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‘My Favourite Hotel’ review – The Sind Club, Karachi, Pakistan

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Today, our ‘My Favourite Hotel’ review is The Sind Club, Karachi, Pakistan.

Due to a continued strong response from readers, we are running another batch of ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews over the next few weeks. This time we want to focus on ‘unique’ hotel experiences and we’ve received some great suggestions.

Hopefully you will enjoy reading these new reviews over the next few weeks. As always you can find all of the ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews by clicking here or searching for ‘My Favourite Hotel’ in the ‘Categories’ menu on the desktop sidebar. 

Today’s hotel is The Sind Club in Karachi, Pakistan – one of Asia’s oldest exclusive members-only clubs.  Here is reader Reg’s review:

Review The Sind Club, Karachi, Pakistan

Stepping into the night at Karachi Airport a mass of waiting people throng the arrivals hall. The noise, the smell, the dust, the sheer size of the teaming crowd is overwhelming and as I push through the mass of people the taxi touts hassle and jostle me incessantly.

The drive into Karachi is fraught with periods of psychotic driving followed by long bouts sitting still in stationary traffic. Horns blare incessantly and the air is thick with fumes. Huge trucks overloaded with goods rumble along. Motorbikes weave everywhere, many carrying entire families (mum, dad, teenager, toddlers and a baby or two). Helmets are optional. A journey that would, on an open road, take 15 minutes, takes 45.

It bears repeating, the drive is terrifying. My life is in the hands of the almighty. I resign myself to my fate. And then the gates of the Sind Club appear.

The armed guard questions who I am – relief as my name is on the list and in to the haven of the Sind Club I am ushered.

The Sind Club is a private members club – the private members club – in Karachi, Pakistan. In a city of 20 million people, it is an oasis of calm, tranquility and achingly beautiful colonial splendor.

Review The Sind Club, Karachi, Pakistan

I am welcomed by a uniformed porter and even the patina of the wood on the reception desk as I hand over my passport smooths my mood – a feeling of relaxation and serenity takes over. It is impossible to be stressed here. My room is clean, pleasant and basic. I am reminded of my boarding school functionality over luxury.

I am hungry and the restaurant is where the Sind Club comes in to its own. Food is served by a crisp white turbaned waiter on a silver platter.

Review The Sind Club, Karachi, Pakistan

Again I am reminded of my boarding school. The menu is English public school circa 1985. Chicken Kiev and chips with spotted dick and custard to follow (skin on the custard at no extra charge). Stuffed tigers look down at me from the wall. Men play backgammon and chess. The mobile phone is banned. Sir Roger Moore would feel at home.

I leave my rushing western pace behind at the Club gates. I awake leisurely and stroll down for breakfast. The newspapers are ironed. I eat heartily (no bacon though). The coffee is thick and strong.

I treat myself to a shave by the Club barber and off to the office for a round of meetings. Lunch out and back for a nap and a swim before dinner. The pool is tranquil and I relax in the steam room which seems to act as the equivalent of a drink after work for the Club members. I learn to copy them and walk around the gardens before the sun goes down bringing peace to the soul. Their easy laid back manner belies the furious politicking and plotting that is a constant part of Karachi society.

Review The Sind Club, Karachi, Pakistan

When the British ruled India (before the partition into Pakistan), the club in any town or city was the staple of social life. Even as a small child growing up in expat lands I was aware of the importance of “the club” – all life seemed to revolve around it. Established in 1871, the Sind Club managed the transition from British colonial club to Pakistani club with ease and great success, the names on the Chairman’s board merely changed from John Smith to Ahmed Khan.

Review The Sind Club, Karachi, Pakistan

After dinner, a game of billiards and a cool drink in the bar with a snow leopard in a case watching me. The faded photos on the wall stare back, old games of polo and hunts in the hills by men long dead – like us all strong and tall in their prime.

When I die, I hope heaven is modelled on the Sind Club.

You can learn more about the Sind Club on its website here. You can book a room here if you are a member of a ‘reciprocal’ club, which in the UK includes The Royal Over Seas League (membership open to anyone without recommendation), the East India Club, the Royal Automobile Club, the Oriental Club, the In and Out and the Royal Northern & University Club.


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Comments (54)

  • Ken says:

    Nice writing Reg.

    Captures the spirit of the place.

    70 years after independence and partition it all seems a bit absurd.

  • Lady London says:

    Ah…..I need to go there now.

  • Anon says:

    I don’t think this article has a place on the HfP site. It conjured up emotions relating to colonialism, boarding school, private boys clubs and racial arrogance. As an ethnic female reading this review, there is no way that I want to set foot in that place. The colonialism in Pakistan and India resulted in poverty, economic exploitation, social upheaval, communal divisions and political disadvantage for the local people, with much suffering. Colonialism shouldn’t be flaunted in an article like this. I have been really lucky to travel in Pakistan and it’s such a beautiful country with amazing people and culture, but none of this comes across in the article, which has instead taken the tone of showing how a traveller in Pakistan doesn’t have to endure any of the local culture and can be locked away in a mini British palace, to be waited on by local servants and eat spotted dick with custard. The references to local culture are either in the form of the staff serving you at the property or in the way which you over-describe the drive to the property as being “terrifying”. Anyone who has taken transport through Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Bangkok, Vietnam will have experienced similar. It’s just part of the culture and whilst it may not align to the British Highway Code, it works in it’s own way. This article reeks of classism and its such a shame that the boarding school educated white male who spends his life in private members clubs didn’t get to leave the palace walls and experience the rich culture and adventures that Pakistan has to offer.

