Dhaka

Destination Guide : Bangladesh : Dhaka

About Biman

The Capital of Bangladesh

Dacca or Dhaka, is the largest city in the nation. The city is known to be a colorful, congested and thriving metropolis with a population of 18 million. Considering the staggering population of the city and population density, the city is regarded as a frenetic place. The rivers and streets are colorfully filled with chaos. Visiting Dhaka can be overwhelming especially for first time visitors but it is also an exciting place to be. Dhaka has a long and complex history. First founded in the 4th century, it became the Mogul capital of Bengal in the 17th century before submitting to British rule in 1765. After India achieved independence in 1947, Dhaka was made the capital of East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in 1971. The city with a busy past has grown into a city with a busy present; first-time visitors to Dhaka are frequently astonished by the sheer pace and volume of activity. Official calculations estimate the number of rickshaws at 400,000, but with a city population of around seven million, it certainly feels like there are many, many more. Dhaka’s brightly decorated rickshaws make seven million passenger trips a day, covering 17 million kilometers, nearly double the output of the London Underground.

Attractions

The Mughal governors and princely viceroys who ruled the province of what is now Dhaka adorned it with many monuments, mosques, tombs, and fortifications. With these buildings often surrounded by beautifully laid-out gardens and pavilions, large parts of Dhaka are unexpectedly lush and leafy. Don’t miss Ahsan Manjil, a vivid pink concoction that used to be the official palace residence of the Nawab family. The family reigned over Dhaka until their rule was abolished in the 1950s, and the palace, located on the banks of the Buriganga River, is now a museum. Also consider exploring the curious lines of Parliament House at Sher-e-Bangla, a striking building designed by Louis I. Khan. Described somewhat erroneously as an architectural wonder, its stark lines and conical turrets contrast sharply with the elegant lines of the Pink Palace of Ahsan Manjil.

Shopping

Dhaka’s location in the heart of the jute-growing region ensures that its thriving textile industry churns out a vast supply of rope, string, baskets, and bags. Cotton and muslin are also common in this part of the world, and colorful saris and other textiles can be found in abundance. Dhaka is known for its cottage industries, and many visitors enjoy browsing the many different handicrafts on sale, which include embroidery, carved shells, and confectionery alongside the material staples. As the city slowly meanders into the 21st century, roadside vendors are inevitably being replaced by shopping malls, but enough remain for you to practice your haggling skills. For fixed-price items, head to New Elephant Road, where shrewd shoppers can buy beautiful, handcrafted crockery sets for the price of a Western tea cup.

Dining and Nightlife

Dining in Dhaka ranges from cheap roadside eateries (which are best avoided) to midrange eateries on Gulshan’s Road No. 11 and fancy restaurants in upmarket neighborhoods such as Banani. Most international styles are available; however, try the Bangla-fusion cuisine in Gulshan—Bangladeshi favorites with a twist. Nightlife in Dhaka is not as prevalent as in other Asian destinations, but clubs and bars with DJs can be found in a handful of international hotels in areas such as Gulshan and Banani. Ask around or consult a recent travel guide for the best suggestions.

Beyond Dhaka

Many visitors find Dhaka’s overwhelming urban sprawl somewhat claustrophobic, and there is no better antidote than taking a trip south to the Sundarbans. A transfrontier wildlife park with over 10,000 square kilometers of land and water split roughly 60/40 between Bangladesh and India, the Sundarbans is situated in the Ganges Delta, where the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal. Sundarban translates as "beautiful jungle" in Bengal, and it’s easy to see why the park has earned that name. Home of the world’s largest concentration of mangrove forests, the Sundarbans has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1997 and is home to an estimated 300 Royal Bengal tigers. These elusive animals are not a guaranteed sighting, but there are plenty of other flora and fauna to keep your cameras clicking, including macaques, pangolin, crocodiles, turtles, and dolphins.