hope and pray they you and your family and friends in Karachi remain safe”. In India I was staying in Meerut, people who were my relatives, their friends (among whom were also many Hindus), some strangers and shopkeepers almost every single person who came to know that I have my daughter and relatives in Karachi prayed for their welfare, they all showed their concerns and felt sorry for what for all the blood shed that prevailed Karachi that day and they were all sad for the lose of innocent lives in Karachi that day.

Afzal Durrani: (As the soup arrived for us on the table) Please help your self, I have made this myself.

Me: Ooh! Thank you, So you couldn’t keep your self away from the kitchen even in Karachi.

Afzal Durrani: Yeah, You know cooking is my passion, but actually something else too, is responsible for this bowl of soup, let me tell you. My friend’s son, Ali had been boasting about the Karachi’s most scrumptious Chicken Corn Soup at a road side stall near Nazimabad so last night we decided to give it a try, I can’t obviously pinpoint the place but any ways. We parked our car by the road and walked to a small stall outside a fast food joint, it was not too crowded but we had to wait a while before the chairs could be arranged for us, we quickly ordered Chicken Corn Soup to a 12 year old boy. Within seconds two large bowls of Soup arrived to us, they were filled to the brim, The soup, along with a the spoon sticking from the side of the bowl, was covered with sprinklings of finely chopped boiled egg and lots of tomato ketchup and when I moved away this sprinklings of egg floating on the top I found another Half of a hard boil egg in the bowl. I don’t know what gave these people this bizarre idea of serving soup with boiled egg and how do they expect anyone to eat the half hard boiled egg with a small spoon.. And all the unwanted ketchup made it taste even more horrible, so today I had made this soup specially for Ali, and he told me that this is the best soup he ever had.

Me: Don’t you think in Karachi people have started using a lot of ketchup lately ?

Afzal Durrani: You are right, I have seen people eating ketchup with almost everything. A few days back I was at a grocery store and I spotted these huge cans of ketchup, they were almost 10.KG each. The shopkeeper told me that people are using ketchup instead of tomatoes in cooking. Which really explains how little people know about cooking. Tomatoes can be substituted with tomato pure but ketchup is a sauce, and the un branded ketchup in the local market does not even have a whole lot of tomatoes, it does not even taste like ketchup.

Me: Did you visit any restaurants here in Karachi ?

Afzal Durrani: Yes, Food at KFC and McDonalds is not as good as it is in Makkah, and as far as local restaurants are concerned I visited Lasania , Usmania, and Largees and I am sorry to say but back in fifties food at Malabari Road Side Restaurants tasted far better. And I was surprised to find Chicken Jalfarazi listed under Chinese food, can some one please tell them that it is not a Chinese dish.

Me: What were the positive things you noticed about Karachi?

Afzal Durrani: Roads are better, traffic flow is smoother, all the parks and decorations at the roundabouts have really given this city a great look and I am sure when all this development will be completed Karachi will look even more great.

Me: Did you visit the park they constructed at Clifton ?

Afzal Durrani: Yeah, but one quickly gets bored with all the glass, there is not much to do there. I visited the place with my grand children and after almost half an hour they wanted to go back home. I really miss the Clifton Mela, the play land, the aquarium and the food court at the Play land, now it’s just plain boring.

Me: How do you see the corruption in Karachi and moreover in Pakistan ?

Afzal Durrani: Corruption spreads like dirt on a stare case, It starts from the top and litters over all the steps till the bottom. If we want to clean it, we will never be able to do it if we start from the bottom first because the dirt will keep falling over the lower steps. But if we start from the top, by the end of the day the whole of the stairs will be cleaned.

Me: How do you see the people of Karachi ?

Afzal Durrani: They are kind but they don’t have time to really help you, but on the other hand they never let anyone sleep hungry in the city.

Me: How would you compare the people of Lahore from Karachi ?

Afzal Durrani: I don’t see much difference in both the cities, just that people in Lahore have all the time in the world and people in Karachi don’t have time for even their family.

Me: If given a chance, what would be the message you would like to give to the people of Karachi ?

Afzal Durrani: I would tell them to stop fighting over political issues, live and work together with love and harmony, educate themselves and their children and be fair in their deals and deeds, that is all they and the whole of Pakistan needs to become the best nation in the world.

19 Comments so far

  1. Zainub (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 5:29 am

    Fascinating interview, thanks for sharing it with us. There is a ring of truth in what he says.

  2. anony (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 5:30 am

    Is that your picture? That doesn’t look like a 75 year old man. Thanks for sharing BTW. Interesting.

  3. Arfeen (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 6:07 am

    Quite interesting … Most Pakistanis who have lived abroad for a while when visit Pakistan are just amazed at the lawlessness that they encounter there and how little the govt is doing to help the people. And these days, they dont even have to go to Pakistan to see this as Geo and other channels who are being broadcasted worldwide give a pretty good picture of the situation in Pakistan…

  4. Jaad Syed (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 7:08 am

    Interesting!!! Article!

  5. Imran (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 9:43 am

    Lovely! Would love to be his student and become a food connoisseur myself :)

    NB: Comments on corruption are note worthy.

  6. udass (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 11:06 am

    I usually don’t read long blogs but this one is good. Specially looking Karachi from a Chef’s point of view and his info regarding food makes this blog worth reading. Hats Off for Jamash also.

  7. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

    Afzal Durrani: They are kind but they don’t have time to really help you, but on the other hand they never let anyone sleep hungry in the city.

