A Tale of Two Fairs: The Return of the Boi Mela and Dhaka International Trade Fair

Bangladesh Book Fair 2021

By Sadia Noor Joya

Aside from the two Eids and Durga Puja, another significant shopping spree takes place in Bangladesh every year, during the shivering days of January. The annual frenzy is due to the Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF), a much-anticipated extravaganza where you can embark on a hunt for almost any coveted product.

Back at home in Dhaka, we would patiently wait for an entire year, ready with a long list of the products we hoped to purchase from this fun fair. We would look forward to massive savings as the shopkeepers used their sales tactics to lure customers like us.

I remember that people of all ages enjoyed it! There was something for everyone: toys, culinary products, vehicles, electronic devices, jewelry, clothes, cosmetics, and most importantly (for me at least), food. Many popular international brands from countries such as Thailand, Iran, and Korea showcased their world-famous products, giving us the opportunity to scrutinize their expertise closely, from the comfort of Dhaka.

Dhaka International Trade Fair

Other well-known home brands such as Milk Vita, Nabisco, and Haque could be accessed at this fair more easily, as they were primarily Dhaka-based. Plus, widely appreciated brands Pran-RFL, Walton, and Runner were also there to satisfy the needs of families with more modest budgets. With so many things to offer, DITF always draws in visitors not only from all over Dhaka, but also from remote regions of Bangladesh.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic stood as a barrier to the inauguration of the 26th DITF in February. Though a start date of March 17—the birthday of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman—was announced earlier in the year, pandemic concerns once again forced the fair to be delayed. When the fair does open to the public, however, it will mark a special step in its history with a permanent venue in Purbachal, at the newly constructed Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Center.

What do visitors have to look forward to this year aside from the endless shopping? Recently, a standalone pavilion was dedicated to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in order to educate younger people about his contributions to the birth of Bangladesh.

Another visual delight will be the stall of Turkish lights, which has always been super-crowded with spectators gathering to view the breathtaking scenery of lights. 

The Amar Ekushey Book Fair

I also remember looking forward to another unique shopping spree in the month of February each year, a fair where they only sold one thing: books! Now, how does that sound to you book lovers? 

Bangladesh Book Fair

The principal spirit that gave rise to the Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela organized by the Bangla Academy was to honor the language martyrs of the Bengali Language Movement and to preserve the Bengali language and its literature.

Hence, the monthlong fair traditionally revolves around the historical month of February. (This year, however, it began on March 17 due to the pandemic.) It is important to note that whilst the fair is dedicated mainly to Bengali books, visitors can also find English books there. In addition to the vast collection of books, this fair is accompanied by various cultural programs, literature seminars, and special events for kids. 

A hub for Bengali literature and its enthusiasts, this is a place to meet your favorite authors. Not only is it the dreamland of a Bengali book lover, the fairgrounds itself gives off the essence of being Bangladeshi and reminds us to hold on to the legacy and sacrifices of the heroes who paid with their lives so that we could speak, read, and write in Bengali. The annual fair is not only an opportunity to embrace developments in Bengali literature, it is a meeting point for the celebration of our history and rich culture.

Read More