Tuesday, November 4, 2008

a week in dhaka

Being in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, after 12 years, felt quite surreal. Things have changed. The airport for a start has had a massive re-vamp. As we drove from the airport to my uncle's apartment, I noticed that the "New Town" is now just as busy and congested as the "Old Town" used to be when I was a child

I had gone there with a goal that needed to be achieved and Alhamdulillah it was. I got to see and talk to my grandmother and she was pleased to see me. Lots of warm hugs (and food) were shared! I got to meet a lot of relatives and came back with lots of gifts from them. I also got to taste different fruits and flavours, curries and puris, pickles and jams, star fruit juice and coconut water.

My Dad's ancestors have been in Dhaka for quite a few years. Initially, everyone settled in the old part of Dhaka (now known as "Old Town"). Generally, I saw that most people have held on to a lot of the cultural aspects of their ancestors. For example, the language they speak is a form of Urdu and a lot of the food is still popular in Kashmir (such as this light, flakey bread/pastry, Baqarkhani Roti).

On the other hand, a lot of the younger generation have married out of the family(!) and many are married to Bangladeshis. So just like they have in most places, cultures have combined to form new ones and all sorts of beautiful mixtures have arisen.

Bangladesh is a poor nation. But I was pleasantly surprised to see less street beggars and a more visually, active workforce.

This is in the Islampur Road Market before businesses start trading. This part of Old Dhaka has become extremely commercialised now and many of the families still living inthe area are trying to move out. Many years ago this area was home to my great grandfather. Now it is known for it's textile wholesalers and retailers.

Just behind one of the market streets is Ahsan Manzil (I managed to get the dome in the picture but it's not clear at all!). This palace was home to my father's ancestors and has now been made in to a museum.
Wiki has a better picture of it:

The Islampur Gate. It is in a terrible state of disrepair.

Dhaka is not a beautiful city. There are places in Bangladesh like Silhet, Chittagong and Cox's Bazaar that are. Nevertheless, I found Dhaka to be a lot greener than I'd remembered.

The perfect climate for a whole host of plants:

Public Transport:

You can jump in to a taxi anywhere, but my trip to Dhaka would not be complete without getting on a rickshaw!

Things seemed to be even greener than I thought. The "other" form of transportation: the "Baby Taxi" also known as the "Auto Rickshaw" or now commonly known as the "CNG" because it runs on Compressed Natural Gas.

Another green issue I noticed was the lack of plastic bags. Coming from Saudi, it was almost a shock to the system! Any disposable bags available were paper bags and most looked recycled. And this is the rubbish (or garbage) collector:

Yes, it's a tricycle! Household rubbish seemed to be quite minimal and collected in relatively small buckets from each apartment.

My Buys:

Well, some of them. Some cotton throws, a bag and a lamp.

Made by hand in Bangladesh of course!


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