Sylhet is a strange kind of place. The majority of British Bangladeshis are from the city or its environs and are likely to wax lyrical over the place. Those with stronger ties to the homeland continue to pour money back into the local economy and this has helped to create one of the most surreal city centres in Bangladesh. A string of apparently flashy Western-style shopping malls built on their money have taken over the centre, but on entering one you discover that they’re nothing but a façade of half-empty sari shops. It doesn’t take long to realise that this façade extends to the city as a whole and that Sylhet is actually little more than a village with shoes too big for it. Despite this, it remains one of the most cosmopolitan towns in Bangladesh and you’re almost certainly going to meet more people here speaking with a strong Brummie or East London accent (some more genuine than others) than anywhere else in the country. More depressingly for Bangladesh, you also won’t fail to notice the dozens of adverts and billboards promising easy visas to a better life in the US, UK and other European countries. These startling contrasts help to make Sylhet an almost essential stop for anyone who wants to understand something of this country.