I'm in Dhaka this week visiting a friend who teaches at an international school here, and in the space of 24 hours she showed me three cool souvenirs made by locals that I just had to have. I am not a shopper and never have been, so this is a pretty big deal to me. No idea how I'm fitting all of these in my small carry-on, so don't even ask. And act surprised if I give you one.
Jute baskets and bags
Raka Handicrafts doesn't have a brick-and-mortar shop; instead the husband-and-wife-run company does home visits where guests (like a group of teachers from my friend's school) can check out the various items and then make requests for custom colors and designs. Their team turns around the orders in about a week. I'm getting a tote like the ones in the second picture below, in a green-and-natural stripe. $12.
Made in Bangladesh totes, wallets, and wristlets
Every expat in Dhaka has at least one Made in Bangladesh tote. And these are not your typical tourist-targeted rice-bag carry-alls (though I loved those too, see below). These are well-made bags crafted out of bold print fabrics or cool solid denims that you could easily imagine being sold in designer boutiques in New York…for ten times the price.
As the MIB team says on its Facebook page, "We are a small group of people, motivated by patriotism, trying to change how we perceive lifestyle goods. We make products that are locally sourced, green, stylish and still of top-notch quality."
MIB has five retail shops across Bangladesh (and hopefully an online shop soon), but they also have stalls at a lot of the craft fairs held at the various schools here, which is where I found them. And though my friend advised me to haggle at all the other stalls, when we approached MIB, she said, with respect, "We don't haggle here." You can see the stuff I bought—three chevron-print totes ($17.50 each) and a few wristlets for gifts ($11 each)—in the first picture of this post. Some of you may be getting these when I get home…depending on what I decide to keep for myself.
Recycled rice-bag bags
You'll see these all over Bangladesh; they're totes, carry-alls, pouches, backpacks, and wallets made from used rice bags. They have a papery quality and they crinkle audibly when you handle them, and the patterns depend on what brand of rice was used to make the bag. They're kinda cheesy in that they're so clearly targeted for tourists, but I like them anyway. Who doesn't want a zipper pouch with a Bengal tiger on it? Especially when it costs $2.50.
What's the best souvenir you ever brought home?