Macron’s day out
While French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to Dhaka featured geopolitics, trade and economy, he won the hearts of Bangladeshis with his curiosity to experience the local culture and way of life.
"Wherever the president goes, he experiences the local aspects of the country -- call it arts and culture, health, education, anything. He likes to connect the people with the things that shape their lives," a French embassy official told this correspondent.
Right after the official banquet at the Hotel InterContinental, he took a tour of Dhanmondi, a residential and commercial area known for its central location and cultural vibrancy.
The origins of Dhanmondi can be traced back to the late 1950s when the government of East Pakistan developed it as a centrally planned and residential area to house the city's top bureaucrats.
He took an evening stroll on Dhanmondi streets and around Dhanmondi Lake before meeting the artists of the famous musical band Joler Gaan.
Rahul Ananda of Joler Gaan collaborated with Alliance Française for "Musical Rickshaw" through which he turned rickshaws into musical instruments.
"That's how Rahul and some other artists were chosen for the interaction with the president."
An overwhelmed Rahul welcomed Macron with flower petals. He played flutes for the president and sang songs including one of Lalon Shah.
Rahul gifted Bangladesh's ektara to Macron and shared the origins of the instrument. Macron also tried to play it with the help of Rahul.
Before leaving his studio, President Macron gifted him a pen.
"This is the most beautiful gift from French President Macron: a pen. He made me commit that I will write songs and poems with this pen -- of nature and life -- and he will one day listen to those songs. Let the earth be beautiful," Rahul wrote on his Facebook wall.
While Macron's jaunt to Dhanmondi was disclosed in advance, his Turag river cruise came as a surprise.
After the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Macron went to the Turag river and took a ride on a traditional panshi boat operated by Contic, a sister concern of NGO Friendship, around noon.
During the boat journey jointly organised by the French embassy in Dhaka and Friendship, the panshi boat departed with Macron from Mirpur's Bara Bazar Eco Park dock and traversed through the Karnatali river that flows past Kaundia union in Savar.
Hasan Mahmud, the information and broadcasting minister; Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP; Marie Masdupuy, the French ambassador to Bangladesh; and Runa Khan, the founder of Friendship, accompanied the president on the trip, among others.
The boat ride gave him a chance to enjoy the scenic beauty of rural, riverine Bangladesh.
They also enjoyed various festivities including a boat race, a musical performance featuring traditional instruments and baul folk songs, and a live demonstration of local fishing techniques during the cruise.
"The president also had an in-depth exchange of the climate change impacts in Bangladesh and the ways how the words can be turned into actions when it comes to saving the earth as well as adaptation to climate change," the French embassy official added.