Eliza Binte Elahi, an academician and writer, has travelled to close to 265 cities in 47 countries. She started her journey as a traveller in 1999, with a trip to Nepal. As she travelled across the world, her interest in the history of Bangladesh grew. She has successfully travelled to all 64 districts of the country. Documenting untold vignettes and historical snippets, she had the opportunity to take a closer look at timeless architectural gems. Through her explorations across the country and her writing, she has popularised a treasure trove of heritage. As a university teacher and researcher, Eliza has attended eight conferences in India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan. At these events, she spoke about Bangladesh’s rich culture, heritage and history, among other things.
On May 17, 2016, she began her journey from Dhaka’s Baldha Garden and concluded her travels on August 28 this year, with a visit to Chattogram, under her passion project, ‘Quest - A Heritage Journey of Bangladesh’. She runs the project with her own funds.
The rich archaeological history of Bangladesh is unknown to many. Gorkui Well of Thakurgaon, the only sandstone well in the country, Jagaddal Bihar of Naogaon, Sitakot Bihar of Dinajpur, Bitargarh of Panchagarh, the country’s only fort city, Bogdah Bihar of Gaibandha, Patharghata Old Town of Joypurhat, Dhibar Dighi Pillar of Naogaon, Nilphamari’s Dharmapal Garh, Masjid Bari of Patuakhali and Fida Ali Institute of Saidpur are some of the many sites that people have not really paid attention to. Unfortunately, many such unknown archaeological installations are on the verge of oblivion, and not even the locals know about their historical significance, Eliza, an assistant professor at University of South Asia, told The Daily Star.
She discusses these matters in her written travelogues and narrates visual stories through her YouTube channel, Eliza’s Travel Diary. She also authored two volumes of a book of the same name. While visiting some heritage sites in Bangladesh, she came across unheard facts about places like Megalith and the century-old Jagotee Railway Station. Eliza said that the Jagotee Railway Station, the first railway platform of Bangladesh, located just three kilometres from Kushtia, is a fading memory today.
The word ‘megalith’ originates from the ancient Greek word ‘great stone’. Eliza added that school students in Bangladesh may have come across the word in their geography books. “People might think that you they have to travel all the way to the United Kingdom to see Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument, carved out of stones. In reality, Bangladesh also nurtures such a significant site, which waited long for its deserved attention,” she says. The site is in Jaintapur, Sylhet.
“There was a kingdom called the Jainta Dynasty in Jaintapur. It is yet to be figured out when exactly they started ruling, but their dynasty traces back up to 1835. Experts and historians opine that the Megalith stones are from the Jainta Kingdom,” Eliza adds.
She described the serene swamps of Ratargul, the blue of Tanguar Haor, the starry sky of Saint Martin's Island, the vast tea-gardens in Sylhet, Bandarban’s Thanchi and Sylhet’s Bichanakandi as undiscovered paradises of nature.
“My vision is to see Bangladesh as a global heritage tourism destination. I aim to go beyond the borders and travel to all 200 countries in the world,” says Eliza. “I want to narrate my explorations of the 64 districts of Bangladesh, and have them published.”
She further plans to organise heritage fairs in eight divisional cities and photography exhibitions, to appeal to the policy makers to announce a Heritage Tourism Year and Heritage Tourism Day in Bangladesh.