5 unique experiences in Dhaka that most of us miss out on

Dhaka has a long way to go before it becomes a conventional tourist destination. Nonetheless, tourism is common in the 400-year-old city. There is a fixed rounded up list of places that people always go to whenever they visit Dhaka.  But Dhaka has more to offer than Lalbagh fort, Jatiya Sangsad and the National Museum. There are a ton of places to visit and things to do outside of what the brochure or your tour guides tell you about.

Whether you are visiting Dhaka for the first time, or you’re a local who wants to experience this city like never before, here are the 5 things you must do to complete your Dhaka experience.

1. Embark on a spiritual journey in Hussaini Dalan 

Hussaini Dalan Muharram Dhaka
Hussaini Dalan during Maharram

The Hussaini Dalan serves as the main Hussainiya in Dhaka. The shrine is a major gathering place for Shia Muslims, followers of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. It was originally built during the latter half of the Mughal rule (17th Century) and patronized by prince Shah Shuja, son of Emperor Shah Jahan. The structure has an elegant Mughal and British architectural style. Followers of the Shia community come here to say their prayers; the atmosphere is amazingly calm and serene. You can feed the ducks in the adjacent ponds, listen to the sermon and exchange deep philosophical talks with the clerics.

Pro tip: Visit during the Muharram festivals. You can see and even take the part in the vibrant Muharram parades.

2. Visit the historic Ruplal House

Ruplal House Dhaka
Ruins of Ruplal House

The Ruplal house in Farashganj of old Dhaka is a mansion built in the late 19th century by Armenian Landlord Aratun. Ruplal brothers bought it in 1835 and hired Martin and Company of Calcutta for renovations. Ruplal House and Ahsan Manzil, which is nearby, used to be the ornament of Dhaka back in the day. The area was the residential area for the rich merchant class and top-posted British officers. Ruplal house hosted a lot of cultural activity of the time. Gurus of Indian classical music like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Wali Ullah Khan and Lakshmi Devi regularly hosted shows. Ruplal house was also politically important during the Renaissance period.

Ruplal house was expensive to build on site. The structure features an Indo-Greek architectural style, massive blocs, porticos, tinted glasses, ballrooms and feast halls. There used to be a clock tower on the top which was damaged by an earthquake. The fall of Ruplal House began after the Ruplal family left during the partition in 1947. Now the Ruplal House is jointly owned by several private and commercial owners.

Visit Ruplal House to find bits and pieces of the old glory days of Bengal. Dhaka boasts a number of establishments which remind us of our glorious past. Ruplal House is just one of the many.

3. Grab lunch in Beauty Boarding

Beauty Boarding hotel Dhaka
Beauty Boarding

Beauty boarding is a famous hotel, or as its commonly known, a boarding house. It also has a restaurant that serves Bengali food in a traditional homely atmosphere. The building was originally a zamindar house. A local rented the house in 1951 and then turned into a boarding house and restaurant. Located near Banglabazar book market, the spot became popular with the local book traders, literature aficionados, poets, and artists.

In terms of its intellectual importance, Beauty boarding can be compared to the Coffee House in Kolkata.

The boarding was a regular spot for poet Shahid Qadri and Nirmalendu Goon who stayed for five years in the boarding. Poets like Shamsul Haque, Rafiq Azad and Shamsur Rahman used to gather for their evening tea.

Pro tip: Beauty boarding doubles as a great background for your photos if you want to keep some mementos of your visit to the land of Bengal.

4. Go book hopping in Nilkhet

Nilkhet book market Dhaka
Nilkhet book market

Nilkhet is the second largest book market in the country and a heaven for book lovers. 2500 shops are crammed together. The shops sell local prints and second-hand copies of original books. Bookworms of Dhaka, especially the students, go to Nilkhet for the best deals on books.

Pro tip: Looking for a rare book? Chances are you’ll find an original first edition copy of it, tucked somewhere in the piles of books that are on display. Make sure you bargain hard to get the best deals.

5. Take a boat ride in Buriganga

Buriganga river ride in Dhaka
Boatride in Buriganga

Buriganga is the major river on which the city of Dhaka stands. On it, is Sadarghat, the largest river port in the country. Hire a boat for an hour from Sadarghat, for only 200 takas per hour. The boatman will take you on a river ride to the other side of Dhaka. On a clear sunny afternoon, see the Dhaka skyline. Ahsan Manzil, the palace of the nawabs of Dhaka, will be visible from the river. Stay to enjoy the sunset. You’ll see hundreds of people commuting and crossing the river on wooden boats.

