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Mumtaz Mahal – The foxy lady of Pakistan

Posted on June 20, 2007
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, Humor, Travel
34 Comments
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Owais Mughal

Some of the public parks in Pakistan are one of their kind. Few months ago we had introduced the Haunted House of Hill Park, and today we will introduce Mumtaz Mahal located inside the Karachi Zoo. Karachi’s zoological gardens (also called Gandhi Gardens) has many animals to boast about. Animals are however not the only creatures at display here.

For the past 35 years a ‘maa-fauq-ul-fitrat’ (super natural) character is also kept in captivity here. This creature has a head of a lady and body of a fox. It is kept in a special pavilion called Mumtaz Mahal.

Inside the zoo, it is easy to find Mumtaz Mahal as the organisers use megaphone to invite you to see it. Zoo’s entrance ticket does not cover the visit to Mumtaz Mehal therefore one has to buy a separate ticket to see it.

Once inside the pavilion, you will see a fox’s hide placed on a table. Suddenly a woman’s head appears out of this hide in bright lipstick and heavy make-up. Small children in the audience are usually spell bound at this stage. The creature then talks with following starting line:

I was born like this in Africa 35 years ago, and live on cake, juice, and fruits …

This woman-fox creature also tells visitors their destiny and can allegedly answer your questions in any language of the world. I’ll leave the proof of this claim to our readership, who should visit Mumtaz mahal and ask this creature a question themselves. I’ve read on a website that people ask this creature all kinds of questions about their destiny. Somebody even asked about when will he get a work visa for Dubai.

The reality of Mumtaz Mehal is of course a big joke or hoax. The lady face is actually an enunch who has been doing this job for many years. The effect of fox body is created by optical illusion using mirrors. One thing I do want to mention is eventhough I wrote off Mumtaz Mehal as a big joke, it is still very popular among visitors.

I also have many fond memories of going to the zoo for day field trips with my primary school classes and family. I must admit, at younger age I used to be scared to go to Mumtaz mahal and look at this creature.

Following distant shot of Mumtaz Mahal pavilion shows the complete name of this creature as ‘Mumtaz Begum Africa wali.’

I’ll now end this post with a very short history note. Actual Mumtaz Mahal was the nickname of Arjumand Bano Begum (1593-1631) who was the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jehan and in whose loving memory Taj Mahal was built. 

While doing a web search today I found this interesting video where “Mumtaz Begum Africa wali” is being interviewed by some TV Channel.

Photo Credits: Photos for this post are credited to Mazhar Hasan and Umair Mohsin at flickr.com

Reference: ‘Foxy Lady’ is the title of a famous psychedelic rock song by Jimi Hendrix which came out in 1967.

34 Comments on “Mumtaz Mahal – The foxy lady of Pakistan”

  1. Neena says:
    June 20th, 2007 11:37 pm

    “As of 2007, I am not very sure if Mumtaz Mahal is still there and operational or not. Can somebody confirm?”

    You can get some info at Karachi Zoo‘s site.

  2. Owais Mughal says:
    June 21st, 2007 1:23 am

    Neena I didn’t find the info. on Zoo’s website, that is why I asked if anyone knew

  3. tina says:
    June 21st, 2007 2:03 am

    If a joke then it is a very fascinating one. Who cares if it is deception? It sounds like a lot of fun.

    In 1995 I visited Karachi zoo and do not remember seeing that billboard or the sideshow you describe. However I cannot say if it is there or not as the zoo is pretty good size.

  4. Owais Mughal says:
    June 21st, 2007 2:16 am

    I just noticed that the date of capture on the first two photos (taken from flickr) of this article is April 14, 2007. therefore the pavilion is definitely there as of 2007.

  5. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    June 21st, 2007 2:19 am


    I must admit, at younger age I used to be scared to go to Mumtaz mahal and look at this creature

    well that was scary for every kid I think but to be honest that Mumtaz lady was one of the reason to visit the Zoo. I read somewhere in paper that the “lady” had died and the show doesn’t go on anymore.

