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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe capital of Bangladesh - Dhaka is one of the busiest and also one of the most crowded cities in the world. The moment you land at the airport and step out on to the road you will get submerged by hoards of people, automobiles, and thousands of richly-colored rickshaws. But when you slowly get accustomed to the situation, you can feel the pulse of this beautiful Bengali city. Such is the nature of Dhaka. Bengali is the mother tongue of the people of Dhaka, though English and also Urdu is well understood by most of the local people.
History and DemographicsDhaka has a population of nearly 15 million, which makes it one of the most densely populated and busiest cities of the world. The large number of population, and probably equal amount of automobiles in the street, has made the city badly polluted. Dhaka acts as the seat of arts and culture, economy,and politics of the Asian nation, Bangladesh.
In the 17th century, Dhaka served as the capital of the Mughal sultanate, and the city was named in the honor of Emperor Jahangir. The city was once the trading center of muslin and so it attracted traders from different nations during the bygone times.
However, the modern Dhaka, what we see today started forming shape during the time of the British rule in the 19th century.
Prior to the independence of India, Bangladesh was not a separate country. In the year 1947, when India achieved independence from the hands of the British, Bangladesh became a separate country, with Muslim as the majority, and Dhaka became an administrative city of East Pakistan. This led to further rise of severe nationalist contradiction and pro-democratic movement in the country, which again led to Bangladesh Liberation War (which was supported by the Indian nationals) in the year 1971.
Nevertheless, in recent times Dhaka has become one of the fastest growing cities in the world, attracting people from other nationalities and showing their increasing interest in foreign trade and investment.
Dhaka is located in the central part of Bangladesh. The city grew up by the eastern bank of Buriganga River. The land is characterized by moist soils and tropical vegetation and is closer to sea level. It is, for this reason, that Dhaka and also several geolocations around this city often falls a prey of violent storms, heavy rainfalls, and cyclones, leaving the city to be torn apart, time and time again for many centuries in the past.
Places to visit in DhakaThe mix of Mughal rule, colonial supremacy and the rapid urbanization has given Dhaka a unique blend and many memorable places to visit. Here lies some of the famous destinations which you should add it to your itinerary.
Lalbagh FortThis incomplete fort was built by Muhammad Azam Shah in the year 1678. Prince Azam was the son of Aurangzeb, the late Mughal emperor. The fort had witnessed many gruesome wars, right from the Mughal period to the Liberation War of Bangladesh. Inside the premise, lies the tomb of Prince Azam’s consort, Pari Bibi. This impressive mausoleum lies in the center of the fort. Beside the tomb, there is Lalbagh Mosque, a Turkish style bathing place for Nawab Shaista Khan and a large hall for the audience, which now houses a museum. The fort remains open from 9 AM – 5 PM from October to March, and 10 AM – 6 PM from April to September. The fort is closed on Monday morning and Sunday and a nominal fee of 10 – 15 BDT is charged for entry. Camera is strictly prohibited and you have to leave them in the storage room before you enter.
Ahsan ManzilAlso known as Pink Palace, this splendid fort is located by the side of Buriganga River. It was once the residence for the Nawab of Dhaka. The palace is built using pink stone and has 31 rooms. The huge dome on the top can be seen from miles away. The palace has been recently renovated and converted into a museum showcasing the historical remnants of the bygone era. There is also a beautiful garden attached to this building.
Old High Court BuildingAn erstwhile residence of the British governor, the building is now used to house the Bangladesh Supreme Court.
BangabhabanThis palace, once built by the British is now the house of the President of Bangladesh.
Baitul Mukarram MosqueThe mosque was constructed in the year 1968 and is considered the 10th largest mosque in the world.
Chawk MosqueThis beautiful mosque, located at Old Dhaka was built in the 17th century, probably by the Mughals.
Dhakeshwari TempleThis important foundation the temple is located on Dhakeshwari Road and was built in the 12th century.
Armenian Church of the Holy ResurrectionThis church is located in Armanitola and was constructed during the late 17th century by the Armenians. The entry to the church is always closed. In order to enter this holy house of the Lord, one must ask the caretaker, ‘who lives inside’, permission to enter the church.
Hussaini Dalan MosqueThis mosque was built during the 17th century by the Mughals for a religious leader. The architecture resembles the British and Mughal style.
1857 MemorialLocated in Sadarghat, this memorial was built to salute the victims that fought valiantly against the British rule in the Liberation War from 1857 to 1859.
National MuseumThis museum, located on Shahbag Road, has a wonderful collection of paintings and sculptures from the Mughal, British, and Buddhist era. During April to September, it remains open from 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM Saturday – Wednesday and 2:30 PM – 7:30 PM on Friday. During October to March, the schedules are: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM Saturday – Wednesday, 2:30 PM – 7:30 PM Friday. During the month of Ramadan, the schedule changes to 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM Saturday – Wednesday. As a foreigner, you need to pay 75 BDT as an entry fee.
Institute of Arts and CraftsAlso known as Charukola Institute, it has an impressive collection of folk and modern art by the artists of Bangladesh. The museum is a part of Dhaka University in Shahbag.
