With nearly 18 million inhabitants, Dhaka is the largest city in Bangladesh and also the capital city; it is a place bursting with energy, noise and activity whatever time of day. Located in the heart of the Bengal Delta on the east bank of the busy Buriganga River, the city is famed the world over as the city of mosques and muslin, with a rich cultural traditions and long and colourful history. It has been a mecca for travellers from around the globe for centuries. The city is located in the monsoon climate zone and has an average temperature of 25 degrees centigrade.
In medieval times, Dhaka was one of the wealthiest and most prosperous cities in the world. By the 17th century it was the hub of the silk and muslin trade that was sold around the world. Old Dhaka (or Old Town) has a delightful and interesting range of architectural buildings dating back to the Mughal Empire and to the British Colonial era. It was the centre of the Bangladesh's independence struggle and has many impressive national monuments and structures. There are hundreds of mosques and Hindu temples throughout the city and has a diverse range of religious and ethnic communities.
Take a ride on one of the myriad of colourful cycle rickshaws and explore this amazing city with its unexpected green parks, thriving arts and cafe scene, abundant museums, glorious palaces and vibrant cultural life. It can be overwhelming at first, but soak up the frenetic atmosphere and become part of one of the most exciting cities in Asia. There are international five star hotels, some of the biggest shopping malls in the world and surprisingly there are some fantastic amusement parks. Dhaka is world-renowned for its incredible arts and festivals. Independence Day (March), Language Martyrs' Day (February) and Victory Day (December) are massive celebrations as is the Bengali New Year in April.
Things to do
Dhaka offers an unbelievable wealth of things to do, from visiting historical attractions and national museums to relaxing in the wonderful parks and gardens that are found around the city. Sample some of the unique food delicacies that are offered from an enticing array of cafes, restaurants and street vendors.
Mosques and Temples
Dhaka has several hundred mosques, some of the best to visit are Baitull Mukarram-National Mosque, the 17th-century seven-domed Mosque, Chawkbazar Mosque and the beautifully decorated Hussaini Dalan Mosque. The 11th-century Dhakeshwari Temple is the city's main Hindu temple and is considered the most important Hindu place of worship in Bangladesh. The Ramkrishna Mission Temple is a stunning piece of architecture situated by the River Buriganga in old Dhaka. There are some wonderful churches too such as the ancient Armenian Church and St. Mary's Cathedral at Ramna.
Impressive world-class museums
The National Museum, one of the largest museums in South Asia, is devoted to archaeology, classical and contemporary sculpture and art, natural history of Bangladesh, ethnography and national and world history. Located on the Buriganga riverside, the majestic pink Ahsan Manzil Museum covers the nation's rich cultural heritage. The building itself is a monument of immense historical beauty with a huge dome that can be seen for miles around.
Two hundred and ten acres of lush botanical and herbarium gardens are a nature-lovers paradise. Dhaka Botantical Gardens is a popular tourist destination, especially as it is in close proximity to the Mirpur National Zoo. The Garden has 57 different sections including lily ponds, cactus house, six lakes, a lotus pond, two nurseries, an orchid house and plenty of visitor facilities, including cafes and tea rooms. Escape the bustling city streets and stroll through the peaceful Suhrawardy Uddyan Garden, known for its verdant green vegetation and soothing breezes. Simply absorb the peace and tranquility of this green space.
Take a tour along busy Dhaka streets in a horse driven carriage or on a traditional rickshaw, there are reputed to be over 400,000 in the city. It's a thrilling experience. Cool down by going a boat cruise down the river by or visit one of the national memorials such as the 1857 Memorial built to commemorate martyrs from the first liberation war against British rule in the 1850's.
Take a trip out to Sonargaon Folk Arts and Crafts Museum. Artefacts trace the heritage of Bengal from the 1600s including daily-life tools, furniture, musical instruments, a collection of boats amongst many other decorative and interesting objects. The building has been magnificently renovated and is pleasure to behold. There are lakes in the grounds and picnic spots for families to enjoy the relaxing surroundings.
Calendar of events
Dhaka has an incredibly vibrant selection of annual festivals that are hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. There is a growing trend for pop and rock events but the capital is steeped in traditional folk music that remains part of the many and varied festivals.
The Bangali New Year: Also known as the Pahela Baishakh, this festival falls on the 14th April and is widely celebrated in the city. It is a national holiday and large crowds join together on the streets of Ramna Park, Shahbag and on the University of Dhaka campus for the celebrations. There are processions, fairs and family gatherings.
Dhaka World Music Fest is a well established international music festival featuring music stars from various genres, from world fusion and contemporary music to local folk and traditional music.
A major yearly event is DIFF, the Dhaka International Film Festival. It is a prestigious occasion, introducing mainstream global movies as well as showcasing more local film makers and their work.
Religious festivals are big occasions, there are Muslim festivals including Eid ul-Fitr, Eid-E-Miladunnabi, Eid ul-Adha and Muharram, Buddhist and Christian festivals, Buddha Purnima and colourful Hindu festivals such as Durga Puja which is the biggest and most important Hindu celebration of the year. Durga Puja honours the powerful female Mother Goddess.