06 Dec 2007


Chittagong (CHITT a gong), … with a population of 4 million, … is the second largest city of Bangladesh (BAHN gla desh).  Located in the southeastern part of the country along the Bay of Bengal (BEN gal) and the Karnaphuli (Kar na POOL ee) River, the city has the country’s busiest port.

 As one would expect, traffic to and from the port area is dense and sometimes confusing.  The city as a whole is noticeably less chaotic than Dhaka (DAH ca).  The streets are wider and a strong local government provides sufficient law enforcement to facilitate a smooth traffic flow.

 Driving, standing, or walking in the area near the city’s center is a lesson in diversity.  There are all types of vehicles from big busses and trucks to handcarts and bicycles.  The three wheeled motorized vehicles known as baby taxies are prominent here; however, … unlike Dhaka, … two types are evident; … the green low pollution natural gas powered vehicle and the yet to be eliminated old style two cycle gas engine powered units.

 Watching and staring at the camera are people of all ages, cultural backgrounds, clothing, and demeanor.  About 85% of the people here are Muslim.  The more orthodox of this group, … both men and women, … are easy to identify by their distinctive clothing.

 Shopping along the street is an interesting experience.  A large variety of foodstuffs are available.  Perhaps the most repulsive part of shopping on the street is the meat market.  It is OK for Muslims to eat beef but not pork.  The head and hooves of the animal are displayed, … along with the cutup carcass, … to identify the type of meat.  Beef is expensive costing about a dollar per pound; … an expense that few can afford on a regular basis.

 A few upscale shopping centers are in the city.  In these quiet and well-stocked retail outlets one can shop for the finer things of life.  The relaxed atmosphere gives time for this young Muslim boy to memorize Arabic verses from the Qu’ran (coo RAHN).

 The government buildings are located in a well-maintained area with manicured lawns, trees and shrubs.  This facility is just across the street from the soccer stadium.  Here on the soccer stadium walls are murals that depict the bloody War for Independence in 1971.

 In this city, … as well as throughout the country, … the 100 million plus Muslims celebrate Ramadan (RAH ma dahn) during the late Fall of each year.  This 28-day period of fasting begins with the onset of a new moon and extends to the next new moon.  The fasting is required only during the day when the faithful must abstain from all food and water.  It is during the evening and night that a time of frenzied social activity and eating occurs.

 All during the day, restaurants and other food vendors prepare for the evening.  Food is piled high along sidewalk stands and in the restaurant display boxes.  As the end of the day nears, Muslim men, … no women, … are at these places waiting for the end of the day as defined by when one can no longer distinguish between two human hairs.  Suddenly, … as the moment arrives, … the buzzer in the restaurant sounds.  The eating begins!  First comes a big gulp of water and then the food.  It is all gone in about 10 minutes.

 During the period of Ramadan, the faithful Muslims have a snack about midnight and another large meal just before daylight.  It is said that most gain weight during this 28-day period of fasting.

 Chittagong is a large, diverse, and progressive city; however, it is also the gateway to the district known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts.  Few of the people in this almost forgotten area venture into the city.

 A visit to Chittagong, as well as to the Hill Tracts, is a visit to a culture that cannot be experienced in Western societies.  We are expecting you.  Won’t you come? 


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