Dhaka

Dhaka is the administrative, financial and cultural heart of Bangladesh

Dhaka (formerly Dacca in English) is the capital of Bangladesh. One of the major cities of South Asia, it has a population of over 15 million people and is the political, economic and cultural focal point of Bangladesh. Dhaka emerged as a cosmopolitan and religiously diverse city in the 17th century when it became the capital of the historic region of Bengal in the Mughal Empire. Becoming the capital of independent Bangladesh after the country's Liberation War in 1971; Dhaka has emerged as one of the fastest growing cities in the world. The city boasts of significant modernist international architecture. With its daily traffic of 600,000 cycle-rickshaws, Dhaka is also known as the Rickshaw Capital of the World.

Districts

Districts of Dhaka
Central Dhaka
Home to the National Capital Complex, including the National Parliament designed by Louis Kahn. It also includes the prestigious University of Dhaka campus, the historic Suhrawardy Park, the Institute of Fine Arts, the Bangladesh National Museum, the Dhaka Club, the Ramna Park, the Liberation War Museum, the Motijheel Commercial Area and the Kawran Bazaar Business District. It is the city's financial hub and the center of the national press and media.
North Dhaka
Includes Gulshan and other affluent areas, with the diplomatic zone, corporate avenues and international hotels and restaurants. The city's zoo, botanical gardens and cricket ground are also located in the north.
Old Dhaka
The historic and riverside quarter of Dhaka. The area is full of centuries-old tangled streets and alleyways. It includes mansions of Dhaka's old aristocracy and merchant class; Mughal and British colonial ruins; mosques, tombs; and the former Armenian district. Old Dhaka has a distinctive cuisine, including its special Bakharkhani biscuits, kebabs and biryani. The Sadarghat is Dhaka's waterfront and one of the busiest river ports in the world. A hub for ferries, boats and steam ships, it is the gateway to Dhaka for millions of people traveling between the city and the countryside each year.
Outer suburbs
Site of the international airport; as well as satellite towns and a large industrial and rural area in the north and east

Understand

Modern Dhaka is a thriving, colourful and congested metropolis. Being one of the most densely populated places on the planet, Dhaka can be one of the most frenetic cities in the world. Its streets and rivers are filled with colourful chaos. The city plays host to the highest number of rickshaws in the world. Dhaka is also the center of Bangladesh's textile industry, the country's principal foreign exchange earner. Experiencing the city for the first time may seem overwhelming.

Geography

Dhaka in the Bengal Delta

Dhaka is located in the most dynamic hydrological system in the world, where mighty rivers churn the landscape during annual monsoon rains and floods, producing one of the most fertile regions in the world and an amazing chemistry of land and water.

Dhaka covers a total area of 360 square kilometres (140 sq mi) in the lower reaches of the Ganges delta. It is bounded by the Rivers Buriganga, Dhaleshwari and Turag; and their numerous tributaries and river channels. The land is close to sea level. Dhaka is vulnerable to flash floods during the monsoon.

Etyomology

The literal meaning of the name Dhaka is "concealed". The enigmatic name might have originated from dhak trees found in the area; or from the 12th-century Hindu Dhakeshwari Temple.

History

The 17th century Mughal Lalbagh Fort
Dhaka under British rule in 1861

The earliest settlements in the region date back 2,500 years. Dhaka was the capital of Bengal during the Mughal Empire in the 17th century. As the seat of administration and commerce in the Bengal Delta, the wealthiest and most fertile region in the Empire, it became one of the largest and most prosperous cities in Asia. Proclaimed as the provincial capital in 1608, Mughal Dhaka had a population of one million people, with well-laid out gardens, monuments, tombs, forts, mosques, temples, churches and caravansaries and churches. The city was home to Armenian, Persian, Greek, Arab, Portuguese, French, Dutch and English merchants. Its riverbanks were once dotted with numerous stately mansions and the city was described as the Venice of the East. The Dhaka District was famous worldwide for its fine cotton muslin fabrics. The British East India Company took control of the city in 1793.

