Surmai Fish "King Mackerel"
Karachi; the City of Lights, rightfully dubbed, is a bustling metropolitan bursting with life in every nook and cranny. The city, seen as the hub of industries of fashion, media, arts, business in Pakistan, is the breadwinner of Pakistan and contains one the most diverse collection of individuals found in the world. However, this was not always the case, looking back into our history, Karachi was nothing more than a small fishing village on the coast of Sindh.
The vicinity surrounding the current city premises held no significance. It has been claimed, the city was either known as Krokola; where one of Alexander the Great's admirals set sail along the end of their conquests, or Debal; the ancestral village where Muhammad Bin Qasim landed and then conquered in 712 AD. It is said that when Alexander's admiral Nearchus was to exit through the Indus River, a raging storm made him detour and eventually reached a small fishing village controlled by a matriarch. He then renamed the place Morontobara (Greek for Woman's Harbor). However these are speculations without any concrete evidence.
The region gained its relevance, and its name, when a Balochi woman named 'Mai Kolachi' settled there and started her family. Mai Kolachi, a fisherwoman was the foundation from which the area evolved into a fishing village. The coast surrounding the area boasts a plethora of fishing options such as Surmai fish, Heera fish, Paplet Fish, Gol Sole, Dama Fish, hence attracted fisherfolk that came and settled in and expanded the locality. The area adopted the name Kolachi, which then was later changed to Karachi. Mai, still remembered as a locality. The area is named as 'Mai Kolachi', paying homage to her as the original settlers of the city.
However, in 1772 the village 'Kolachi-jo-Goth' became a trading post between Bahrain and Muscat and later into a fort. The fort had two gates; Khara-Dar (overlooked the Arabian Sea) and Meetha-Dar (overlooked Lyari River). With a population of nearly 20,000, of whom most were involved in the fish trade, sanitation was poor and crime was rampant making the area a hub for diseases and criminals. However, the major evolution of Karachi came under the British Raj where the initial members of the East India Company saw the enormous potential of Karachi's natural port. Halted by the Mirs at first, the British conquered and later annexed the city under British India. Eventually the British developed the city further, adding its harbor and railway, it came to be known as 'Kurrachee Scinde' (Karachi, Sindh) and was later announced as the capital of newly formed province Sindh in 1936.
Later on, after Pakistan came into existence in 1957, most of the fishermen families belonging to the Sindhi and Balochi ethnicities were settling on the coastal areas in gohts (small settlements). This was also during the time where the beaches of Karachi were considered the 'cleanest around the world'. The small fishing communities thrived and later on delved into other small businesses such as rearing horses for joyrides. In 1959 the Federal government built Karachi Port Harbor and later in 1974 was handed to the Sindh Government.
Ironically for a city that evolved from a fishing village, Karachiites are not inclined towards seafood. Due to the influx of refugees during the partition, new cuisine was introduced to the locals creating at times hybrids as well. Regardless Karachi, a cesspool of different cultures, languages and beliefs grew into the megacity it is today, a place where fishing still remains of its major industries. From Kolachi up till Karachi, the city keeps on growing and keeps on giving.