After visiting Sri Lanka and the Maldives
I returned to Bangkok where I found out that I could get to Kathmandu and
Paris via Dhaka for only 470 US$ with the Bangladeshi airline Biman Air.
That good deal, added to my natural curiosity, was reason enough to stop
by and see what this place was like.
|Lonely Planet CIA|
This is Topkhana Road in the commercial area Motijeel where banks and business offices are located. Thailand where I had just come from and Nepal where I was going might be touristy, and perhaps too much so, but here, there are very few tourists and rightly so for there is no pleasure in observing the plight of the five million extremely poor people living outside of the better parts of Dhaka.
This great structure, the National Mosque named Baital Mukarram is the biggest and most modern of a large number of mosques in this Sunni Muslim city.
There are a few first class hotels for those who come on business and many very modest places for the locals such as the Asia Hotel shown here (light blue building on the left), where I stayed for 2.00US$ per night.
The Asia Hotel was modest but it offered all that I needed; a private room with toilet and mosquito net. It is here that I met my guide Mohamed Hassan thanks to a young Danish backpacker who was also staying in this place.
Dhaka lies on the north shore of the Buriganga River which is one of the branches of the Brahmaputra. As most of the city's supplies come by this waterway, the river traffic is heavy on the Sadargat waterfront and the roads leading to it are so jammed with people and every imaginable sort of vehicle as to be just about impassable.
The small but beautiful Ishtara Mosque is an oasis of peace lost in the maze of narrow streets east of Chowk Bazaar in the Old City
Equally lost in a maze of lanes, some unpaved, is the Lalbagh Fort built in the 17th century by Mohamed Azam, son of Aurangzeb, the last of the great Moghul emperors of India. When Azam's daughter Pari Bibi died, he built her the mausoleum seen here behind me and ended the military vocation of the fort.
Here is my friend Hassan with me in front of the National Museum. During two days, Hassan took me all over Dhaka on his rickshaw including to places I would not have dared visit alone. Although we did not talk very much, it was given to us to exchange a current of good vibrations that needed no explanation.
On my last day Hassan brought me to his home to meet his family and insisted that I share their meal. He never complained about the extreme poverty to which they were subjected, on the contrary he often praised Allah for having a devoted wife, healthy children and the ability to feed them.
I was deeply moved by the total hospitality of this penniless Muslim family. I realised how much I have to learn from people like this.
I think that I will never forget the look on Hassan's face as he bade me adieu when I left. It was one of the more profound experiences of my whole trip...