Clifton is an affluent seaside municipality in Karachi, Pakistan. Clifton remains one of the most affluent parts of the city, with some of Karachi's most expensive real estate. Clifton is home to several foreign consulates, while its commercial centres are amongst the most high-end in Pakistan, with a strong presence of international brands.
The area around Clifton was a largely barren seashore until British rule, and was previously known to locals as 'Hawa Bandar', or 'Wind Port'. Prior to the establishment of the area as a suburb of Karachi, Clifton's shoreline had been home to a shrine of 8th century Abdullah Shah Ghazi, widely regarded as the city's patron saint.
Clifton was initially developed in the late 19th century under British colonial rule, and initially served as the location for homes belonging to the city's British elite as an escape from the city. In the early 20th century, Parsis began moving to the area, and were soon followed by Muslims and Hindus. The Jehangir Kothari Parade, bestowed to the city by Parsi businessman Seth Jehangir Hormusji Kothari, was built in Clifton in 1919–20. The Mohatta Palace was built in Clifton in 1927 by a wealthy Hindu businessman, and now serves as a museum.
Clifton Bridge was built in the 1930s to connect the suburb to central Karachi. By the 1950s, camel owners began offering rides to local tourists on the beach. The area remained a residential area characterized by bungalows until the 1970s, when the area began to develop as one of Karachi's prime commercial and retail centres.
In 1973, Clifton's famous Three Sword monument was erected as part of a beautification programme launched by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and was built in the shape of his political party election symbol at the time. Despite a breakdown of law and order in Karachi in the 1980s and 1990s, Clifton was one of the localities in Karachi where real estate activity remained strong.
The government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto planned a casino in the area near the Clifton Beach in a bid to attract foreign tourists to Pakistan in the 70s. However, the idea was abandoned soon because of political issues and the structure lay empty for many decades until it was taken over by a local amusement parks company, who opened a themed entertainment centre named 'Sindbad' on it. This was also closed down in the early 2000s and after another bout of vacancy, the place was finally torn down and Dolmen City was erected in its place. This mall is now one of Pakistan's premier shopping malls, housing local and many foreign brands like Debenham's.
The areas also house’s the former residence of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the current residence of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari & Asif Ali Zardari. Bilawal House, which is now the current residence of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is located near Bilawal Chowrangi and BBQ Tonight. A branch of PF Chang was also opened up near to the residence recently. Bilawal House has been surrounded with controversy since the erection of a protection wall near the house, with many local politicians asking authorities to pull it down.
Clifton is emerging as another Central Business District of Karachi along with Saddar Town the main Central Business District of Karachi. Today it headquarters the corporate office of Pakistan's largest energy company, Pakistan State Oil (PSO) as well several other large local and foreign companies such as Nestle Pakistan Limited, Dolmen Group and Muller and Phipps among other corporate and regional offices.
Increased business activity and real estate construction boom has resulted in Clifton altering the city skyline with the two tallest buildings in Pakistan namely The Bahria Icon Tower and the Ocean Towers now located here. It also houses the headquarters of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan.
Gulf Shopping Mall is located very close to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan. This market near Teen Talwar or Three Swords Roundabout houses multiple retail businesses mainly related to female clothing and gold souks.
This is one of Karachi's busiest and most important markets, receiving an average of 10,000 customers per day in 2017.
The Agha's supermarket, which was one of the Karachi's first upscale superstores, is also located on the same road. The Emerald Mall and Plaza Shopping Mall, are also located in the same vicinity near the Two Swords roundabout.
The Karachi Eat Food Festival, which is Pakistan's biggest food festival, is held every year in Clifton. The festival started off back in 2016 and it has now become Pakistan's major culinary and restaurant event with 95+ stalls and major brand engagement. Many new restaurateurs and aspiring chefs try out their locally and internationally inspired dishes at the event. The event has been a major hit with young people with the event witnessing massive crowds on all three days of this festival. The KEF is organized in the early part of January each year.
There are also several international consulates and high commission offices based in Clifton such as British Deputy High Commission, The Chinese consulate, The Italian Consulate, The Russian Consulate, The Iranian Consulate, Consulate General of Switzerland as well as the Kuwaiti consulate among others.