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Notre Dame: the cathedral that defines Paris

Notre Dame. Perhaps two of the most instantly recognisable words in the entire world. Immortalised by Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Disney Classic of the same name, the Notre Dame cathedral is one of  France’s most iconic landmarks. The finest example of medieval architectural work where art and engineering swirled into one another.

To travelers and patrons of beauty, Paris has always been one of the most cherished destinations. And Notre Dame has always been a subject of fascination to art and history geeks. Its gothic architecture, its rose-tinted windows, its collection of historic artefacts has always called to them.

Sanctuary, Sanctuary.

On the morning of 15th April 2019, to the world’s horror, the cathedral caught fire from ongoing renovation work and sustained significant damage. The iconic spire collapsed and two-thirds of its roof was destroyed including the complete destruction of its interior wooden frame.

Paris could only watch in shock and horror as the fire kept engulfing the cathedral. Parisians cried and sang Ave Maria in the streets as they watched their landmark burn down in front of them.

French President Emanuel Macron promised to rebuild and renovate the cathedral and we are sure it will be restored to its original structure once again. But a small part of history will be lost forever. The bricks and the woods that saw the coronation of Napleon I is no more. Neither is the altar that saw the celebration of France’s liberation in 1944.

The Notre Dame cathedral has been home to art and history lovers for centuries. The backdrop of Parisians’ daily lives and pride of Paris, the city of art. We hope Notre Dame returns to its former glory once again because Quasimodo waits to ring the bells again. Sanctuary, Sanctuary.

The story of how Bengalis owe Pohela Boishakh to Mughal emperor Akbar

It’s that time of the year again. Pohela Boishakh is tomorrow. As usual the country will welcome the Bengali new year 1426 with music, parades and day-long celebrations.

Even though every year we engage in the celebration of a day that is unique to our own heritage, we seem to have forgotten where it all started. In fact, we owe our very own holiday to the Mughal emperor Akbar.

Here’s how emperor Akbar invented the modern Bengali calendar.

A new religion?

Source: Creative Commons

During his tenure, Mughal emperor Akbar had set up one of the most powerful empires in the world. The seed of aspiration that emperor Babur had sowed when he first came to Hindustan had bloomed into a strong rooted tree by Akbar’s time.

With his empire and his hold over Hindustan secure, Akbar shifted his priorities to a more intellectual side of things.

His interest in religions and theology eventually prompted him to come up with his own new religion. It had elements of both Islam and Hinduism. Amartya Sen believes that a new lunisolar calendar was a part of his plan to float this new religion.

Taxation: The higher motive

But a different group of historians, perhaps more authentic accounts, suggest that Akbar had a higher motive than religion; taxes. Since the mughal empire followed the Islamic lunar calendar, it often posed a conflict with the common subjects as the lunar calendar was not in sync with the on and off seasons for cultivation in India. For the ease of his taxmen, Akbar ordered his astrologists to take the Islamic lunar calendar and prevalent solar calendar in India, combine them, and come up with a new lunisolar calendar.

Tarikh-e-Ilahi

This new calendar, known as Tarikh-e-Ilahi, was introduced all over India. But just like Akbar’s newly introduced religion, Din-e-Ilahi, this too didn’t last after his reign. Except for Bengal. In Bengal, this new calendar became an integral and useful part of daily Agriculture and the local Hindu religion.

The calendar that was invented by Akbar and introduced all over India has now become the sole identity of the Bengali nation and culture. This Pohela Boishakh, let’s take some time to remember the emperor who gifted us an integral part of our national identity. Literally. Shubho Noboborsho.

Here are the key 21 episodes you need to watch before Game of Thrones season 8 premieres this Sunday

Winter is finally here. Ironic, because so is Boishakh with its heat waves and stormy mood swings. But let none of these bother you as you prepare your body for the final and 8th season of Game of Thrones!

