Friday 23 August 2013

Bangladesh: Sadarghat River Port

Ferries - Sadarghat River Port, Dhaka
River boats - Sadarghat River Port, DhakaSadarghat River Port on this Friday (weekend) afternoon was hot, dirty, pungent and chaotic. Overloaded and battered ferries, parked at 45 degrees to the jetty, clanged together with their bows thrust over the walkway providing some shadow for the hundreds of disembarking passengers and peddlers of fruit and sundry items. 

River boat - Sadarghat River Port, DhakaSmall boats, loaded with sweet-smelling pineapples, dates, bananas, bread, cakes and biscuits, bobbed on the water between the ships and the jetty, unable to move until a space opened up between the hulls. A ferry nuzzled its way in between two other vessels, forcing waiting passengers to scatter as ropes flew towards already overcrowded mooring bollards. A gangplank crashed onto the jetty knocking over a pile of bulging white sacks. 

Sadarghat River Port, DhakaSadarghat River Port market, Dhaka As I walked along the jetty, people would attempt a few words of English. One chap started a conversation which continued for a few minutes without either one of us understanding a single word of each other’s language. A crowd gathered to listen, nod and smile. It was quite delightful.

At the end of the jetty, I stopped for a while to watch boatmen
manoeuvre small wooden craft towards the river bank before deftly reversing to offer the strange foreigner a ride. I must have declined a thousand offers.

Sadarghat River Port market, DhakaLarge dark patches were appearing on my shirt. I strolled back to the road and continued along rows of musty, shadowy warehouses past sacks of garlic, ginger, bananas, mangoes and other mysterious fruits and vegetables. 

Boatmen - Sadarghat River Port, DhakaIn contrast to many places in the world, people were only too willing to have their photograph taken and would strike a pose in front of their wares with huge cheesy grins. My questions about their produce would lead to the inevitable gathering of intrigued bystanders who would demonstrate how the item should be eaten, peeled or rubbed on the skin.

This sort of occurrence was common in remote villages in Oman, although the experience was enhanced by an ability to converse with the locals, albeit with standard Arabic. In Sadarghat, there was almost no linguistic connection, just genuine interest, friendliness and lots of smiles. Can’t say I’ve had that experience in the last three years in Singapore.

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