In British Bengal, Dhaka and its sister city Calcutta played a tale of two cities in the region, greatly affecting the course of events in the British Raj. The short-lived Partition of Bengal in 1905 established Dhaka as the capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam and incubated the broader Indian independence movement. The All India Muslim Educational Conference in Dhaka in 1906 established the All India Muslim League. The University of Dacca gained a reputation as the Oxford of the East in its early years. Dhaka became the capital of East Pakistan after the Partition of British India in 1947. Increasing political and cultural friction with West Pakistan gave rise to the secular Bengali nationalist movement in the 1950s. The Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 established Dhaka as the new national capital.

Post-independence, the city has greatly expanded with the inauguration of Louis Kahn's capital complex in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, the rise of posh modern neighborhoods in North Dhaka and densely populated satellite towns. It was the birthplace of SAARC in 1985. The growth of the Bangladeshi economy has brought greater trade and foreign investment. Dhaka continues to face many challenges. The gap between rich and poor is widening. A thirty minute rickshaw ride can take you from the impossibly crowded shantytowns near Old Dhaka to the glitzy upper class neighborhoods of Gulshan and Banani, where a meal costs more than what most people earn in a day.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 25 28 33 34 33 32 31 32 32 32 30 26
Nightly lows (°C) 13 16 20 24 25 26 26 26 26 24 19 14
Precipitation (mm) 8 20 58 117 267 358 399 318 257 163 30 5

The weather is subtropical - hot and very humid during the summer monsoon season (April–September) and drier and cooler in the winter (October–March). Visitors from colder countries might want to visit in the winter when temperatures are around 20C and humidity is low (around 60-70%). Most rainfall occurs between May and October. Increasing air and water pollution emanating from traffic congestion and industrial waste are serious problems affecting the city. Dense fog is usually seen between November and January, and can disrupt flights and ferry transport.

A sculpture in the Armenian Church, built in 1781

Literature

The following is a selection of prominent works set in the city:

Get in

By plane

A Turkish Airlines jet in Dhaka International Airport

Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (DAC/HSIA) is the primary airport serving Dhaka. It has regular international flights from London, Istanbul, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Colombo, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Karachi, Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Yangon and Kathmandu. There are also flights to Paro in Bhutan, Male in the Maldives and Kunming in the Yunnan province of China. The airport has significant traffic with the Middle East, including Muscat, Jeddah, Doha, Bahrain and Kuwait. The national airline Biman operates flights to 21 cities in Europe and Asia; while private Bangladeshi carriers operate regional flights within South and Southeast Asia. Hazrat Shahjalal is a relatively modern and efficient airport. However, immigration can take notoriously long during peak hours. If you are transferring from the international to domestic terminal, beware of airport officials at the scanning station (before the domestic terminal) who will tell you that the domestic terminal is closed, make you sit down, and then try to extort bribes from you. If that happens, get up, and quickly walk out of the doors and turn right towards the domestic terminal. Once inside, he may follow you, but loudly tell him to leave you alone. He will back down and go back to his station.

Domestic flights link five cities within the country.

By train

Trains arrive from Kolkata in India (11-12 hours) and most cities in Bangladesh, including Chittagong and Sylhet. Dhaka's central railway station in Kamlapur is a hub for all regional and intercity trains. The international airport terminus is also a key station. Major cities and towns are connected daily by 2-3 services with Dhaka.

Tickets can be bought online from the Bangladesh Railway website.

By bus

Buses are a popular mode of cross country transport in Bangladesh. Luxury AC buses fare daily between Dhaka and other Bangladeshi cities, including Chittagong, Khulna, Bogra, Jessore, Rajshahi, Cox's Bazar and Sylhet, as well the Indian cities of Kolkata and Agartala. Tickets cost between 800-1200 Taka. Ticket counters are located across the city, particularly in the Panthapath and Arambagh areas. Non-AC buses travel to every major town in the country. There are several terminals located across Dhaka serving a different region of Bangladesh. Sayedabad serves buses traveling between Dhaka and the eastern divisions of Sylhet and Chittagong. Gabtali is for buses traveling between Dhaka and the western divisions of Rajshahi, Rangpur and Khulna. Mohakhali serves buses traveling around Dhaka Division, including the districts of Mymensingh and Tangail.

