Lalbagh Fort

Fort in Dhaka

Image by Partha Pratim Majumder Getty Images

The half-completed Lalbagh Fort and its well-tended gardens are an excuse to escape Old Dhaka’s hustle and bustle for an hour or so. The fort is particularly atmospheric in the early morning light. Construction began in 1677 under the direction of Prince Mohammed Azam, Emperor Aurangzeb's third son, although he handed it to Shaista Khan for completion. However, the death of Khan’s daughter, Pari Bibi (Fair Lady), was considered such a bad omen that the fort was never completed.

Three architectural monuments within the complex were finished: the Mausoleum of Pari Bibi (in front of you as you enter), the Diwan, or Hall of Audience (to your left) and the three-domed Quilla Mosque (to your right) all date from 1684.

The only monument you can enter is the Diwan, an elegant two-storey structure containing a small but excellent museum of Mughal miniature paintings, coins, carpets and calligraphy, along with swords and firearms. In the same building, a massive arched doorway leads to the hammam (bathhouse). Outside is a huge disused bathing tank.

The Mausoleum of Pari Bibi is unusual because of its materials of construction: black basalt, white marble and encaustic tiles of various colours have been used to decorate its interior, while the central chamber, where Pari Bibi is buried, is entirely veneered in white marble.