Welcome to Dhaka, Bangladesh…
A hustling bustling city with life moving at what seems to be a million miles an hour, Dhaka is not a quiet, retiring place. It is a city, bursting with nearly 17 million people, is a gloriously noisy and chaotic place, bubbling with energy. The capital and largest city of Bangladesh, Dhaka is the cultural and economic hub of the country. Having a colossal historical background, Old Dhaka is home to a broad range of architectural heritage starting from the vestiges of the Mughal Empire to the British Colonial buildings. Being the center of the independence movements of Bangladesh, Dhaka also hosts some significant national monuments and structures.It’s a city that can sometimes threaten to overwhelm the casual visitor, but once you climb into the back of one of one of its colorful cycle-rickshaws, Dhaka’s charm starts to slowly reveal itself. Life flows from the boats on the Buriganga River to its unexpectedly green parks and university campuses. Mughal and British monuments speak of its history, its mosques and Hindu temples of its spiritual side, and the thriving arts and food culture.
Here are a few must-see sights and sounds that we recommend in this one-of-a-kind city.
Dating back from 1872, the Pink Palace was built on the site of an old French factory by Nawab Abdul Ghani, the city’s wealthiest zamindar (landowner) of yesteryear. Some 16 years after the palace’s construction, it was damaged by a tornado, then altered during restoration, becoming even grander than before. Lord Curzon, who served as Governor General and Viceroy of India, stayed here whenever he was in town.
The half-completed Lalbagh Fort and its well-tended gardens are an excuse to escape Old Dhaka’s hustle and bustle for an hour or so. The fort is particularly atmospheric in the early morning light. Construction began in 1677 under the direction of Prince Mohammed Azam, Emperor Aurangzeb’s third son, although he handed it to Shaista Khan for completion. However, the death of Khan’s daughter, Pari Bibi (Fair Lady), was considered such a bad omen that the fort was never completed.
Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection
This small area is known as Armanitola, and is named after the Armenian colony that settled here in the late 17th century. The white- and lemon-painted Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection, dating from 1781, is the soul of this now almost extinct community, and is a tranquil spot. Check out the many beautiful gravestones with Armenian inscriptions.
National Assembly Building
In 1963 the Pakistanis commissioned Louis Kahn, a world-renowned American architect, to design a regional capitol for East Pakistan. Due to the liberation movement and ensuing war, the National Assembly Building wasn’t completed until 1982. The building often features in books on modern architecture and is regarded as among Kahn’s finest works. It’s a huge assembly of concrete cylinders and rectangular boxes, sliced open with bold, multi-storey circular and triangular apertures instead of windows.
This dilapidated Mughal-era structure is one of the oldest buildings in Dhaka, although searching for it among the high-walled, pinched alleyways of this part of the city can be a challenge. Bara Katra, once a palace of monumental dimensions, was built in 1644 and now has a street running through its arched entrance.
Clouds of incense and a bursting paintbox of colors signal a welcome to so-called Hindu Street. Lined on either side with old houses, garlands of lurid orange marigolds, and dark doorways leading to matchbox-sized shops and workshops, this can be an extremely photogenic part of Old Dhaka, as the shankharis (Hindu artisans), whose ancestors came here over 300 years ago, busy themselves creating kites, gravestones, wedding hats and bangles carved out of conch shells. The area is particularly flamboyant during Hindu festivals, but colorful year round.
Running calmly through the center of Old Dhaka, the Buriganga River is the artery of Dhaka and the very lifeblood of both this city and the nation. Exploring it from the deck of a small boat from Sadarghat (shod-or-ghat) is to see Bangladesh at its true self, no frills or fuss. The panorama of river life is fascinating. Triple-towered ferries amidst pint-sized canoes and country boats bump against overladen barges. On the foreshores children fish with homemade nets and repairmen busy themselves crashing, bashing and scrubbing ship hulls while floating on planks of wood.
The shady, tranquil botanical gardens, stretch over 40 hectares and contain over 1000 species of local and foreign plants, as well as lots of birdlife that flock to its several lakes and ponds, particularly in winter. Away from the center of Dhaka city, it is a respite from the city’s mass of humanity with the Turag River in the distance.
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Air India Express will commence its operations on a new route connecting Delhi and Dhaka commencing February 16, 2017 with four flights a week on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday & Saturday. AIE also flies four times a week on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays on the Kolkata-Dhaka sector