    Last time I went Gandhi garden in 97 and by mistake we went on easter day. We were all surrounded by masis and their families.

  6. sidhas says:
    June 21st, 2007 9:52 am

    I took my kids to Ghandi Garden last year and I was surprised to see the Mumtaz Mahal still standing and luring people to cough up money but a part of me still wanted to visit and see how people were made fool.

    By the way, Ghandi Garden is not a bad place to take kids especially in city like Karachi, where there is no breathing space.

  7. Akif Nizam says:
    June 21st, 2007 10:02 am

    I had heard about Mumtaz Mehal all my life but never cared to actually see it. About ten years back, some friends and I decided to finally put this must-see fixture of Karachi into our itinerary, so we went. There was a long moving line going in one side of the building and coming out the other, most of the people there were adults, mostly Afghans or Pathans who make up most of the labor force in Karachi.

    The whole experience could not have been more than one minute; you are in a queue, you get to a certain spot where you peek through a dirty, smelly curtain and see this really lame contraption depicting the body of a lion and the head of an over made-up really ugly eunich, as Owais pointed out. We could not believe that we actually paid money to see this but it worth a good laugh. So, shaking our heads and smiling, we came out with bemused expressions on our faces, as if to say, “what the heck was that!”.

    As we stood there in the sweltering heat and wondered what a waste of time it was to come all the way to witness this spectacle, we noticed that many others coming out of the booth did not seem as befuddled as we did, infact they had huge smiles on their faces. So, one of my friends decided to approach another visitor who appeared Afghani by appearance. My friend asked, ” Khan Saab, yeh kia tha ? ” The guy answered, ” kuch nahin, jism sher a laga diya, peechay say aurat ko kharha kar diya, drama hai sara”. So my friend asked,” Khan Saab, phir aap kyoon jaatain hain yahan?”. A huge smile appeared on the guy’s face and he said, ” chokree to dekh liya naa ! ”

    I don’t think I have ever laughed harder in my life.

  8. Rehan says:
    June 21st, 2007 10:10 am

    I have good memories of this as a kid. Of course everything is cynical in real life but as a child, I stood spell-bound with and shared hours of conversations with my cousins and “complicit” elders.

  9. Shehzad says:
    June 21st, 2007 10:29 am

    â€

  10. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    June 21st, 2007 11:23 am

    Owais: I like this story of innocence and loss of it. BTW, Mumtaz Mahal was the Royal and not the nick name of the Empress. Mausoleum Mumtaz Mahal ultimately became ‘Taj Mahal’, but that is another story. Enjoyed this post very much.

  11. Owais Mughal says:
    June 21st, 2007 11:43 am

    Akif, your comment made me smile :) I agree with you and Pervaiz that it is an innocence lost thing. If I go there now I’ll have the feeling that what the heck was that. What a waste of time and money on such a mediocre set-up but in our childhood I used to get very curious (or may be scared) of this drama :) Amazing that this Mumtaz Mahal has survived atleast 35 years (may be more).

  12. Akif Nizam says:
    June 21st, 2007 12:42 pm

    Owais, I did not mean to put down the legitamacy of Mumtaz Mehal as a Karachi landmark. Your piece was wonderfully told. As I mentioned, I only visited the place in my twenties, so obviously I went in with expectations lowered by a decade of cynicism.

  13. ShahidS says:
    June 21st, 2007 3:30 pm

    That show is still on, I must confess I was there last year.But this time I investigated and found that there is a short guy in make up sitting behind the table talkng in a female voice shakes the tail with a wire connection and a pushy one to throw money at him. Oh Please, who are they trying to fool. Yes the little kids and the innocent villagers.But to be honest I enjoyed it too.wink

  14. Pakistani Man says:
    June 22nd, 2007 12:23 am

    Wow. Brought back so many memories. Vey nicely written yaar.

