Saturday, March 14, 2009


Here in Dhaka, the city awakes at 5AM with the call to prayer. I am enraptured by these beautiful, haunting calls that reverberate throughout the city in a minor key that is so mournful. It sounds to me as if they are sung live with different verses and voices every morning on loud speakers throughout the city. It is a truly heart-rending call to the part of human nature that worships some greater power beyond our day to day existence. There is one mosque very close to my new hotel and the call to prayer is quite near.

The birds are very active. Dhaka is a city of rivers and the bird life is up early, singing, fishing, diving and generally calling out their presence before the city is awake.

It is a misty city with the transpiration of so much water rising in a slow foggy mist for hours. The sun is emerging above the foggy horizon, an orange ball striped with wisps of fog. Though it is now 6:30AM,this city of millions, in what some consider the most densely populated country in the world, is quiet! The birds rule the roost. Perhaps, the city's leafy northern reaches, where I am staying is quieter - after all I am at a nice hotel facing a small river with walking paths along it. But nonetheless in a megalopolis of this size, there should be a roar of traffic and horns. None.

One of the things Dhaka is famous for is its rickshaws. They crowd every street, and reduce the need for noisy, polluting cars. The country has also made some other extraordinary and surprising strides in environmental management. For example, they have banned plastic bags. Here in Dhaka all petrol and diesel vehicles are being replaced by cleaner, cheaper compressed natural gas vehicles. Fuel stations are apparently multiplying now throughout the country.

While this is a crowded city, with some very polluted water ways and poverty that some might find difficult, it retains a flavor of both the old and new. It is not one the shining new cities of Asia, but it is dignified, with some beautiful monuments, old castles, gardens, leafy streets, and a beautiful university campus. Does it have lots of traffic, certainly, but at this hour, just ten minutes before seven Dhaka is still quiet.

I have my windows open and there is actually a cool breeze, with a little help from my overhead fan. Sunday is a work day here, so the work begins for me today after a safe and uncomplicated journey to get here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the description of Dhaka it sounds great. I love the interesting contrast in cities that are in the midst of modernization but retain evidence of rural and simpler times and customs.


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