Over the span of seven seasons, Game of Thrones has built a massive world with countless characters in conflict with one another. It can be quite a task to keep track of every character ark and storylines that have been set in motion since season one. Of course, you can watch one of the billion quick recap videos out there in YouTube to cram all that in. But we’re guessing being a true Game of Thrones nerd, you’d want the full flavour while being short on time for your Boishakh preparations and other engagements.

Fret not, Game of Thrones writer and co-executive producer Bryan Crogman has compiled a list for Entertainment Weekly of the key 21 episodes to watch before the season 8 premiere. Now, he’s the only writer who’s been associated with the show since season 1 so it’s safe to say that he’s as wise as the three eyed raven.

Here’s the list, for the watch: (Geddit, no? okay)

Season 1

Episode 1: “Winter Is Coming”

Episode 2: “The Kingsroad”

Episode 9: “Baelor”

Episode 10: “Fire and Blood”

Season 2

Episode 3: “What Is Dead May Never Die”

Episode 6: “The Old Gods and the New”

Episode 9: “Blackwater”

Season 3

Episode 3: “Walk of Punishment”

Episode 4: “And Now His Watch Is Ended”

Episode 5: “Kissed by Fire”

Episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”

Season 4

Episode 6: “The Laws of Gods and Men”

Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”

Episode 10: “The Children”

Season 5

Episode 8: “Hardhome”

Season 6

Episode 5: “The Door”

Episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”

Episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”

Season 7

Episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice”

Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”

Episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Valar Morghulis!

Is Julian Assange’s arrest a fatal blow to free journalism?

The Julian Assange case is a morally tangled web. For many of his followers, Julian is a trailblazing hero. Someone who exposes information that never should have been hidden, despite mounting personal risks from powerful states and their instruments. To his foes, Julian is a criminal for hurting international diplomacy by exposing documents that jeopardise international relations.

The Julian Assange saga

Is Julian Assange’s arrest a fatal blow to free journalism?

Love him or hate him, Julian Assange and his crusade against state confidentiality have somewhat topped the news for the past seven to ten years since he took refuge in Ecuador Embassy in the UK skipping bail. He was charged with a sexual harassment case and faced extradition to Sweden, which had later been dropped. Over the time period of seven years, Ecuador’s stance on Julian’s asylum has grown colder due to various reasons. It took its hardest fall when Wikileaks started exposing personal accounts of Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno. A week ago Moreno said that Assange was violating the terms of his asylum by being involved in Wikileaks and its operations. What followed was an invitation of The Scotland Yard to the Ecuador Embassy earlier yesterday and the arrest of Julian Assange according to UK laws.

Wikileaks and its lone crusade

Julian Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006 with a goal of exposing confidential information. Wikileaks hit the news four years later when it exposed video footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq. Since then Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange had sparked countless debates on both sides of the moral compass. Veteran newspapers like The Guardian have expressed their different viewpoints with Julian’s ideology of believing in publishing stories that should not be published. At the same time, liberal media has portrayed Julian Assange as a messianic figure of sorts in this age of information.

An antagonist? Not yet

Is Julian Assange’s arrest a fatal blow to free journalism?

“Information should be free” is a popular term. But it covers a substantial amount of moral grey area when a bigger perspective comes into play.

Julian Assange might be an antagonist in the diplomatic books of many states but he is no criminal.

The convoluted mess of all the charges brought against him will require time and effort to untangle. The debate of absolute right and absolute wrong will stretch to further lengths in this particular case and this arrest will lead him to face charges for skipping bail under the UK laws. But extraditing him to the US will certainly be a dark day for free journalism.

Chattogram, shrouded in history, adorned by nature.

“A sleeping beauty rising from mist and water”. This description of Chattogram was given by Chinese explorer Xuanzang in the 7th century. And to this day, this description stands somewhat true. A 2000-year-old city, one of the largest ports of the East as described by Ptolemy in the 1st century, a mythical realm of hundred tribes and an exotic land where the mountains meet the ocean, Chattogram is a beautiful destination for history and travel addicts both. For those of us looking for a quick escapade this vacation, Chattogram is a destination that’s a package full of everything.

Getting to the promised land

Chattogram can be travelled to by bus, train or air. Daily domestic flights from Dhaka to Chattogram are operated by all the local air carriers. Both AC and non AC Buses to Chittagong leave every hour from Kamalapur bus station starting from the morning. But the best way to travel to Chattogram will surely be by train. The night train to Chattogram is a pleasant and comfortable journey and can be a part of the whole Chattogram experience if you consider it that way. Two night trains leave from Dhaka for Chattogram, the Mahanagar Express leaves at 9 PM and Turna Express leaves at 11 PM. Both will land you in Chattogram early in the morning. Consult the Bangladesh Railway website for details on the fare and timing.

Chittagong night train

What’s interesting about the night train journey is the small town stations it passes by on its way. Sometimes the train will stop at these stations for you to catch a quick glimpse of the lives at small towns. It’s like reading a short story, these small stations. It’s like the low lit platforms want to tell you a captivating story but rather decides to leave it unfinished as the train starts to move on, leaving a scintilla of mysterious enchantment.

Staying in Chattogram

Chattogram is the second largest city in Bangladesh and has all the elements of a mega city. There are cheap to mid-range hotels and reputed five and four-star hotels like The Agrabad or Peninsula. A good mid-range option is The Landmark hotel. Located right in the heart of the city and charging a modest price for quality bed and breakfast, The Landmark hotel is a good option for travellers with a tight budget and finer taste.

Places to visit and things to do

The long list of places to visit in Chattogram begins with the city itself. Chattogram metro, like any other city in Bangladesh, is not devoid of traffic and infrastructural woes. It has its fair share of traffic and pollution. And yet, with spiralling roads that run up and down on the hills and names of areas as beautiful as Cheragi Pahar, Agrabad and Pahartoli, the city screams grandiose. Only to be humbled by the kind-hearted Chatgaiya people who take a pride in the own distinct heritage and dialect.

Travel to Chittagong-HiFi Public
Cheragi Pahar

The city itself has a charming colonial vibe to it. From the grand red brick building of the old railway station to the historic old Circuit House, the city nurtures its history with a careful preservation.

You can climb up the Batali hills, the highest hill in Chattogram city and get a breathtaking view of the sunset over the city and the Bay of Bengal in the far.

Visit the Pahartali European Club, where one of the first struggles of Independence took place under Masterda Surya Sen during the British era.

Take a boat ride in the Karnaphuli river in the evening and top it off with a dinner at any of the local eateries with Chittagong special Kalabhuna beef and Mejban meal.

Travel to Chittagong
Chittagong Old Circuit House

When you’re in Chittagong, make sure you try Hydrabadi Biriyani from Handi at GEC moar and Dum Phoonk’s Dum Biriyani at Jamal Khan Road. Don’t forget to try the special faluda from New Liberty Drink House in New Market.

Adventure’s calling

Now for the adventures part, the first thing that you’d like to do is visit the Kaptai lake and kayak between the mountains. Get on a bus from Bohoddar Haat that’ll drop you in front of the Kaptai Kayak Club. The rent fee for kayaking one hour is 200TK.

Steering your Kayak slowly in the clear waters of Kaptai lake, through the mists, in between the lush green hills and forests, is one of the best experiences you’ll ever have.

Travel to Chittagong-HiFi Public
Kayaking in Kaptai

On your way back, you can take a CNG run auto rickshaw to reach halfway and the rest half by bus as usual. The road from Kaptai to Chittagong city is a rewarding one with Kaptai lake on one side and green hills on the other.

You can visit the Chandranath temple in Sitakunda. To get there, take any bus that goes that way from Alangkar moar and get off at the Sitakunda bazaar. From there, take an auto to reach the foot of the Chandranath hill. Climb up 1020 feet to reach the temple that’s dedicated to the goddess Kali and marvel at the magnificent view from the hilltop.

