Despite the numerous terror attacks in Paris, there has been no dearth of tourists in the city, and, as summer arrives, many more will be visiting the iconic city in hordes. Usually, tourists fill up their bags with souvenirs -- and this has proven to be a prime way for a country to sell itself, making a permanent cultural impression on visitors and their friends and family back home.
Bangladesh, except for few boutique shops such as Aarong and Jatra, does not have much to offer tourists in that respect.
It is not because that we do not have things to sell, but that we lack imagination and innovation.
I remember Yves Marre, a French man based in Dhaka. I interviewed him on TV soon after he arrived in Bangladesh, when I learned he was making miniatures of the beautiful boats of Bangladesh. When I saw them, I fell in love with his work. I was overwhelmed with joy when Farid Khan, an art collector and friend, gave me Marre's work as a gift.
It was beautiful (and also quite expensive). Then I saw several in our prime minister's official residence, Ganabhaban, and what beauty they added to the décor.
Pictures of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman can be used in various ways to serve as souvenirs
I realise that such things are usually exclusive to the tastes of those who frequent the diplomatic zones, but why can’t we democratise them to other, less exclusive zones as well? Places where tourists find themselves frequently, for instance. Such artwork should be made available in various sizes and at affordable prices, such as in the form of key-rings shaped like small boats -- souvenirs for those who visit our country.
Every country has its own trademarks or extravagance to sell. Take, for instance, sea-shells. You will see them from East to West -- each country has its own way to present seashells as a work of art or a souvenir. Perhaps a case for our artisans in Cox’s Bazar?
In Switzerland, cowbells are so beautifully made that they are good enough for people to use as home decor. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower is sold in many forms, from photos to keyrings.
Pictures of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman can be used in various ways to serve as souvenirs. This way, the world can get to know about this great leader through yet another avenue.
Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, and the Sundarbans are all unique and exquisite tourist spots in Bangladesh. Souvenirs based on these places can also be sold as a way to let the world know about Bangladesh’s greenery and natural beauty. Our historical sites, mosques, temples, and what have you, can have souvenirs based on them as well, and sold in innovative and creative ways.
I hope that those concerned, not just the government, but young entrepreneurs especially, can look into this as a source of both business and patriotism.
Nadeem Qadir is the Press Minister of the Bangladesh High Commission in London.