Veteran Lonely Planet writer Anirban Mahapatra has been living in Dhaka for the last three years, and spends much of his time pottering around the quaint alleys of Dhaka’s old quarters, mingling with the masses in the city’s atmospheric markets, exploring its artistic and cultural melting pots, and savouring its legendary Bengali cuisine.
When I have friends in town… I schedule one morning to take them on a guided walking tour through Dhaka, visiting the leafy campus of Dhaka University. We’ll spend a few hours admiring the imposing architecture of the institution’s Raj-era buildings — including the red-brick Curzon Hall, built in 1905 and named for the then-Viceroy, Lord Curzon — before stopping for a cup of tea and group photo at the minimalist yet imposing Language Martyrs’ Memorial (Shaheed Minar), raised in honour of supporters of Bangladesh’s Bengali language movement who died in the Liberation War of 1971. Students loitering in the area are keen to chat about the university and its history.
My favourite cheap eat in Dhaka… is a delectable plate of biryani (a pilaf-like dish comprising juicy chunks of marinated mutton steam-cooked with aromatic rice) served at Star Hotel & Kebab. Boasting several outlets across town, this iconic culinary establishment is revered for its signature biryani, priced at just Tk 200 (less than US$3!) , which flies out of the kitchens at lunch and dinnertime. If I’m feeling self-indulgent, I might throw in a portion of melt-in-the-mouth roast leg of mutton, and then wash it all down with a cool glass of the Bengali yoghurt-based drink burhani.