The Chandranath hill is shrouded in mysteries of ancient Hindu mythology. Monks in red overalls can often be seen sitting in temple doorsteps that forbid you to enter without permission from the priests. But the stories of Chandranath and its mythic adventures are for another time.

Travel to Chittagong-HiFi Public
View from Chandranath hills

You can also visit the Medhas Munir Ashram. Another mythical monastery on a hilltop and the place from where the first ever Durga Puja in the region started.

And of course, you can always extend your stay and take a trip to Cox’s Bazar. It’s just 4 hours away from the city and the largest sea beach in the world.

Goodbyes are hard

One does not visit Chattogram only once. From the deliciousness of the Kalabhuna to the mysterious journey atop Chandranath hills, Chattogram keeps calling you back for more. And perhaps the land of 12 awlias isn’t done with you yet.

Pathao CEO Elius and Artist Morshed Mishu make it to Forbes Asia 30 under 30

In a city riddled with road accidents, fire hazards and sudden Nor’westers, Tuesday morning begins with some joyous news. Our very own Pathao’s CEO Hussain M Elius and artist Morshed Mishu from Morshed Mishu’s Illustration, have made it to Forbes Asia 30 under 30.

Hussain M Elius, 29, founded Pathao along with Shifat Adnan, which is now one of the leading ride sharing and logistics platforms in Bangladesh. Forbes listed him in two categories, Consumer Technology and Big Money Startups.

Read more: Pathao and the quest for customer reassurance

Forbes listed 25-year-old Morshed in the category of media, marketing and advertising. This Bangladeshi illustrator is most famous for his “Global Happiness Challenge” series which took the internet by storm at the beginning of 2018. Currently, he is the assistant editor at Unmad magazine.

We, at HiFi, wish these two bright minds of our generation all the best for their future endeavours. Keep making us proud!

Staying at small hotels when traveling is the best thing ever, here’s why

I learned a new word the other day. Scintilla. Which means, a tiny spark of a feeling. Beautiful, isn’t it? Ever since, I’ve been dying to use the word properly, somewhere relevant. And when I got the green light from my editor to write about the hotels I stay in when I travel, I found an opportunity to use this word in a proper relevant context.

That’s right, a tiny spark of a beautiful short-lived moment is exactly how it feels to stay in small mid-range hotels. You see, hotels are not just a bed to sleep at night. They are much more than that. They are a collection of stories and experiences, a platform where travellers pass by and stop for a while, leaving their own stories and memories. When you think about it like that, hotels are no less than storybooks. And the small hotels? The stories formed in these small hotels are just cosier than the ones in five-star hotels.

Here are a few reasons why staying in small hotels is better than you think.

1. Easy on the ol’ wallet

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

To get the obvious out of the way, small hotels don’t take a toll on your wallet. Most of the small hotels are priced cheap to mid-range. There’s no point in paying a hefty sum of money to stay in a hotel if you’re planning to just spend the nights over there and go exploring the entire day. But of course no harm in paying for a bit of extra luxury either. No one’s judging.

2. A cosier environment

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

Small hotels offer you something that high-end hotels won’t. A cosy homely feeling that you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll find fellow travellers as you crammed in a small lobby or small rooftop makeshift eatery that’ll serve you authentic local delicacies. Or the receptionist who’ll always greet you with a smile and go out of his way to help you travel a bit easier in the region.

3. Authentic cultural experience

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

High-end hotels play it by the book. The more or less same amenities and the same experiences everywhere but in a different style. That isn’t the case with small hotels. Most small hotels are located in a local neighbourhood, run by the locals, offering the best of the local cultures. If you truly want to experience a region, try staying in one of the small hotels for the best authentic experience.

4. A story to tell

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

There’s always something different about each of these hotels you’ll ever stay in. Each one has a different story to tell and a different experience awaits you in each one. I’ll never forget the lovely 2 AM conversation I had with the front desk clerk of Chinatown Inn in Kuala Lumpur. Or that one time I slept in and the family that runs Bich Duyen Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City cooked me a warm breakfast because it was too late in the day to find breakfast in the city.

