Sunday mornings – a kitsch festooned public bus, ferrying distinguished looking elderly and an eclectic bunch of teenagers around the mosaic of cultures that is Karachi. For most of them it is their first time on a public bus, and their first insight into their own cultural heritage – but for the Super Savari Express team, it is just another day in their endeavour to showcase Pakistan’s heritage, culture and history.
The Super Savari Express was started less than a year ago by Atif bin Arif and Bilal Hassan. Arif, having been raised between Pakistan and Canada, had travelled for a major part of his life. Upon visiting different cities, he noticed how each one had a tour showcasing its rich cultural heritage, while there was none in Pakistan. And thus, the idea of the Super Savari Express was born (formerly the Super Karachi Express, before diversification into other cities).
The Super Savari Express is mostly targeted at young people from the city itself, who have never seen life beyond their air-conditioned cars and high boundary walls. The upper echelon of society comprises the usual list of attendees, more for educational and awareness reasons than economic. The itinerary varies on a weekly basis, and now the tour even comes with a waiting list!
While the idea is to build a sense of pride about the coexistence of religions and diversity of cultures, one can’t help but wonder about the deep social and economic divide between the “tourists” and the “tourist spots’. However, creating awareness about the same in a few people has helped create a network of volunteers and sustainable growth practises; green plantation and landscaping, and sponsored tours for children from the underprivileged sections, to name a few.
Within a very short span of its existence, the Super Savari Express has managed to garner attention from hundreds of interested Pakistanis and has diversified into Islamabad and Lahore as well.
Their tagline suggests driving a nationwide effort in sustainable tourism to change the perception of Pakistan for the better. While that may take some time, for now, every Sunday people have an opportunity to reminisce about the long lost collective spirit, before the days of having to worry about sectarian violence.
Words by Madhuri Mukherjee