National Geographic : 1967 Jan
only added to the irritations already vexing the two neighbors. So East Pakistanis must con tent themselves with being possibly the world's best river boatmen and riding out the annual monsoon floods. Not only river waters are crossed by East Pakistanis. From the Chittagong District, on the northeastern shore of the Bay of Bengal, the people have plied all the Asiatic salt seas for a thousand years, sometimes as shipowners and captains, more often as seamen for alien ship owners-Arabs, Portuguese, British, Hindus. The lascar seamen of romantic British sea stories came most often from within hailing distance of Chittagong. Even most of the mod ern Indian riverboats that carried tea from Indian Assam to Calcutta were manned by Chittagong lascars. These promptly mutinied during the most recent flare-up of border trou ble between Pakistan and India, taking over the ships and cargoes for their fatherland. At partition, Chittagong was little more than a seamen's village, but loss of the port at Cal cutta forced East Pakistan to build a new out let to the world. Now 850 ships a year clear the modern docks at Chittagong, carrying almost four million tons of cargo. And as in many another boom town, unplanned downtown Gay as gypsy carts, cycle rickshaws clog Jinnah Avenue in Dacca. Owners decorate their shiny vehicles with pictures of land scapes, pretty girls, and stylized flowers (left). Film of dust rising from the street (above) all but obscures the new Baitul Mukarram Mosque, built in the style of the Ka'ba Islam's holiest shrine-in Mecca. Dacca's university, museums, and art academies make the city the cultural center as well as the commercial and political capital of East Pakistan. More than half the nation's population crowds the verdant plain wa tered by the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna River systems.