(if the author of this narrative reads this, please let us know in comments section so we may give proper credit. Photos are also from various sources, some taken by me Amin H. Karim MD )
Old guys will enjoy reading beautiful history of Hotel Metropole
Hotel Metropole was inaugurated sometime in 1953-54. Founded by Cyrus Faramjee Minwala; but after Beach Luxury which came up in 1948.
Hotel Metropole was the second decent and worthwhile hotel of Karachi City with good cuisine in town. It was in the heart of Karachi. Its strength was basically being in city central area.
The main entrance from the Sindh Club side was glorious.
We had midgets (bow nay) on duty at the entrance gate and at the old fashioned grill lift operated manually. Surrounded by the four sides of the hotel was a huge lawn and a stage where I have attended at least 12 Christmas parties…and during the three consecutive ones, my Garden Rod Colony neighbor; Shaukat Aziz was with me. From 1957 to 1968 my father’s eldest sister Princess Mehr Bano Begum of Mamdot after Beach Luxury, stayed in HM as a long staying guest in room no.20 on 2nd floor. She died in this hotel…in 1963.
The top floor of the hotel was all round….fully occupied by the famous German airline LUTHANSA for it’s slip flights crew and offices.
The entrance to the hotel from Services Club side had a huge ballroom where I have attended at least 15 New Year Eve parties during 1968-1980. HM had three Bank branches of ; HBL, Grindlays and MCB. I remained posted in HBlL at HM from 1972 to 1974 July. hM had a huge office of the famous American airline PAN AM (as seen right the front centre view) and HM also had the most famous Chemist shop at the left row of this view right next to the Gerry’s Travels who’s owner died in PIA’s Cairo Aircrash of 1964.
By 70’s the hotel got itself under it’s own management, two of the most reckoned night clubs; in fact one a Discotheque namely “Karachi Discotheque” on the first floor and a night club “SAMAR” which were decorated royally with chamois sofa seat covers and beautiful candle stands with coolest air-conditioning you can feel in Genting Highland, Malaysia or in Salalah, Oman now….. It had a chilling effect and the liquor with imported sifts drinks in cans like coke and pepsi. The food was awesome and so were the people. SAMAR always had a Foreign Band in attendance….with some great numbers like “Yesterday Once More” and “Mardi GRAS” not go forget that French romantic hit Je’Taime for slow dancing. We divided the weekends in two each fir SAMAR and Karachi Discotheque….as both the places had a different mood and ambiance…. SAMAR more of ballroom dancing and light music with live shows and KD with more of Rock n Roll and Twist numbers…..The famous Christian local band IN CROWD were amazing and mesmerizing at the KD and I think in SAMAR also.
KD has great memories of knuckle duster fights arising out of some bullys getting drunk after one or two glasses….and then the flying handle and sometimes knives even but never a gun!!
Hotel Metopole had an AC in every room… I remember the make “Welbilt” and “Westinghouse” which had chilling effect. The first floor had many offices by the 70’s including GULLIVER TRAVELS of Nawab Kaifi husband of our TV Artiste Ghazala Kaifi. The rooms were larger then the ones PC has now…and the view from the Sindh Club side was beautiful… You could see the lush green lawn of Frere Hall even.
Right on the road touching the shop pavement of HM in front of HBL… a man use to showcase some retrievable parts of ships he use to get after the ship were scrapped in HUB chowkidars, Karachi. Ship locks, Helms, Bell….et al were promptly displayed every day scattered on the roof and bonnet of my phoppi’s PREFECT car…..which eventually went to that old man as a gift from the Princess.
During my HBL days…not very long but relatively limited to two years, we had many staff of PIA Shafi Courts Booking and District Sales Office next to Karachi Gymkhana visiting and and us visiting them for distribution of their salaries in cash…. I remember people like Abdullah Jaffery, Mrs. Munaf, Shahida Jaffery (wife of our dear departed TV Artiste Saleem Jaffery.. A Unikarian) and (now) the wife of former Governor SBP Saleem Raza….who became so cooperative that we enjoyed preferred booking on priority through hand written PIA tickets then.
Mr. Malabari, the Chief Accountant at HM gave me special discounts at SAMAR and KD with two times a month free entry/dinner etc for four……..
Entering Hotel Metropole gave you a totally relaxed feelings. I can never forget it’s cupcakes and special large size pastries…. Malabari use to send us at the branch.
The new year parties were a fairytale that still looms o wonderfully in our minds. Of those umpteenth NYP at HM……all had live bands and I can never forget my tuxedo which my father had bought for me from Hong Kong in 1967…..which gave me an extra advantage with a black bow, a golden inside jacket with tux having shinny selvedge on coat collars and trousers sideline that sanding to the music of Ce Sera Sera played by Defenders at Hotel Metropole’s ballroom was ever mesmerizing…..and so was my partner Veronica from PIA who migrated to Perth, Australia after the last dance I had with her in 1969 NYP at HM.
The history has it that the American actress Donna Reed spent two nights at HM when she was flying from London to Bangkok by PAN AM. She had desired to see Frere Hall and Jehangir Kothari Parade in Clifton. The American Embassy took care of her. That was probably in 1964. I saw her at the lobby of HM being received by Happy Minwala’s father…….
Our famous actors of that era like; Sabiha, Santosh, Nayyar Sultana, Bahar, Shamim Ara, Darpan….all use to stay in HM whenever on shoot in Karachi. In fact the famous movie “Saheli” starring Shamim Ara, Darpan and Nayyar Sultana ( also linked as a copy of Indian hit ANDAZ ) also has a song which mentions the glory and modernism of Hotel Metropole by words..sung by Irene Perveen.
The most famous outlet in HM was the Universal TDK/AKAI shop facing the Princely Travels adjacent to the other famous spot AMPIS SHEZAN…which still survives. That was the era of tape recorders and big spools recorded with music or speeches and fixed with two spools to loop the tape passing through a small gadget which carried the head having the system to read the magnetic tape ( just like the strip on your credit/debit visa card which carries your data ) and reproduce whatever recorded through a mic or direct cable system. The best known player one time and for long was AKAI….and I still have over 12 spools in my archived collection from 60’s and 70’s…… Our famous (Fifty-Fifty) TV artiste Adil Wadia use to work for Universal / AKAI. I had many cassettes and spools taped with my favorite songs there. In fact, if you pass between HM and AMPIS SHEZAN…you can still see UNIVERSAL/TDK closed shop with it’s signboard nobody…in this running world of Karachi….has time to take it off.
Another huge attraction to have tea or ice cream in HM’s coffee shop was the adjacent PALACE Cinema which was a small yet most visited cinema hall of Karachi for comedy and slapstick movies—specially the Sunday morning shows at 10 AM ( yeah….people were mad enough …..then that they got up at 8 AM for breakfast with the entire family or joint family and put on the radio to enjoy the special Sunday morning program “Hamid Mian K Yehan” with laughters and proximity…. ). Palace has now become shaadi gharr….the only development seen in this nation of 180 million if we are to talk about what have we achieved past 64 years? We now have shaadi ghars “all over this land”…(sorry Trini Lopez…!)
Hotel Metropole, Karachi has a huge history matching it’s size of plot now in focus of hawks!!!!
The sad part is that they failed to manage the hotel while Avaris did remarkably well due to their experience and service, quality and superb management.