Sadarghat River FrontIf you are planning to take a boat ride to cruise down the Buriganga River, you have to reach this river port. You can hire a boat right from the port and be aware of the touts! These touts will give you false assurance for an hour-long boat ride, but in reality that’s not correct.
Besides the aforesaid areas, some other places that may interest you are Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, Liberation War Museum, National Botanical Gardens, Shaheed Minar, Curzon Hall in Dhaka University, Dhammarajika Bouddha Maha Vihar, Holy Rosary Church, and the International Buddhist Monastery.
Some of the other major cities in Bangladesh to consider traveling are: Cox Bazar, Chittagong, Khulna, and Sylhet. If you intend to visit Sundarbans – the land of Royal Bengal Tiger, you have to reach Khulna.
Religious FestivalsBangladesh is a Muslim dominated country, albeit there are people of Hindu origin who lives in this land. That is why Dhaka enjoys both the major Muslim and Hindu festivals. Some of the main festivals celebrated in Dhaka are: Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Chaand Raat], Ashura, Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja, Ekushey Boi Mela, Shakrain and Borodin (Christmas).
Traveling in DhakaThe intense traffic congestion in Dhaka city makes it literally impossible to travel by road. The best option is to walk if you plan to travel for a short distance. However, be aware of the speeding buses and the rickshaws as there are a number of frequent road accidents in the city.
RickshawFor short-distance travel, rickshaw is the best choice. In fact, Dhaka is famous for rickshaws. This richly colored three-wheeled paddled vehicle has literally occupied the streets of Dhaka. Records indicate that there are around 400,000 rickshaws that operate in the Dhaka city. In order to reduce the number of accidents, the rickshaws are banned from some main road crossings inside the capital. Also, be sure to deal with the fare before you step into a rickshaw. If you have to travel after 11:00 PM by rickshaw, do not carry your valuables as there are several incidents of late night thefts and burglaries in Dhaka.
TaxiYellow Taxi is probably the best and the safest way to travel in Dhaka as a tourist. You can hire a taxi for one trip or keep it even for an entire day.
BusThere are ample buses on the streets of Dhaka. These buses either operate within the Dhaka city or commute to the other cities in Bangladesh. The number plates of these buses are written in Bengali, which may confuse you, and you have to rely on others for assistance. During daytime, the buses are over-crowded but they are really cheap to travel.
Auto RickshawsThere are plenty available in Dhaka city. They are run by meter, but some driver may harass you as they are reluctant to start the meter at times. If that is so, just wait and look for another one. Not all the auto drivers are of the same nature and you will definitely find an honest driver within some time.
TrainThere are no suburban rail services in Dhaka. The rail network operates to connect Dhaka with other major cities of Bangladesh.
How to Reach BangladeshThe Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka operates domestic and international flights. The Biman Bangladesh – the flag carrier of the country, is connected to 18 international destinations, including London. The neighboring countries like Pakistan and India have frequent flights to reach the capital. If you travel from India, you can avail direct flight from Kolkata, Mumbai, and Delhi.
You can also reach Dhaka from Kolkata by bus. These buses are of luxury type. But they take a long time because of the visa formalities which need to be filled near the border of Bangladesh and India.
Kolkata also has a train service to Dhaka. Maitree Express operates once in a week to reach Dhaka but, it again, takes a long time to cross the border. But in any case, the train journey is always more comfortable than traveling by a bus.
Where to stayDue to lack of tourism infrastructure in Dhaka, it is often hard to get a decent hotel to stay and it is better to book one beforehand. Nevertheless, there are a couple of budget and luxurious hotels, which you can consider.
Some common budget hotels for a foreigner to stay in are Mariott Guest House, Grand Prince Hotel, Eastern House, Richmond Hotel & Suites, Ambrosia Guest House and Grand Azad Hotel.
For a lavish living, you can opt for Hotel Sarina, Hotel Orchard Plaza, Lake Castle Hotel, Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, Quality Inn, Rupashi Bangla, Radisson Water Garden Hotel, Lake Shore Hotel, and Lake Castle Hotel.
What to EatThere are numerous options to eat in Dhaka. The staple food is rice and fish or meat and you will find them in various delicious dishes, all across the city at a very cheap rate. Besides, there are numerous fast-food joints like Pizza Hut and KFC. Being a Muslim dominated country, it is hard to find vegetarian food, except for the few Indian restaurants in the city. If you reach the upscale area of Dhaka, like Banani or Gulshan, you will find a lot of restaurants serving Vietnamese, Thai, Greek, and also Mexican cuisines.
Some important notes
- Traveling in Dhaka is cheap, if you travel from the West. The local currency is Taka. As the current rate of pegging varies around 77 BDT which is equivalent to $1
- Dhaka deems Friday as a holiday and the traffic is not as bad on this day. If you are looking to travel outside the city, Friday would be the best day for it.
- Most of the people of Dhaka are very friendly and extremely co-operative, a typical Bengali trait seen with people living both in Kolkata and Bangladesh.
- As a Muslim country, alcoholic drinks are difficult to find, except in some elite clubs and few shops where you need to show your passport prior to buying them. There are very few bars in the city, but those are hard to stumble upon.
- As an Islamic nation, pork is strictly forbidden in Bangladesh.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Feb 08, 2015