Whisky, clubs, music: Karachi's nightlife behind closed doors

11.09.2015

Karachi, Pakistan's biggest and most diverse city, was once home to a famous nightclub scene where alcohol flowed freely and luminaries from the world of jazz played to packed crowds eager for a taste of Western culture. Today, a new generation is seeking to revive the partying traditions of their parents and grandparents – albeit behind closed doors.

At a luxury hotel in the metropolis of 20 million – better known for bitter political acrimony, gang violence and bloody turf wars – it is after midnight and the private party has just started. In a room decorated with chandeliers, several hundred guests are letting their hair down. The music is loud and the bar is busy.

 A young female DJ, tanned and tattooed, is in control of the beats. Men dressed in suits and ties chain-smoke as they listen to the electro-funk of Daft Punk, as women in slinky dresses strut across the dance floor. The partygoers are from a generation that tasted the freedom of a foreign university and overseas travel before returning home to Pakistan. The party was not advertised – and from the street you would never know it was happening – to avoid the attention of suicide bombers and extremist clerics.

Before the creeping Islamisation from the late 1970s that fundamentally altered the country, Pakistan's nightlife was legendary.

The golden-era began in the 1950s and rolled on until prohibition in 1977, which was followed by a slew of Islamist policies that drastically altered society. Alcohol flowed freely in downtown bars and American jazz musicians Dizzie Gillespie and Duke Ellington played to huge crowds. Clubs such as Playboy, Excelsior, Oasis, Samar, Club 007 all competed to be the place to be seen by Karachi's hip young crowd.

"We used to have a good nightlife with bands, drinks and dancing but it's gone," recalls Imtiaz Moghal, the manager of the Metropole Hotel, once one of Karachi's hottest nightspots, but which now lies semi-derelict as it awaits renovation. "It is a haunted house," he said as he wandered through the crumbling remnants of the once-grand hotel. Gesturing at the carpark, he said, "That used to be a club and a disco. It hurts to think about it now."    (AFP)

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