Dhaka, the city of hope and dream, the capital of Bangladesh, is a diversified place. “A shohor jadur shohor, praner shohor Dhaka re“, a song by a local band representing the magic of this city. With the growing population, Bangladesh people are Dhaka centric, whether for education, better job opportunities or better health facilities. 

According to macrotrends, Dhaka is the home of more than 2 crore people. Walking through the different parts of Dhaka gives a different kind of experience.

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Hatirjheel lake and bridge in the middle of Dhaka, a lively street for locals ©http://www.theindependentbd.com
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Street foods in Old Dhaka lanes in time of Ramadan ©https://www.dhakatribune.com

Old Dhaka: Holding The History

The heritage hidden in Dhaka’s densely populated, busy old neighbourhood called Old Dhaka upholds the history of 400 years. The rise of Dhaka as a historically vibrant city isn’t a recent phenomenon. For decades, the city flourished, first under the Mughal empire and then under the British regime. Therefore, the city’s conventional architecture is left with imprints of the past. 

While walking through the old Dhaka streets, it gives a vibe of a rich history of architecture and culture.  Ahsan Manjil, a palace of wealthy businessmen founded in 1872 situated beside the ‘Buriganga river’, is a prominent tourist spot. Along with Ahsan Manzil, there are Armenian church, star mosque, Hussaini Dalan, Bahadur Shah Park, Boro Katra, Ruplal house, Beauty boarding, Lalbagh fort and Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque are the historical places located in various areas of Old Dhaka. 

Lalbagh fort is a fine example of Mughal architecture in Bengal. Whereas Ahsan Manzil slightly reflects the British influence in its Architecture. Old Dhaka is famous for its foods! ‘Kacchi Biryani’ ( biryani made with silky smooth lamb meat) is one of Old Dhaka’s favourite dishes. ‘Badam er Shorbot’ a drink made with nuts and other ingredients, Lassi, Kebabs of Old Dhaka is to die for! Islampur of Old Dhaka has one of the largest and cheapest wholesale clothing markets. Old Dhaka streets still have few old buildings left that do not have any maintenance, carelessly used by locals not valuing its historical importance.

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Lalbagh fort  ©https://dailyasianage.com
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Another building from Lal Mohan Saha Street, Old Dhaka ©http://urbanpovertyinbangladesh.blogspot.com
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Ruplal House in Old Dhaka Dhaka Tribune / ©https://www.dhakatribune.com
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Ahsan Manzil ©https://www.thedailystar.net

Tsc: The Heart Of Dhaka

Tsc, the heart of Dhaka, is the centre of all students activities and celebration of all kinds of cultural programs. If you start walking towards TSC from the shahbag chottor, you will see the National Museum alongside the Sufia Kamal National Library. On the opposite side of that road, a lot of small shops of fresh flowers make the road vibrant. Besides the library, there stands the masterpiece of Architect Muzharul Islam’s Fine Arts Institute.  

Festivals like Pahela Baishakh (Bangla new year) celebration starts from fine arts with the beautiful rally. The graveyard of National poet Kazi Nazrul Islam is located on that road beside the Dhaka University (DU) mosque, and from that The area of Dhaka University starts. Dhaka University, called the ‘Oxford of the East’, captures the whole TSC area. Teachers Students Centre (TSC) of DU is one of the liveliest and busiest places.

Students are always spending time doing various activities like gossiping, meetings for different forums, and having tea and snacks. The students of Du and people from all parts of Dhaka city randomly go to TSC to spend quality time. In front of TSC, there is a Sculpture named ‘Raju Bhaskorjo‘, proudly holding the glorious history of independence of Bangladesh.

 TSC is connecting four major roads of the DU area. Suhrawardy udyan, a lush green chunk in the middle of DU area, has an amphitheatre, the ‘Swadhinata Stambha’ and ‘Museum of Independence.’  The largest Book Fair in this country organised by Bangla Academy is also held in this area. This whole DU area has historical significance as most of the independence movements started from this area. And lastly, you can also see the Shahid Minar’ made in the memory of language martyrs of this country.

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Swadhinata Stambha ©http://m.theindependentbd.com
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Raju Bhaskorjo in front of TSC ©https://mahfujalam.wordpress.com
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Fine Arts Institute of Dhaka University ©https://www.thedailystar.net

Gulshan: The Centre Of Tall Buildings

Gulshan, the centre of commercial highrise located at the main roads, has created a high value of this area’s lands. The economy of Bangladesh in recent years has boomed in a way that shows in this part of the city. Walking through this part of Dhaka will make you feel you are in some other country. 

All the highrises showing off this country’s commercial architecture do not go with the actual local context. As the saying goes, architecture is a way of showing wealth, this part of Dhaka is proof of it. But one must say, as tall buildings have been built these streets of Dhaka creates a distinct flavour to its neighbourhood.

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The high rise buildings of Gulshan Area ©https://en.wikipedia.org
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High Rise buildings of Gulshan  ©https://en.wikipedia.org

Dhanmondi: Cultural Boom

Dhanmondi, a residential area for middle to higher middle-income people, is also booming in art culture like exhibitions and other performing arts. Rabindra Sarobar’ situated beside Dhanmondi Lake has an amphitheatre facing the lake, where concerts and other performing arts can be seen. Opposite of this, there is a place where one can do boating in the lake. Residents of Dhanmondi take a walk in the evening and morning beside the lake. This lake and its surrounding greens work a breathing space in the middle of the concrete jungle. 

There are very few places in Dhaka to enjoy yourself or hang out with friends if you choose not to go to restaurants. Bengal Institute, Drik Gallery, etc., holds few exhibitions that Dhaka people can enjoy! Bengal boi also allows relaxing with books in the middle of this densely populated city. But if you want to hang out in restaurants, there are so many options in the Dhanmondi area that you will be confused about where to go! 

There are buildings where you will see all the 10/12 floors are restaurants. And guess what, Bengalis love for food is so endless that you will see all the restaurants are almost full of people. 

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Flashmob at Rabindra Sarobar ©https://www.thedailystar.net
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Boat riding at Dhanmondi Lake ©https://www.dhakatribune.com 
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A commercial building in Dhanmondi having restaurants in almost every floor ©https://www.dhakatribune.com

Once the city of neon lights, Dhaka has a different character in its other areas. New Market, Nikhet book market gives another type of vibe, in these areas you literally have to walk to buy things. But this walking is not smooth; the density of Dhaka can be seen and felt here. Dhaka is one of the worst cities to live in, although it has beautiful colours. And through its beauty, Dhaka people find their own way of happiness and celebrate Dhaka life.

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Streets in front of Dhaka New Market  ©https://foursquare.com
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The Neon lights of Dhaka city ©https://www.thedailystar.net

Tamrin Afroz is an architecture student who loves traveling, painting, journaling, and experimenting with new ideas. She aspires to uphold local culture, tradition, and craftsmanship within the community, to conserve tangible and intangible heritage. Apart from architecture, she is an activist working on social issues and promoting girls' leadership roles.