Riding a boat in Burganga is a chance to spend time in the calm waters, away from the bustling city while getting intimate with the lifestyle of the locals.

The best part of Dhaka is its people. What the city may lack in traditional grandeur and glamour, is made up for by the kind-hearted, lovely and forever curious people of this magical city. Open up to Dhaka, and it will open up to you with its four hundred years’ worth of culture, history, and tradition.

Digital Art 101: Everything you need to know

Lately, many artists are diving into the imaginative world of digital art because of the comprehensive opportunities that it holds. Trying to switch to a digital medium is not an easy task. For an aspiring beginner, becoming a digital artist from scratch may seem a like a daunting endeavor. But with some practice and skill, the pen tablet can turn into your wand in no time.

Learning the basics

Even if you’ve been exploring art as early as childhood, you will need to become familiar with the techniques of painting digitally.

Because it is significantly different from traditional art.

Firstly, you need to get an overview of the different tools and brushes that exist and how to go about using them. From personal experience, I would suggest experimenting freely with all of the brushes until you start to understand how things work. And of course, there are millions of tutorials online that can help you get a head start.

Debunking the age-old myth

I hate to break it to you, but no. Drawing digitally is not “easier” than drawing on paper. No matter how convenient it may seem, it does come with a lot of complications, so don’t go into digital art thinking it’s going to be a walk in the park.

You don’t have to stick with Photoshop

When people hear the words “digital art”, they automatically associate it with Photoshop. Many assume that it is the only program available to draw with. While learning Photoshop can be great for you in the long run as an artist, it is not the most user-friendly software for beginners. You can explore a variety of other programs like Clip Studio Paint, Krita, Autodesk Sketchbook (did I mention this is free?), MyPaint (also free), Corel Painter Essentials, etc. All these new programs have truly made digital art a lot more approachable, so try a bunch of them and see which one works for you the best.

Use photo references

Let’s be real, it is unrealistic to expect that you’ll know how to draw everything and anything in this world, and that’s why photo references exist. Using hand drawn sketches or photographs as a photo reference can really ease up your creative process. Additionally, there are plenty of stock websites that solely exist to help you with this, so go on and scour the Internet for whatever you need. But remember, the idea isn’t to completely recreate these images; it is only there to help you start off so you can add your own intricate details to it and eventually be able to draw without the help of references.

Pro tip: When you’re struggling to find the accurate photo reference of a figure, just make your friend pose accordingly and use that instead!

Using layers

I cannot stress how important it is to understand how layers work when it comes to digital painting. It is a magical feature that will make your creative process ten times easier. Knowing how to use layers according to your own advantage will give you a lot of power as a digital artist. Because then, you’ll be able to edit your art without any restrictions. Even though layers might seem confusing at first, it is really is a no-brainer once you start using it.

Investing in a tablet

One of the cardinal tools for digital art is a graphic tablet. Using a mouse will hinder the quality of your work immensely while also making your fingers numb (I kid you not). The number of options out there can make it seem like an impossible task to choose the right tablet. The truth is that there is no one right tablet, and it all comes down to your own requirements and affordability. Some of the most popular manufacturers right now are Wacom, Huion, XP-Pen, Ugee, etc.

The important part is to spend some time researching. Maybe watch some videos on YouTube, and figure out how much you’re willing to invest in this. Some important things that you want to keep in mind are the size, pressure sensitivity, pen, accuracy and of-course, the price. Not all of us can afford the really fancy, expensive tablets, especially beginners, so you can consider going for a modest one to help you get started.

Tip: Wacom Intuos is one of the most recommended graphic tablets of all time at an affordable price and is great for entry-level artists. It also comes with three 3 free drawing software.

Try again and again and again

Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP.  One of the biggest eradicators of creativity is our own self-doubt. But as a creative individual, you have to push through it and start believing in your own work. Keep striving to improve every day and don’t be disheartened by comparing your progress to other artists who have had years of experience. Remember that they also started off somewhere, clueless, just like you.