5 unique experiences in Dhaka that most tourists never see

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.

Transgender women in Bangladesh can now run for the parliament!

For the first time in the political history of Bangladesh, transgenders who identify as women will be able to run for elections. This is a step towards advancing their place in the society and providing much needed recognition from the government.

What place do they hold in the parliament?

The transgender community can now compete for the 50 seats reserved for women in upcoming elections in the National Parliament. According to various news sources, the ruling party is willing to allow at least one MP from the transgender community.

Eight members of the transgender community were confirmed on the Awami League party ballot, which is still the first and only political party in the nation to allow this. This decision brings a touch of hope and celebrates diversity.

Why was this recognition necessary?

Bangladesh as a state itself might reject the regulations of radical Islam, but it has a long way to go to accept the LGBTQ community.

“We are citizens of Bangladesh but we have no representation in the parliament. There is no one from our community who can understand and raise our concerns. That is why we are running for the seats.”

Said Falguni, one of the aspirants, in an interview with Dhaka Tribune

In Bangladesh, there are controversies and laws against same sex marriage and consensual relationship between LGBTQ+ members. However, if the transgender community can represent themselves these would be a step in improving their conditions and moving towards more just laws and equitable policies. There is a general lack of awareness and stigma. Transgender rights, correct identification and acknowledgement of sexuality and gender is a huge issue. LGBTQ folks face an intensely hostile environment in their homes and society, often, compromising their safety.

Out of 160 million people, an estimated ten thousand to half a million belong to the transgender community. The engagement of transgender citizens competing for a seat under the National Parliament might bring in much needed changes.

In our own homes, it’s time we address the word “hijra” as a gender not a word to demean a community who have equal rights and freedom as any other gender of this society.

Everything you need to know about the elections and what happens after

It’s election day. If you had cast your vote, congratulations! You have successfully exercised your democratic rights. Just in case you were wondering how the entire electoral process works in Bangladesh, we got you covered. Here’s a quick roundup:

What is the type of Government we have?

In Bangladesh we have a parliamentary democratic republic.

How many seats are there in the parliament?

In the parliament or the house of the nation, there are 350 seats. Among these, 50 seats are reserved for women. The rest of the 300 seats are for elected candidates from 300 constituencies across the country, including the to-be prime minister.

When will a party win?

A single party or a coalition of parties can secure win if at least 150 out of the 300 seats are won by them. The winning party or coalition will then go on to form the government.

Everything you need to know about the Elections in Bangladesh and what happens after
Your vote matters, thank you for voting! Image: Brainscape

What is a Hung Parliament?

If a party/coalition cannot get 150 of its candidates elected, it will be declared a hung parliament.

In that case, the party/coalition will have to form alliance with some of the other elected representatives to secure 150 seats in total.

What happens if no party/coalition secure 150 seats?

If no party/coalition secures 150 seats at all, then there will be another election according to EC rules. And in the interregnum, the country will be run by an incumbent government.

How is government formed?

The president of the country is largely a ceremonial figure who is elected by direct votes from the 300 members of the parliament.

The president appoints the leader of the winning party/coalition as the prime minister.


The prime minister then forms the cabinet from the elected members of the parliament and forms the government.

What is cabinet?

The cabinet of ministers is the collective decision making body of the government under the Prime Minister’s office. 90% of the cabinet ministers should be elected MPs of the house of the nation. The rest 10% can be technocrat ministers.

Who are technocrat ministers?

Technocrat ministers are ministers who are not directly elected members of the parliament or even not directly affiliated with the ruling party/coalition. Technocrat ministers are often elected based on their expertise on the relevant fields.