Prospect of heritage tourisms in Dhaka20 April 2023
Prof Dr Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder :
Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh with its numerous heritage sites, holds a special place in the hearts of Bangladeshis as well as tourists from around the world. The city's rich heritage, dating back to ancient times, is reflected in its architecture, art, crafts, traditions, and way of life. From ancient archaeological sites to colonial-era buildings, mosques, temples, and palaces, Dhaka is a treasure trove of historical and cultural landmarks that offer insights into the city's past and present. Heritage tourism in Dhaka has been gaining momentum in recent years as more tourists and locals alike recognize the value of preserving and promoting the city's heritage. Heritage tourism is a type of tourism that involves visiting historic, cultural, or natural sites that have significant value to a region's history or identity.
Dhaka has a rich history that dates back to ancient times, with various dynasties and rulers leaving their mark on the city. From ancient archaeological sites to Mughal-era forts, British colonial buildings, and modern landmarks, Dhaka offers a diverse range of historical and cultural attractions for tourists to explore. One of the popular heritage tourism sites in Dhaka is Lalbagh Fort, a 17th-century Mughal fort that is a popular tourist attraction in Dhaka. The fort was built by Prince Muhammad Azam, the son of Emperor Aurangzeb, and is a fine example of Mughal architecture. The fort has three gateways, and visitors can explore its gardens, mosque, and other structures within the complex. Another popular heritage tourism site in Dhaka is Ahsan Manzil, also known as the Pink Palace. It is a 19th-century palace that was the residence of the Nawab of Dhaka. The palace is built in the Indo-Saracenic style and has 23 galleries and a museum that displays the Nawab's belongings, photographs, and other items related to the history of the palace.
Dhakeshwari Temple is an ancient Hindu temple that dates back to the 12th century. It is considered one of the holiest sites for Hindus in Bangladesh and is a popular destination for heritage tourists. The temple has a unique architectural style and houses several idols of Hindu gods and goddesses. The National Museum of Bangladesh is a museum that houses artifacts and exhibits related to the history and culture of Bangladesh. The museum has an extensive collection of archaeological artifacts, coins, manuscripts, paintings, and sculptures that provide insight into the country's rich cultural heritage.
The city is also known for its Mughal and British colonial architecture, with buildings showcasing intricate designs, ornate facades, and historical significance. The Old Dhaka area, with its narrow alleys, bustling markets, and historical buildings, offers a glimpse into the city's architectural heritage, including the Star Mosque, Armenian Church, and Sadarghat Riverfront. Armenian Church is one of the oldest churches in Dhaka, built in the late 18th century by Armenian traders. The church has a unique architectural style and is a popular destination for heritage tourists. Dhaka is a melting pot of cultures, with diverse communities living in harmony. The city is home to people from various ethnicities, religions, and cultural backgrounds, resulting in a unique blend of traditions, customs, and festivals. Visitors to Dhaka can experience the cultural diversity through festivals like Pohela Boishakh (Bengali New Year), Eid-ul-Fitr, Durga Puja, and Christmas, among others. Additionally, Dhaka's vibrant arts and crafts scene, music, dance, and cuisine offer opportunities to experience the city's rich cultural heritage.
This city is renowned for its traditional crafts, including muslin weaving, pottery, metalwork, and embroidery. Visitors can explore the traditional markets and workshops in Old Dhaka, such as Shankhari Bazaar (potter's market), Tanti Bazaar (weaver's market), and Chawk Bazaar (metalworker's market), to witness the artisans at work and purchase authentic handicrafts as souvenirs. Dhaka offers various heritage trails and tours that allow tourists to explore the city's rich heritage. These include walking tours in Old Dhaka, rickshaw rides to historical landmarks, river cruises on the Buriganga River, and guided tours of museums, palaces, and forts. These tours provide an immersive experience for visitors to learn about Dhaka's history, culture, and heritage.
Dhaka has seen the emergence of community-based tourism initiatives aimed at promoting the city's heritage and empowering local communities. These initiatives involve local communities in preserving and showcasing their cultural heritage, offering visitors unique experiences and insights into the local way of life. There is a growing awareness of sustainable tourism practices in Dhaka, with a focus on preserving the city's heritage and promoting responsible tourism. The government of Bangladesh, along with various stakeholders, has shown a keen interest in promoting heritage tourism in Dhaka. This includes initiatives to restore and conserve historical buildings, develop infrastructure for heritage tourism, and promote Dhaka's heritage as a key tourism product. The Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, and the Department of Archaeology are actively involved in the preservation and promotion of Dhaka's heritage. Additionally, various non-governmental organizations, local communities, and private stakeholders are also playing a vital role in promoting heritage tourism in Dhaka.
Heritage tourism has the potential to contribute to the economic development of Dhaka and the surrounding regions. It generates revenue through tourist spending, creates employment opportunities for local communities, and promotes economic activities such as handicrafts, local markets, and traditional industries. This can have a positive impact on the livelihoods of local communities and contribute to the overall economic growth of the region.
Dhaka has immense prospects for heritage tourism with its rich historical and cultural heritage, unique architecture, cultural diversity, traditional crafts, community-based initiatives, and growing tourism infrastructure. The support from the government and stakeholders, along with the increasing focus on sustainable tourism practices, further enhances the potential for heritage tourism in Dhaka. However, it is important to ensure the sustainable preservation and conservation of Dhaka's heritage, while also promoting responsible tourism practices. With the right measures in place, Dhaka has the potential to become a prominent heritage tourism destination, contributing to the socio-economic development of the city and the region as a whole.
(The writer is Dean, Faculty of Science, Chairman, Dept. of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh).