Bangladesh-born Sumaiya Khan moved to the United States when she was five-years-old, but despite the distance, Dhaka still feels like home. “A common misconception is that it’s not a typical vacation spot, that there’s nothing to do there,” says Sumaiya. “But Bangladesh is such a beautiful country with so much history and culture.”
It may not be on your travel list, but Sumaiya tells us why we should visit Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.
As a self diagnosed shopaholic, there is nothing better than finding a great bargain, and Dhaka is full of them. It has become such a huge commercial society and you can find almost anything if you know where to go. The shops in front of Dhaka College market, New Market and Anarkoli Market have tons of western wear at affordable prices. Bashundhara City and Jamuna Future Park are two of South Asia’s biggest shopping malls. Chandni Chawk, Gausia Market, Hawker’s Market, and Mirpur Benarasi Polli have more saree options than there are days in the year. Mouchak Market has amazing low end jewellery options while Pink City is on the higher end. My favorite store is Aarong with its collection of handicrafts, rugs, artwork, sarees and salwar kameez.
Dhaka not only has some great restaurants with cuisine from different parts of the world, it also has delicious street food, cool rooftop spots and whimsically decorated coffee shops.
Every restaurant we went to had so much lush greenery, amazing wait service and of course delicious food. The standouts were Rickshaw Café, Horse and Horse, Atrium, Star Kabab, Swiss Bakery and Cha Wallah.
And let’s not forget the amazing cha, which is how we say tea in Bengali.
My favorite was at a food stand in Panam City, run by a young boy and his family. He boiled the condensed milk till it was frothy and steeped the tea to perfection before combining them to make delicious cups of cha that I am still dreaming about.
I am sure many South Asians can relate to visiting their native country with parents and spending the entire time visiting relatives, some who you haven’t seen since you were a baby. While seeing our family was the main priority, I also wanted to be a tourist and enjoy Dhaka’s rich history.
Ahsan Manzil was the official residential home of the Nawab of Dhaka, the biggest Muslim aristocrat of the time. In 1992 it was restored by the government and is commonly known as the Pink Palace.
The incomplete 17th century Lalbagh Fort is a grand reminder of the Mughal influence in Bangladesh. Emperor Aurangzeb’s third son, Prince Mohammed Azam began the construction of this fort which includes beautiful gardens-a peaceful getaway from the city’s buzz.
Panam City, Sonargaon was once the epicenter of Dhaka, located near the Narayanganj port. It was first established by Buddhist rulers in the 13th century before Mughal rulers took control in the following century. But the buildings you see there today were established during British rule when it flourished as a center of cotton trading. The architecture reflects both Mughal and European colonial styles. Walking through the city will take you into another world where past and present exist simultaneously.
How many days should you spend in Dhaka?
A week minimum giving you ample time to explore.
What is the best time of year to go?
November to early February, because the weather is cooler than the rest of the year. The temperature ranges from 24 to 27 degrees Celsius.
What are some common phrases?
Most people in Dhaka speak “Banglish,” which is a mix of English and Bengali. Everyone says common English words and phrases (hello, thank you, you’re welcome and I’m sorry).
In Bangla you can say the following:
Thank you = Dhonno badh
How are you? = Kemon acho?
Let’s go out to eat = Cholo, bairey khethe jaee
What should I pack?
Loose clothing to keep cool. Don’t bring anything too fitted or short since it is a majority Muslim country. Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, mosquito repellent and small crossbody purse to keep valuables close to be careful of theft.
But the most important thing to bring is an open mind so that you can really enjoy this non-typical tourist destination whose people and culture will win you over.
Don’t forget to also explore the rest of Bangladesh. There’s the tea gardens of Sreemangal, the sights of Bichnakandi, the panoramic beach of Kuakata, the longest natural beach of Cox Bazaar, the floating markets of Barisal, the grasslands of Sajek Valley, the views of
Bandarban, and the list goes on. There is so much this city and country have to offer.