By car

Dhaka is the focal point of the national highway system in Bangladesh. The nearest international borders to the city are the Akhaura/Agartala Border Crossing with Northeast India and Haridaspur/Benapole with the Indian state of West Bengal. Cars can be used to travel from the Indian border; but the border with Myanmar remains closed.

By boat

A rocket steamer in the bustling Sadarghat river port

Most ferries arrive and leave from the port of Sadarghat. This area and its surrounding streets are unbelievably crowded, so allow plenty of time and keep an eye on your valuables. If arriving at the port, fight your way to the left on the frontage road and then make your first right; this turns into Nawabpur Road and leads north to the hotels. Even if you aren't staying in this area, it's easier to walk several hundred metres north to catch an onward rickshaw or taxi; the ones near the port are at a constant standstill.

Colonial-era rocket steamers depart from Dhaka to Barisal and Khulna several times per week, leaving Sadarghat at 18:00. Fares to Barisal cost between 500-300 Taka for first and second class; while for Khulna, prices range between 1200-600 Taka. The Khulna trip takes 26–30 hours. Tickets should be booked with the BIWTA office in Motijheel , just east of Dilkusha Circle I. It's open until 17:00 between Sunday and Wednesday and until 14:00 on Thursdays; while closed on Friday.

If you're planning to cross rivers while heading to southern Bangladesh by car from Dhaka, head to the ferry ports in Mawa and Aricha on the Padma River.

Get around

Given the plethora of all forms of transport, if you're having trouble getting a decent fare with a driver walk a few metres to the next one. Not all are out to gouge you, so better to find the honest ones and give them your business. Occasionally a driver will demand more money on arrival; the best way to deal with this is to hand over the agreed or metered fare and walk away. Make certain from the start that the driver knows where you're headed (unless you can direct him yourself) - they often have limited local knowledge, but will always say that they know where somewhere is, and take you 'round the whole city searching whilst the meter ticks. Make sure that you take a card with your hotel or hostel written on it so that you can actually get home. Having a card for the hotel with the actual address makes this a whole lot easier.

The trains in Bangladesh only operate between major regional cities. There is no suburban or metro rail system in Dhaka, although the first line of a metro system is planned to open in 2019. Due to the lack of proper public transit, Dhaka suffers from choking traffic. Often, some areas of the city can become deadlocked for a number of hours.

By rickshaw

A cycle rickshaw in front of Curzon Hall, Dhaka University

Cycle-rickshaws or simply, rickshaws, are the most popular form of transport, and good for short distances, mainly on side streets. They make up the bulk of the city's horrendous traffic, and charge around Tk 15 per kilometre. Negotiating a fare beforehand is essential as a foreigner. Rickshaws in wealthy areas such as Banani and Gulshan often must pay local mafia men for the privilege of servicing the high-price areas. This can sometimes mean drivers are apprehensive to take passengers to these areas. Additionally, foreigners should also be warned that rickshaws will sometimes begin the ride with a pitch to sell drugs or prostitutes. This is very rare. One or two simple, but firm, declines will generally solve the situation. If you're a woman, it's particularly inadvisable to ride around alone in rickshaws after dark; you're a slow-moving target asking for trouble from thugs and muggers. Take a yellow taxi instead.

By car

Driving a car in the capital can be a nerve-wracking experience. Officially, cars drive on the left, although the reality can be different. Locals will often zoom down the wrong side of the road in an attempt to overcome the traffic. Traffic police monitor most intersections in the city, in an attempt to keep the traffic flowing. Many intersections have been upgraded with traffic signals, but these are often ignored by both drivers and traffic police, who will direct cars as they see fit.

There are some options for car rental, with Europcar being the notable Western brand name. The government's Virtual Bangladesh website has more options. Many companies may also offer the option to rent-a-driver for a number of days; it is common for most middle to upper-class locals to have their own drivers.

By auto-rickshaw

Auto-rickshaws, locally known as 'CNGs' (named after compressed natural gas, their fuel source) are also abundant and have meters, which drivers can sometimes be persuaded to use. They're the cheapest way to cover longer distances; an 8 km ride from Old Dhaka to Gulshan should cost around Tk 150-200. The meters start at Tk 13.50, but you'll likely have to negotiate a fare instead. The city does become very congested at times, so allow plenty of time for getting around.

