Karachi is hard to love </>

Gulraiz Khan
2 min readFeb 9, 2022

Over the course of summer/autumn of 2021, I wrote about the past, present and (a hopeful) future of mobility & public transit in Karachi. The essay was accompanied by a set of three maps: one in 1970, another in 2020 and the third in 2047. You can read the essay and see the maps here.

Karachi Circular Railway & Trams, 1970.

The accompanying maps were originally designed in Urdu, for two reasons: accessibility & craft. My mother has never been able to comprehend the maps I have made so far. I wanted to make a map that she could read. I also wanted to work with digital Urdu typography, and see how it would pan out in the face of cartographic complexity. A static map has to do two things simultaneously: It has to be instantly legible as a whole, but not visually overwhelm with finer details. I was inspired by an Ottoman map of Istanbul, except the typography in it was calligraphic, with a lot more possibility. Digital Urdu typefaces, especially of the Nastaleeq family, are far more limiting. This proved to be an extremely challenging task, and a real learning curve.

Bridges, Flyovers, Underpasses & Signal-Free Corridors in Karachi, 2020.

Since the essay was in English, I redid the maps in English for publication. This switch was laborious. Since I had originally conceptualised and designed the maps in Urdu, redoing them in English was an act of visual translation. Like all translations, I feel I lost some of the spirit and the aesthetic quality in the process. Maybe I should have started entirely from scratch. Layering the city with English subtitles felt forced and inauthentic; an act of translating my own self for a foreign audience.

Bus Rapid Transit, Karachi Circular Railway & Karachi Ferry Service, 2047.

I plan on creating a limited print edition of the Urdu maps. I will share more on my Twitter & Instagram profiles when I have figured out printing details.

Meanwhile, I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the essay and both sets of maps.



Gulraiz Khan

Design. Research. Strategy. Interested in Cities, Cycling & Community.