We're Live Bangla Saturday, December 04, 2021

At Qazi Bari, visitors see and savor Old Dhaka’s rich heritage

Old Dhaka’s traditional food has always been a popular attraction. And now, the Qazi Bari at Rokonpur has been added to the list of places offering hospitality steeped in heritage. The Qazi Bari, as such, is just a year short of two centuries old and is a remnant of the city’s rich architectural heritage.

It now offers the ‘Heritage Lunch and Breakfast’ for those who want to savor the flavors of Old Dhaka. Foreign diplomats and their families are delighted over the hospitality shown there.

Sitting in this old home, they learn about the politics of the Mughal era, the British Raj, Pakistan and the waxing and waning of historical events.

They get to know how sports developed in the country and other matters weighty as well as trivial, as they soak in the ambience, art and antiques surrounding them.

The Urban Study Group (USG) sees this as a milestone in preserving the heritage of Old Dhaka. USG has been working for over 15 years on the movement to uphold this glorious part of the old town.

Twice a week, they arrange a “Heritage Walk” which takes local and foreign visitors on a triparound the Old city. This way, Dhaka’s own residents get a glimpse of the old part of their town and acquire pride in their heritage.

Read More: Heritage Home, where old traditions linger

Qazi Bari has made a lot of contribution to sports in Bangladesh over the past 60 years. It is indeed a hub for sports organizers, writers, women sports promoters and international awards. It was also intrinsically involved in the historic Mughal Era and the Sepoy Mutiny against the British Raj in 1857.

Bahadur Shah Park in Old Dhaka was witness to the crackdown on the sepoy mutineers and the oppression of the British rulers that followed the suppression of the mutiny. Qazi Bari is just around 200 meters from the Bahadur Shan Park. From Bahadur Shah Park you cross Kazi Nazrul Government College to get to Qazi Abdur Rauf street and then you reach a wrought iron gate amongst fragrant of hasnahena shrubbery and a jackfruit tree. Beyond that lies a mosque in Turkish architectural style with a single dome. Past that, stands a white two storey intricately designed house.

In a courtyard surrounded by guava trees and behind the wooden doors of the house is a treasure trove of art and artifacts.

Local and foreign visitors with a passion for tradition and heritage will enjoy the Heritage Lunch and Breakfast. Ambassadors and other senior diplomats of the US, UK, France and the European Union have enjoyed this service over the past few weeks, relishing the mouth-watering Old Dhaka cuisine and enjoying the warm Bengali hospitality. And the prices are incredibly low: lunch costs Tk 600 and breakfast Tk 250 only.

Qazi Ehsan Ul Alim and Qazi Saad Ullah Hill Alim, provide this service as part of the initiative to uphold the culture and heritage of Old Dhaka. They are fifth generation descendants of the Qazi Bari founder, Mirza Elahi Baksh who established it in 1820.

Two of Mirza Elahi Baksh’s three sons were involved in the Sepoy Mutiny. One was made into a human cannon ball and blown to smithereens from a gun. Another was exiled. A third son Maulana Rahim Baksh refused to obey the fatwa against offering Friday’s jumma prayers under enemy rule. He arranged the jumma prayers at his own home and that continues till date.

Qazi Ehsan Ul Alim and Qazi Saad Ullah Hill Alim represent their father Qazi Abdul Alim who was a sportsman, sports organiser and writer. He also promoted women’s sports. He brought his sisters Qazi Zaheda, Qazi Nasima and Qazi Shameema to the sports arena. In 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1967 they won gold, silver and bronze medals, bringing glory to the country, which was then East Pakistan.

Qazi Abdul Alim himself was a sportsman, winning the provincial athletics championship nine consecutive times from 1948 till 1956. He held many official sports positions. He was the founder Director the country’s only sports-based educational centre, the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan (BKSP). In 1977, he was given the national sports award for his contributions to the sector. In 1993 he bagged the Swadhinata Padak (Independence Award) and in 2004 the UNESCO Award.

Qazi Ehsan Ul Alim and Qazi Saad Ullah Hill Alim relate these details to the visitors. Saad said: “Our family goes back around 500 years and I tell our guests about it. It is great to share our culture with them, taking pride in our rich Old Dhaka heritage.”

USG team leader-architect Taimur Islam said more must be done for Old Dhaka beyond conservation. Schemes must be devised to generate revenue. He pointed out how the Qazi Bari family agreed to go commercial on the heritage lunch and breakfast.

“There can even be a gallery here, and cultural events can be held in the evening. Qazi Bari can itself be an excellent attraction if all this can be arranged.”

Taimur spoke about heritage-led urban redevelopment, saying: “There are more old structures in this area and this could be made into a perfect heritage zone.”

A similar ‘Lunch at Heritage Home’ has already been running at the over 200-year-old Zemindar Sahib Bari on Noor Baksh Road of Old Dhaka.