These are the experiences that don’t go on your Instagram. But these are the experiences that make travelling worth your time and money.

I call myself a traveller when in reality, I really haven’t travelled much. But in this short span of my travelling journal, I have come across experiences that I’ll cherish forever and stories that I’ll keep telling every day. If you’re travelling somewhere new, don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Because when you open yourself up to the new and the different, that’s when you truly travel.

The lost art of boat making in Bangladesh

The art of boat making is an ancient craft and one of the oldest living technologies in the world. The intricate craft of boat making is an essential part of the rich tradition and culture of Bangladesh.

Being a riverine land, boats were, and still are, an integral part of the rural life of Bengal. From the Moyurponkhi nouka of the prince from a faraway land or the Shampan of the fearless sea explorer, boats have been a crucial element in our folklore, folk music, and mythology.

The rich boat-building heritage and skills have been passed down orally, for thousands of years. However, those tales and skills are now on the verge of extinction with the advent of motor boats.

Bangladesh once boasted the largest fleet of wooden boats, exceeding over a million. These boats used to come in all shapes and sizes, with different functions and designs.

Here are some of the most famous boats from Bangladesh that you should know about:

Shampan

Indigenous to Cox’s Bazar and Kutubdia area, the Shampan was a large sea boat of Bengal with a triangular mast. Throughout history, many songs, folk stories, and poetry have been influenced by this beautiful vessel.

Shuluk

Indigenous to the Kutubdia area, Shuluk was the only known large sea boat of Bengal with a double mast. Although this boat was widely famous in its time, the Shuluk is now entirely extinct. Back in its days, this large watercraft was used for transporting salt and other cargo across the sea.

Goina

The opulent Goina was a dream houseboat which sailed on the narrow channels of the Padma river in Rajshahi. Goyna translates to ornament and much like ornaments, it’s beauty was a standout. Used by the Zamindars (landlords) for leisure, the Goina had a harmonious balance between elegance and performance.t

Chand-Nouka (Moon Boat) 

The arches of the crescent moon are reflected within the curving lines of the chand-nouka. These moon boats still dot the coastlines of Southern Bangladesh. The mid sized fishing vessels sail out to the open sea with the tide, only to return with the next. In earlier times, the celestial shape of the chand-nouka, allowed the boat to sail in either direction, although now, with the introduction of the engine the primary utility of the shape has forgone

Corpai

Starting its journey from the river banks of Potuali in Gopalganj Sadar, the illustrious Corpai treads along the native waters of the Modhumati River. A true symbol of the working class, the Corpai boat transports grains, rice, and heavy cargo.

Malar

One of the largest riverine boats of the country is the malar boat. Made on the banks of the Padma and Brahmaputra in the heart of Bengal, these majestic boats were primarily used for transportation of cargoes including livestock. With one of the most recognizable shapes, the malar frequently shows up in paintings of typical Bangladesh riverscape. The last remaining large sized malar boat has been converted to be used by tourism purpose by Contic cruises. The large red orchard sails outlined against the blue sky is a sight forever lost in Bengal.

Podi

A cross between a river and seagoing boat, the Podi which is found in the southern Khulna belt, is one of the few unique boats that have adapted to the saline water. Squat and wide, the Podi was specially made for carrying heavy cargo through the tidal rivers of the Sundarbans. Originally the Podi boat was used by the golpata gatherers during their seasonal foray into the mangrove forest. The golpatas, being the primary material for thatching in the southern belt, was then sailed back upstream with the tide.

Cultural preservation

Fortunately, Friendship, a non-governmental organisation, is saving Bangladesh’s boat building heritage from extinction through its activities on cultural preservation. Their activities include helping to create a sustainable livelihood for the boat builders. The organisation also documents the ancient techniques of boat building and raises awareness through exhibitions around the world. Handcrafted replica of model boats which serve as a record of boat building techniques can be purchased to further support their efforts.

