Ok! Final post from the grand adventure through Old Dhaka… which was actually three weeks ago (Saturday June 28th)!
After the Sadarghat Boat terminal, Shaan and I, with the help of a local who worked for the new Dhaka office of Metlife, took a rickshaw a few kilometers down the road to get to Nazara Bazar to enjoy the fabled Haji Briyani. Despite the horrible dhaka traffic and going through the crazy narrow streets of the oldest parts of town, we got there earlier than we had anticipated.
To kill the time we went to the Hossini Dalan, a beautiful religious center and shrine to one of the grand sons of Mohammad who was killed in battle. The director of the center personally took us for a tour, of the newly tiled building, which was, interestingly enough, funded by the sale of fish living in the pond on the property. In addition to the shrine, there was also a school and library. Unlike the mosque we previously visited, this seemed to be much more of a resource for the whole community. There were women, families, and even some local kids taking advantage of the free space to squeeze in some world-cup fever soccer.
After wandering for quite some time, we finally came upon Haji Briyani. Smaller than my bedroom, this little restaurant sells one item, Mutton Briyani, all taken from a large cauldron, well-seasoned and perfectly cooked. after squeezing into a table (benefits of being a very obviously foreign-looking woman, you will ALWAYS get a seat) and feasting to fill our bellies, emptied from a day of walking, we set off to get home… which is when the real adventure started!
It was well after dark. The easiest way to get around Dhaka if you’re going to different neighborhoods is via compressed natural gas powered autorickshaws nicknamed CNGs, however their pricing is… shall we say flexible… they always ask for more than the meter price, and will add a special foreigner surcharge. The first two we were able to flag down charged about 100 taka more than they should have, so naturally the two of us decided to let them go, assuming we’d find others. We were wrong… and had to take a bicycle rikshaw to a busier area near the university in hopes of getting a rikshaw.
Now, it is a saturday night (their equivalent of a sunday since the weekend in majority muslim countries is friday-saturday) well after dark, there are few women in the streets and 0 people as obviously foreign-looking as me, and I am getting pretty worried at this point, and not happy with the decision to forego a ride for less than a dollar each. We have no choice but to take the bus. This image I took from the daily star (at the bottom of the photoset) is no exaggeration… except that the bus is actually moving while everyone is cramming in.
Although sweaty and crowded, as my supervisor explained, buses are actually quite safe so long as you stay aware of your pockets. They’re just too crowded for violence or criminals to follow you. Thankfully, cultural norms obligate men, no matter how old or physically able, to give up their seats for women. After a crazy ride, Shaan and I emerged drenched in sweat (not 100% our own) and dying for a cold drink! After a quick stop for what felt like the coldest and tastiest soda of my life, we took our final Rikshaw back to the BLC. Man, what an adventure!