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Ready, Set...Bangladesh!

BANGLADESH | Sunday, 11 June 2017 | Views [631]

I never thought much about Bangladesh, except in the aftermath of the latest humanitarian catastrophes. And, as a consequence, I knew very little about it when I was invited to a short assignment there, a couple of weeks ago.

My object of study will be refugees from Myanmar living in Bangladesh, but I can't start my journey without a flash investigation on the host country. So I started fussying. In the embassy of Bangladesh, in Portugal, my VISA was treated as an everyday business. No travellers advice, no safety warnings, in fact no questions other than "what's your address there while travelling? and "tourist or business?". And yet, Bangladesh is probably the least touristy destination on the planet. Being the 8th most populous country in the world with 161 million people, it has only received 156.000 visitors last year.

Bangladesh is a young country with an old soul, as it sounds. History dates its existence as a human populated area back to 700 BC. Addherence to Islam comes from the Middle Ages, when Bangladesh was among the richest territories of the Mongolian Empire.

Prying Portuguese were there (of course!), in the 16th century, experimenting in colonization and Christinanization, and then, around the 17th century, the British colonized the whole land, to annex territory to their East India Company. It wasn't until 1971 that Bangladesh recovered its independence from West Pakistan, after bloody struggles and even a genocide. The war changed the geopolitical landscape of Asia, and was a major source of Cold War tensions involving the US, ex-Soviet Union and China. The majority of member states in the United Nations recognised Bangladesh as a sovereign nation in 1972, but Bhutan had no problem to do it straight away, in 1971 (well done, Bhutan!). Bangladesh remained sovereign up until today, holding multiparty elections every four years, in a democratic political system.

Bangladesh culture is said to be similar to its neighbors, India and Myanmar. But I will be very curious to find the particulars! After all they count 2500 years of experiences and traditions, in continuous exchange with different ethnic groups and religions, including the Indo-Aryan, Mongolian, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Western Europe. Bangladesh also has countless indigenous tribes in the territory, including the Chakmas (Bengali descent), the Marmas (Myanmar ancestry, Theravada Buddhists), the Tripuri (from Chittagong);the Tanchangya (first nation with prehistoric age);the Mros (animistic), the Santals (hunter-collectors said to be lovers of music and beauty); the Khasi (which language was transcribed into Roman Script and remain a matrilineal society), the Jaintia (Mongolian ancestry); the Garos (another matrilineal community) and the Manipuri (excellent dancers from Tibetan-Burmese descent).

Bangladeshi sound very special!

Well, ready to pack!! If I knew I was coming back to this part of the world so soon, I would have never unpacked from India :)

Tags: bangladesh, exotic, nomads, travel, wanderer, world travel

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