By taxi

Taxis ply the roads, some yellow and some black, all with meters. Black taxis start the meter at Tk 15 while yellow taxis have slightly higher standards in terms of comfort, and start at Tk 20. Black taxis are typically in notoriously poor condition and lack air conditioning. Yellow taxis are required to have air conditioning; the fleet consists mostly of Toyota Corollas, with some Mitsubishis and Hondas. The yellow taxis are also considered far safer, in comparison to black taxis and auto-rickshaws.

By bus

Buses run routes on the main roads, but are horribly crowded and noisy, signed only in Bengali and aren't likely to be of much use to travellers. The buses are also frequently involved in collisions. Save yourself a headache and take a rickshaw, or for long distances, a comfortable, air-conditioned bus or train.

By bicycle

Many locals of lower-classes often use bicycles as a primary form of transport. They can be useful in their ability to squeeze through tight situations, where traffic may prevent a large vehicle from moving. Some newer roads in the capital have dual bike/rickshaw lanes. Although, there is little opportunity to buy or rent a bike, plus the roads and traffic are in such bad condition that the chance of an accident is high.

By foot

Sometimes, walking may actually be the fastest way to get from point A to B. Always ensure you walk on the footpath, or if one isn't available, as far to the side of the road as possible. The road is a dangerous place in Dhaka, and many pedestrians are often injured by passive drivers. Those who are squeamish to pollution or have asthma may need to wear a mask; the air pollution from passing trucks and buses, combined with the searing heat and humidity can be overwhelming at times.

See

Louis Kahn's stately capital complex was his vision of a modern Bengali city, with crisscrossing canals and gardens
National Martyrs Memorial
Mausoleum of the three British Bengal premiers in Suhrawardy Udyan
Minarets of the Husaini Dalan, the seat of the minority Shia community

Do

Visit the following famous places in Dhaka, see the 'Buildings' see above.

Amusement Parks

There are a number of amusement parks for children as well as elders in and around Dhaka City.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Novo Theatre is a planetarium located on Bijoy Sarani Avenue of Tejgaon area in Dhaka. The theater opened to public on 25 September 2004. Built on 5.46 acres of land, its spaces range in size from its 21-metre dome, seating 275 people; to three-metre inflatable and portable domes where people sit on the floor. The Planetarium dome simulates Earth and its cool blue sky. This dome-shaped theatre was built with the latest equipment, enabling visitors to soar into space as well as experience the thrills of an interplanetary journey in a three-dimensional environment. The curved ceiling represents the sky and shows moving images of planets and stars through projection onto a large-screen dome at an angle of 120 degrees.

This planetarium features three kinds of exhibits. They Journey to Infinity presents a celestial show of stars, planets and other heavenly bodies in virtual reality. The Ei Amader Bangladesh features Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's 7 March lecture, while The Grand Canyon describes North America's settlement clan, Garikhad, which existed in The Grand Canyon four thousand years ago. The planetarium also has a 30 seated Space Ride Simulator.

The Planetarium is open on Thursday to Tuesday - 6 days a week; Wednesday is weekly holiday. Shows starts from 10:30 to 16:30 on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and from 10:00 to 18:30 on Friday. Ticket price is 50 Taka per ticket for the Planetarium and Taka 20 for Ride Simulator.

Buy

If you go shopping ready to bargain then there are certainly bargains to be had among the bazars and markets of Dhaka. To get a feel for what things should cost in the local markets check prices in the western-style fixed price shops and then deduct 10%. If you prefer hassle free shopping then head to Bashundhara City, a huge shopping centre with more modern shops and other amenities you would expect to find in a mall.

Eat

Dhaka has an enormous variety of food catering to all budgets. Old Dhaka is overflowing with cheap Bangladeshi food where a meal can cost from Tk 50. In the upscale areas such as Gulshan and Banani are Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Greek and Mexican restaurants, and franchises such as Pizza Hut and KFC - all at prices that the majority can't afford. Reservations are usually not required in most restaurants. A lot of the Buffet-style restaurants in this area have Taka: 250 to 400, fixed price menu.

