An American Abroad

Bangladesh: Biswa Itjema

So how does a secular humanist infidel wind up at the second largest (only the hajj is bigger) congregation of Muslims on the planet?

It’s simple: I was invited.

After spending the whole day with me at Painam Nagar, my rickshaw driver and guide, Abbas, apparently decided I was an allrightnik and invited me to accompany him on the following day.

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We left at 8:00 in the morning and joined the surging tide of humanity that was aimed at a spot north of Dhaka.

The faithful came by boat.

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They came by train.

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And they came on foot, walking along roads and freeways that had been closed to motor traffic to allow the millions to pass.

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Then at 10:00 the muezzin’s call went up and everything stopped as people knelt down wherever they were to pray. We were still far from the main pavilion where the services were being held–and we never did get there. Abbas blamed himself for not starting us out earlier.

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There was a makeshift tower built of bamboo and twine nearby, so I clambered up three stories to get a bird’s eye view and shoot photos.

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I had the platform almost to myself.

It took forever to get back to downtown Dhaka, since three million other people were headed in the same direction. Abbas and I traveled by foot, by tuk-tuk, by multiple bicycle rickshaws, and by one electric rickshaw.

Which, come to think of it, would be a good name for a sixties cover band: Electric Rickshaw.


  1. Nice photos!

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