The day before I was leaving for Mumbai, I decided to visit the part of Dhaka now known as ‘Old Dhaka’. The narrow lanes lined with shops could only fit in the cycle rickshaws but the CNGs (autos) and the cars did honk their horns and make their way in.
I had decided to leave at 7-00 am, to reach the Lalbagh Kella at 7-30 am. But better sense prevailed; I left at 8-00 am to reach at 8-30 am, only to discover that it is not open to public until 9-00 am. The entrance fee for ‘farangs’ was 100 takas, but tadaaaahhh – I had to pay only 10 takas. Turned out that Indians and Pakistanis are not considered farang enough 🙂
I must admit that despite my love for Islamic Art and Architecture, the fort complex was not as impressive as I was hoping it would be. That it was abandoned and the construction was incomplete could be one of the reasons.
From the plaque: The construction of this Palace Fortress was begun by Prince Azam, son of Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb in 1678 AD but eventually its construction was abandoned by the Mughal Subadar Shaista khan in 1684 AD. (He is said to have lived there for longer though)
The Fort Complex also houses a hamam, the structure of which now doubles up as a museum, showcasing books, weapons, armours and other such exhibits.
From Lalbagh Fort, off I went to the Sitara Masjid. After circling it for full five minutes, I could finally see the caretaker walking out asking me if I want to come in. He opened the gates for me and said I was free to go all the way in. (The warm welcomes in Dhaka have left me overwhelmed)
While leaving the Masjid, the caretaker insisted on taking my picture (on my camera, of course), also I took his picture. When asked for the postal address to send him pictures, he replied that I could give it the next time I visited the masjid. ‘Allah leke aayega aapko idhar’, he said (Translated: Allah will bring you here, again). I could only say, ‘Insha-allah’ (Translated: Allah-willing).
Coming up next: Dhaka, Part 3: The maddening traffic guide to Dhaka