    Afzal Durrani: I don’t see much difference in both the cities, just that people in Lahore have all the time in the world and people in Karachi don’t have time for even their family.

    very well said. Explained everything in few lines! pay my regards to your uncle

  8. Jamal Shamsi (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 1:51 pm


    Afzal Durrani: They are kind but they don’t have time to really help you, but on the other hand they never let anyone sleep hungry in the city.

    Afzal Durrani: I don’t see much difference in both the cities, just that people in Lahore have all the time in the world and people in Karachi don’t have time for even their family.


    Very well said, –

    All the best sincere wishes to your uncle,

  9. Adil Mulki (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

    Pakistanis visiting Pakistan after just a few years see so much change and deterioration (moral, ethical, cultural), I wonder what would the Quaid and Iqbal say if they ever had a chance to re-visit this land…. hmmmm….

  10. KhiTorPit (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

    I dont know why some of the ppl who are living a comfortable life abroad for so many years …. claims that they love Pak.
    If they love it then why cant they come back to just pay a visit for a couple of days within a year or two.

    What I beleive is for them money is more important, and if they cant afford that much money then whats the use of living abroad while claiming that they love their country but cannot afford to even visit to see their family and frieds.

    After so many years when they comes back they find it a different place, and naturally it would be hard for them to adjust, as then they will compare it with those countries which have a well maintained and good living standard of life.

  11. KhiTorPit (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 7:17 pm

    The context on which I have given above comments was for those ppl whom I have seen in US, they are here for more then 10 to 15 years and have never visited Pak. and still when they says that “Yaar Pak. ki baat hi kuch aur hai, wahan jo maza hai kahin nahi” … I say wth ?

    Who is stopping you to go and visit their ?

    “Yaar wahan par ab rehna buhat mushkil hai”

    So then why are you missing it then ?

    “Yaad aata hai kiyon keh apna mulk apna hi hota hai”

    Jana bhi nahi hai … wahan ki burai bhi karni hai aur phir yaad bhi aata hai.

  12. Jaan Sahab (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 7:27 pm

    See, he is not wrong but a person who hasn’t lived in the city can hardly have something to tell about it.
    I am not saying that his opinions are not valid, but ofcourse he is comparing it to the old karachi and everything changes with time.

    Pakistan is beautiful, the people are beautiful, we just need to keep rmeinding each other that :)

  13. Salman A. (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 10:14 pm

    This is the best part of the interview:
    “Look what is going on in your city Karachi, your own people are killing each other”.

    The question as to why are we fighting with each other, is on the minds of over a billion Muslims all around the world.

    Long live Afzal Durrani Sahab!

  14. Balma (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 11:46 pm

    Pakistanis visiting Pakistan after just a few years see so much change and deterioration (moral, ethical, cultural), I wonder what would the Quaid and Iqbal say if they ever had a chance to re-visit this land…. hmmmm….

    ******** voh dono’n Aatmaa hatiyaa kar lai’n gae.
    Iqbal apnay confused khyaalaat per, aur Jinah after realizing what an evil he was that due to him Indian Muslims are now divided in three countries.

  15. pkhan (unregistered) on July 12th, 2007 @ 11:53 pm

    I do not under stand why he has to go to a road side fast food restaurent to taste Soup?
    He could have gone to any Five star hotel’s restaurent to get a better soup.There is no comparison for food in Saudi to Pakistani Food, Pakistani food and restaurents are the best.
    As far as Mcdonald and KFC, they are called junk food?

  16. Jaad Syed (unregistered) on July 13th, 2007 @ 12:24 am


    Sadly you are wrong !
    when you compare food and dinner available at average restaurants in Pakistan and Saudia Arabia!

    The ones in the latter are ! Infact much tastier, and most importantly Hygienic and fresh! you would see food thrown away in Dumpster every day by restaurants every night, cause they would not sell non fresh foods!

    Sadly in Pakistan this is not the case!!!

    I say so surely cause I used to live in KSA and have been in Karachi for 9 years !I can feel this difference!

  17. Murtaza (unregistered) on July 13th, 2007 @ 11:47 am

    Very interesting thoughts
    I love how he linked dirt on the stairs to corruption.

    and i completely identify with his experience in India on the 12th May, I myself was in India back then and the concern the people of India have towards us is tremendous. I was staying at an institute there and tried to clear everyone’s misconception on Pakistan as a whole and there is came May 12th and ruined it all.

    This was an employee’s reaction:
    “I saw Karachi on tv, It’s a beautiful modern city but what is wrong with the people there, why are they destroying their own property, There are no other dominant religions in Pakistan, what are they fighting over”

    Things have really changed back there in India, The one thing that striked me the most was that the area i was staying had all the religious segments (Hindus, Muslims, Budhists, Cristians, Sikhs) staying like One big family and here we just cant live with our own Muslim brothers

  18. Ali Mohsin (unregistered) on July 14th, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

    well said……

    and hope we are able to create a better image of Karachi and Pakistan……and all of us have to work in unison to achieve.

    But with all due respect, we doesn’t seem to going newhere…….KMB is doing ntgh but pity on everything! thgt of KMB as a paltform where something can be achieved…but ntgh to cheer…sry freinds!

  19. Anonymous (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 2:06 am

    KhiTorPit: I’m visiting Karachi and Pakistan after 5 years abroad and it has been an unpleasnt experience so far. People have been very nice but the city seems to be falling apart. But guess what? I don’t mention this to my relatives…I tell them the same thing others tell you.

    Because what else should I say? That they’re stuck in a hell hole with no way out?

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.