Additionally, our heritage of boats and boat making is so rich that Bangladesh National Museum has an entire separate gallery dedicated to boats of Bangladesh. Do check it out when you can.

 

Facts, figures and photos are sourced from Friendship.

The Food Ranger, Trevor James recently visited Bangladesh and our hearts could only take so much!

We Bangladeshis love to host guests. Especially if they are foreigners, we love to show them around our culture. In fact, we take a certain pride in it. And if the guest is a celebrity traveler and food enthusiast like Trevor James, a.k.a The Food Ranger, you can only imagine our excitement!

That’s right, Trevor recently came to Bangladesh and hopped on a culinary journey of trying pani-puris at TSC to dipping his wrists in bowls of Mejban beef in Chittagong. And goes without saying that he absolutely loved the Bangladeshi cuisine. (I mean, come on! Who wouldn’t? Right?)

Okay, who is Trevor James?

If you don’t know who the Food Ranger is, here’s a little schooling. Trevor James is a traveler and a photographer from British Columbia. He travels all around the world trying authentic local cuisines and making food videos. His YouTube channel offers a unique window to the street foods around the world. His fans tune in to watch him biting on tacos in Mexico city to trying handmade noodles in Chinese streets. And so far, his unique style of video making and traveling has earned him features in The Guardian and The Forbes.

For the love of food!

On January 21st, his fans on Instagram discovered him, to their surprise, in Nirob hotel, munching on 20 types of bhortas! A quick stalk revealed that he was in Bangladesh for two weeks and would try everything from the local street foods in Puran Dhaka to authentic cuisines of Chittagong.

We knew our food is the best in the world, we just needed this validation!

Behind the scenes photos from his social media accounts showed him traveling in the lanes of Puran Dhaka, searching for Biriyani, sharing home meals with Bangladeshi families, eating Mejban beef and gushing about it and so much more!

Until he releases his official Bangladesh videos, it’s tough to say exactly what food he tried but its safe to say that he was not disappointed! I mean, he did say he’d come again! We sincerely hope Trevor visits our small country again for the love of its food. We knew our food is the best in the world, we just needed this validation!


An evening of musical ecstasy at Jazz Planet 2.0

A group of young musicians playing the saxophones, drums and guitars with their eyes closed. The tunes flowing from their hearts through their bodies and out of the instruments. An awestruck crowd around them, moving their bodies along with the music as if in a trance.

An evening full of jazz, melancholy and joy.

We’re talking about Jazz Planet 2.0, which took place on February 1st, in Gulshan North Club.

A sold-out show, co-hosted by Planet X Inc, Jazz in Bangladesh, Gears for Ears and Verve Bangladesh, the event featured the SeeSaw Quartet, Robert Russell Trio, Imran Ahmed Trio and ended with a twist of Bengali folk.

A musical journey

At 7pm in the evening, as the small but enthusiastic crowd settled with coffee in their hands, the event opened with the SeeSaw Quartet. Rahin Haider took the crowd over with his saxophone as we found ourselves tapping our feets at the classic tunes of jazz. After a magical opening performance by the SeeSaw Quartet, came the Robert Russell Trio, with Robert Russell at the keys.

The crowd remained glued to his individual performance. And his group took us through a musical journey that had components of Asian, Middle Eastern and Classical Jazz music.

An evening of musical ecstasy at Jazz Planet 2.0

The final attraction of the show was none but the Imran Ahmed Trio. Their performance centered around modern jazz, latin music, flamenco and gypsy jazz. What started as a mellow performance, soon took the crowd over with an electric energy as the performance was coming to an end with touches of gypsy jazz.

With a surprise twist at the end, the event closed off with two of the most delightful Bangla folk songs from Hasan Raja’s musicals.

“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes.” 

In a dull and hectic Dhaka, we long for getaways that saves us from the old dining out habit on weekends. In a city that lacks enough theatres, performance art stages, musical shows and all things that cater to the soul, we hope that Jazz Planet will return again with all its magic because we can not get forget the smell of coffee with the sound of jazz.