    • Sapiens says:

      And as an ‘ethnic’ non-white male, I’ve no problem whatsoever with this guest article.

      Are there any factual inaccuracies or can you quote the text that you think proves ‘racial arrogance’?

      Big accusations. I’d be on your side if there were literally any evidence of prejudice or racism, but there isn’t.

  • Chris K says:

    What an interesting article.

  • Will says:

    It would have been nice to actually get a little more detail on the rooms, facilities, pricing etc. Beyond that, this review was cringeworthy.

  • Novice says:

    I must admit the writing was really good. It could have been an opening to a non-fiction book. Sounds historical, the place.

  • Nathan says:

    Well thanks WOKE folks for all the commentary; I now feel better placed to tackle post-colonial feminist issues worldwide and I won’t rest until everybody thinks like you.

    On the other hand, this review was written journalistically, and very well I might add, upon a travel theme that falls outwith my personal echo chamber of comfort. Just as one would expect from an, erm?, journalistic travel-based site that one approaches for news and new views upon seeing the world. At least that’s how I approach HfP anyway.

    This review was quite unlike, I might also add, most/all of the other ‘reviews’ – of far less interesting historic buildings or indeed destinations – some of which I found were, frankly, so terrible that they wouldn’t have seemed out of place if received by a teacher as an account of summer holidays as undertaken by a primary schoolchild.

  • AJA says:

    What irony, a lot of my fellow HfP readers decrying the colonial empire, old school tie, separate from the hoi polloi exclusivity of this place. And yet the majority of HfP readers travel in Club and First and make use of exclusive lounges at airports, they also want Silver and Gold status at airlines and stay at expensive 4 and 5 star hotels using their Titanium status benefits to get free breakfasts. Or if they are not there yet are doing MS, mattress and TP runs to achieve this.

    • Josh says:

      Best comment of the lot

    • Cat says:

      There’s a fairly substantial difference between enjoying treating yourself to nice food and a comfy bed *that you pay for* when you get a well-earned break, and the kind of economic exploitation that went on during colonial times.
      One creates jobs and prosperity, the other resulted in poverty and division.

      • AJA says:

        But this review is of a club operating in 2020 in a country that has been independent for the last 70 years. A lot of people are applying 2020 sensitivities to an era long past. The fact that it reminds the reviewer (and the reader) of a byegone period is what others find distasteful. Interestingly most comments are criticising HfP for having the temerity to publish the review. There are very few criticising the fact that the club exists today and actually seems to perpetuate the old colonial ways.

        The reviewer paid money to visit the club, whats the difference between what he did and “enjoying treating yourself to nice food and a comfy bed *that you pay for* when you get a well-earned break”? Both are exclusive environments that the majority do not get to experience – they work on division and work on the basis of a lot of employees on basic wages. Is that not exploitation? Or is it ok because it’s a different kind of exploitation?

        • Paul74 says:

          Indeed.

        • Novice says:

          I would hate to bring a well-known fact into this but I’m young and pretty ‘woke’ and I totally agree with you AJA.

          I think everyone who is getting offended over colonialism etc. are forgetting this is history. And, human history is littered with wrongdoings and mistakes.

          And if this Reg person’s idea of heaven is colonialism and stuffed animals then that’s his opinion/choice.

          Let’s not forget that Brexit speeches sound more like nostalgia for a British Empire than anything written in this personal opinion piece.

        • Cat says:

          This review goes well beyond wistful reminders of a bygone era, especially with that heaven comment at the end. To write an article that treats the colonial period of our history with such reverence without reproof is nauseating to me (and to quite a few others, it seems). Novice, if the author had even mentioned or nodded in the direction of any of the plethora of wrongdoing from this particular period of human history, I’d be considerably less offended, and I find Brexit speeches nauseating too for the record!
          I don’t blame HfP for publishing it – I think the reader articles are interesting for many reasons, but the debate they provoke is one of them.
          When I made the “treating yourself” comment, I was drawing a distinction between the colonial empire and travelling in style (which you seemed to be conflating, or at least comparing, in your initial comment AJA), not between the reviewer staying in this hotel and me staying in mine. Also, I generally tip pretty heavily, to ensure that it’s not exploitation!

          • Novice says:

            I get where you are coming from Cat and I agree mostly. But, I think where I differ is I guess I just don’t take an old man’s opinion too seriously. I’m more shocked when I hear these dangerous ideas coming from ppl in power as though they want to repeat history that should remain dead.

    • John says:

      I don’t think my status on BA (a lowly Silver, by the way) is dictated by my race, class or ethnicity.

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