World Tourism Day (WTD) is celebrated annually on September 27, aiming at fostering awareness among the international community of its social, cultural, political and economic value. The theme of WTD 2011 is “Tourism– Linking Cultures.” It has been chosen with the intention of highlighting tourism’s role in bringing the cultures of the world together and promoting global understanding through travel.
The Egyptian city of Aswan will host the official 2011 WTD celebrations, which include a high-level think tank on this year’s theme. Egypt, which is world famous for its rich history and cultural heritage, has rightly been chosen as the host for this year’s WTD celebrations.
In his message on the occasion, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Dr. Taleb Rifai, said that tourism helps bring millions of people from different cultures together and this interaction between people of different backgrounds and ways of life represents an enormous opportunity to advance tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. While terming culture as one of our precious assets, he stressed on the need for its preservation by asking people to conduct tourism in a way that preserves and enriches the cultural wealth of the world for future generations.
Tourism brings peace and cooperation among nations, and builds bridges. While speaking to more than 60 tourism ministers from Muslim countries in Baku, Azerbaijan in September 2006, Francesco Frangialli, the then UNWTO secretary-general, called on world leaders for strengthening tourism links to promote cross-cultural understanding, and to use the power of tourism to build new global gesture of understanding between states.
Tourism is also known as human history. Fa-Hien and Hiuen-Tsang, the earliest Chinese travelers to visit the Indian sub-continent during the rules of Chandragupta II (375-413) and Harshavardhana (606-647), respectively, have left us reliable accounts of the politico-socio-economic and religious conditions of the sub-continent during the period of their visits.
Marco Polo, a Venetian traveler, journeyed through Asia for 24 years, reached China and became a confidant of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan (1214-1294). He traveled the whole of China and returned to tell the tale, which became “the greatest travelogue.”
The Moroccan traveler Ibne Batuta, one of the greatest travelers of all time, journeyed through the entire Muslim world of his days plus Ceylon, Byzantium, China and south Russia for 29 years. We get an account of his journey from his famous Rihala, or The Journey, that he dictated to Ibne Juzayy on completion of his journey. From Rihala, we come to know about cultural variation of the peoples in the regions and countries he visited.
As for Bangladesh, she can take pride in her rich and vibrant culture. The archaeological sites at Mahasthangarh in Bogra, Paharpur in Noagaon and Mainamati in Comilla speak of the old civilisation that flourished in the geographical area that now constitutes Bangladesh.
Mahasthangarh, the oldest archaeological site of the country, is an imposing landmark in the area, having a fortified long enclosure. Beyond the fortified area, other ancient ruins fan out within a semi-circle of about 8 km radius. Several isolated mounds surround the area. According to Banglapedia, Mahasthangarh is not only the one city site among the mostly religious sites in Bangladesh but also a city going back to the distant past (3rd-2nd century BC). It is contemporary with the early historic sites of the Gangetic valley — Vaisali, Pataliputra, and Kausambi to name only a few.
Somapura Mahavihara, built by Pala king Dharmapala in the eighth century at Paharpur, is among the best known Buddhist viharas in the Indian subcontinent and is one of the most important archaeological sites in Bangladesh. It was an important intellectual centre for Buddhists, Jains and Hindus alike.
About 8 km to the west of Comilla lie the low hills known as MainamatiLalmai ridge, an extensive centre of Buddhist culture. It houses a treasure of information about the early Buddhist civilisation, spreading over five centuries starting from the 8th century.
Star mosque and Husaini Dalan in Dhaka city, Kantaji temple at Dinajpur, Adinath temple at Moheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar are among the important religious sites of the medieval period to attract tourists.
Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha are the two most important religious festivals of the Muslims whileDurga puja is the most important religious festival of the Hindus of the country.
Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bangla year, is celebrated in a festive manner. The 21st February is observed in remembrance of the sacred souls of the martyrs of language movement of 1952. These are secular celebrations widely participated in by the people of all religions in the country.
The music and dances of the ethnic minority groups like Chakma, Marmas, Tripuras and Murangs in three hill districts of Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari and of Tripuras, Manipuris , Khasis and Mandis (Garos) in Sylhet region are our valuable cultures.The tourism industry of the country has not yet been able to exploit the rich cultural heritage to make Bangladesh an important tourist destination. It has not yet succeeded in establishing an effective bridge between Bangladeshi culture and the world cultures, and thereby attracting tourists from abroad. This is due to a number of factors, which include poor image of the country as a tourist destination, poor infrastructural facilities, comparatively poor knowledge of the policy makers about the prospect of tourism, insufficient investment from public and private sectors, etc. The earlier we can address these constraints, the better it will be for our tourism industry.