Local sweets (misti/mishti) like rasogollah and golap jam/pantuya/ledikeni are excellent, these are bite-sized soft milk curd balls dipped (drenched) in syrup, and come in white and red varieties. Shops throughout the town (and especially near Gulshan) sell imported condiments from Dubai, Europe, Malaysia and the USA at a premium. Imported chocolate is especially expensive - and usually not in the best condition as it gets melted and re-solidified daily in the tropical heat. Fresh is better.

Be careful when buying food from street vendors as health and hygiene standards are not always top notch. Unlike Bangkok—street food in Dhaka is only for locals. Foreigners should stick to larger, organized (and unfortunately a little expensive) food outlets.

Drink

There is a party network between the different expat clubs (Dutch Club, Canadian Club, Nordic Club, International Club, American Club, etc.) and some Bangladeshi clubs (Heritage, Privilege, etc.). These clubs usually require membership to enter, or befriend a member and have them sign you in. From there, you can purchase a book of tickets or a cash card and then use it to order your drinks.

Although alcohol is most easily available at the international clubs and top hotels, there are quite a few local places to find a drink for the enterprising traveller. Local bars are to be found in most neighbourhoods but can be difficult to locate due to lack of advertising. Popular brands of beer (Heineken, Carlsberg, Tuborg, Foster's etc.) and major types of spirits are available at these places, and at much lower prices than at hotel bars.

You can try:

There is a duty paid shop in Mohakhali (the name of the company is H. Kabir & Co., Ltd.) which is only permitted to sell alcohol to passport-bearing foreigners or their drivers who bring their passports in when they purchase. The address is 12 Abbas Garden, New Airport Road, phone +88 2988 1936-9. Their stated opening hours are from 09:30 - 16:30, and closed on Fridays and Saturdays. To get there you need to go towards the flyover as if you were going to Banani, but instead of going on to the flyover, you take the second left after it begins. You will see a small sign labelled "Abbas Garden." Turn left and tell your transport to wait while you purchase.

Sleep

There are a huge variety of options for accommodation in the city, varying from unkempt dormitory beds for only a few US dollars, to huge multinational hotels that have penthouses for thousands of US dollars per night.

Stay safe

If you happen to arrive at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at night, it is best to remain there until morning. While the chances of anything bad happening upon exit are somewhat low, incidents such as kidnappings by taxi drivers are known to have happened to tourists who have tried to leave the airport in the small hours of the morning.

Otherwise Dhaka isn't terribly unsafe, but as in any huge city you should keep aware of your surroundings and try not to walk around at night. People are friendly and ready to help. The chance of fraud is low.

There has been a recent rash of incidents (as of July 2007) in which some foreigners have been targeted for bag snatchings while riding rickshaws. Often these have occurred at night, after 23:00. If you must be out after this time please do your best to leave your valuables at your friends' places or hotel and you can pick them up in the morning. The simplest way to reduce your potential loss is to not leave with valuables in the first place if you anticipate the need to travel after 23:00. The safest mode for travel for a tourist is to hire a yellow cab. These can be rented for a trip as well as by the day. Be sure to write down the licence plate number.

The greatest danger probably comes from speeding buses and rickshaws - keep well alert when walking along main roads.

Being the capital, it's the area most affected during hartals (strikes), and you should do your best to keep a low profile during times of political unrest. Avoid any sort of large gatherings, even positive ones, as there's a good chance you'll become the center of attention and you probably don't want that from a group of raucous chanters.

Stay healthy

Pollution, like most other cities in the subcontinent, is high. It's not uncommon to see people with face masks on. At the very least, you should carry a handkerchief with you to cover your mouth and nose during rickshaw rides or particularly humid days.

Connect

Internet is now widely available in all over Dhaka at Internet cafes hidden in the various shopping complexes - ask around. Tk 20-30 per hour.

CoFi 11 Cafe in Gulshan offers free high speed internet service & Real Bean Coffee to its customers, Call 01713364499 for directions.

Another one new restaurant in Mohakhali, opposite the East West University, named Newsroom Cafe - provides free Wi-Fi and Internet kiosks for their customers. Free Wi-Fi is also available in Kozmo Lounge situated in Dhanmondi.

Cope

FM Radio Stations

Newspapers

There are five local newspapers in English:

Embassies & Consulates

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, April 01, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.