16 Jan, 2008

Dubai invades Karachi

16 Jan, 2008

Blogspot is back up and running in Pakistan, but other websites are still hard to enter such as the Human Rights Commission website. Definitely feels as if things are back to where they were two decades ago. But around us, prosperity is on the rise.

Today, I ventured out with a friend to visit Crescent Bay development, a large Karachi project in conjunction with Emaar, a Dubai-based real estate company (slated to be the largest global real estate company) that has begun a new “development” project along the reclaimed land surrounding Karachi.

We drive along the Clifton Sea Wall, and the road that once used to end right by the water now continues along a rough patch (reclaimed land) that leads to Crescent Bay. As the road winds around, one can see that there is a great deal of construction taking place: high-rises, parks and of course there is still the water. The area is almost completely open and few people are in sight—unusual for Karachi, a city of more than 16 million—but of course, there are the stragglers: men taking brisk walks, a few couples ambling along the stone wall.

When we take the turn into the driveway leading into the Emaar office, we are stopped by their security officers. “Why are you here?” we’re asked. “Do you have permission?”

We shrug. “We just want to see the office. We want to learn more about what Emaar is doing.”

The guard is ruffled, but then lets us in. The driveway is lined by flapping Emaar flags and in the distance, one can see the calm winter sea. The building itself is a square with a few arches and the murals depict happy families that belong somewhere else not Pakistan. That feeling is continued inside where an Emaar administrator shows us the model of the three bays that Emaar will develop. All the décor and images have little connection to the land or city: everything looks western or Arab. Pakistan, or at least a tiny valuable piece of the country, has shifted to West Asia/ Middle East.

“We had a meeting for investors a month ago,” we are told. “There were so many people—who paid a lot of money to attend so they could get first dibs on apartments—so in fact we had to do raffle.”

“Are you marketing within Pakistan or abroad?” I ask.


Before we leave, I am asked to fill out my contact information so they can learn more about me. I fill out my name, address and email address…I might as well continue to be on the list to learn more about what they plan on doing. This is only a small piece of “development” along Karachi’s coastal drive. Further west, fishing villages will be displaced, Manora Island, Sandspit and Hawksbay beaches will also be taken over by similar projects. The coastline of Karachi is going to go through a dramatic shift. More on that later….

And inside the building, a model of what Emaar plans to build in Karachi – and for whom.