  15. Pakistani Man says:
    June 22nd, 2007 12:26 am

    Brought back so many memories. wonderfully written yaar

  16. ShahidS says:
    June 22nd, 2007 3:27 am

    He is a tranvestite. Do you get it? Why is such a taboo thing? Why is there a denial? Why?

  17. Jyoti says:
    June 22nd, 2007 9:12 am

    @Akif Nizam- even Santa-banta jokes pale in compariosn to this one:) if I ever get to visit Karachi, I’ll definitely visit this zoo, and if possible, see the next incarnation of “Lomadi Lady”:):)

  18. Murtaza says:
    June 22nd, 2007 9:43 am

    Wow… few days I saw this on youtube.. you think this is the same? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcONYgflCYU&mode=related&search=

  19. veteran says:
    June 22nd, 2007 2:31 pm

    haha, what a great post sir, interesting topic ! Im going to go and visit this place.

  20. Salma khan says:
    June 23rd, 2007 4:46 am

    Thanks for remembrence!!!!

  21. RJ says:
    June 23rd, 2007 8:29 am

    Me too. I was curious but I never had the courage to go in.
    Thanks for evoking old, old memories.

  22. Farhan says:
    June 30th, 2007 10:54 am

    Mumtaz Mahal is still in the Zoo , I took those pics recently when I took my son to see it . The sheer ki body is replaced by a fox and a transvestite is sitting there , my 5 yr old hated it ( scared ;) , saying baba we are not going to go there again .

  23. Owais Mughal says:
    June 30th, 2007 11:28 pm

    Farhan saheb. We are grateful that you let us use the photos for this article. Also do share with us your experience, if you ever happen to go to this place again :)

  24. kzee says:
    July 9th, 2007 5:47 am

    Fox show can be found at karachizoo.com.pk

    http://www.karachizoo.com.pk/Plan%20your%20Visit.htm

    (D). Entry fee of Fox Show.
    i) Adults. Rs. 5/- per head.
    ii) Children upto 7 years. Rs. 2/- per head.

    cheers….

  25. Owais Mughal says:
    July 9th, 2007 7:40 am

    KZee thanks for finding out the information and ticket prices. The official title called ‘Fox show’ made me smile :)

  26. Dr. Zarrin Siddiqui says:
    August 17th, 2007 3:35 am

    Dear all contributors

    Congratulations on this site. I am amazed to find so much information about my homeland. My daughterstudent of year 9 is preparing a presentation fo rPakistan day and have benefitted greatly with all the information.
    Keep it up

  27. basit says:
    August 27th, 2007 7:44 am

    hahahahaaa…wat a jocks da ppl use 2 play wid us…

  28. August 29th, 2007 7:08 am

    even you can get all your new updated stories and information at: http://www.heritageonline.com.pk

  29. Naseer says:
    September 8th, 2007 4:23 am

    Hello All,
    If I remember correctly, the foxy lady’s name was ‘Mumtaz Begum’.
    We would remain spellbound by the sight of it.
    I am talking of the 60′s
    Cheers

  30. Jasmine says:
    October 1st, 2007 12:52 am

    hi, i was in karachi in july of 2007. don’t worry, mumtaz begum is still sitting in her house in karachi zoo :) and yes, she does “reveal” answers to visitors’ questions.

  31. Owais Mughal says:
    October 6th, 2007 9:11 pm

    From the above comments we’ve learned that this Mumtaz begum has been in this foxy ‘roop’ for almost 40+ years now. I am sure it is not the same person for 40 years. Naseer above said that he saw this stunt in 1960s and Jasmine confirmed it for 2007. This must be the longest running show at the Karachi Zoo.

  32. Friend says:
    October 11th, 2007 2:20 am

    Excellent Short dear

  33. Owais Mughal says:
    May 15th, 2008 8:27 pm

    The last photo of this article is added today. Take a look.

  34. Owais Mughal says:
    June 26th, 2011 6:05 pm

    check out the youtube of Mumtaz Begum Africa wali’s interview towards the end of the post.

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