Sea Beach, 2020-2022
Beaches around the world have their own self-contained cultures, a natural mix of the local traditions with what tourists bring to offer. It is how beaches develop their distinct personality and Cox’s Bazar – the world’s longest natural sea beach located in Bangladesh – has one to call its own.
I grew up in Dhaka, a city comprised of predominantly concrete. Cox’s Bazaar was and still is the most exciting vacation destination in Bangladesh. The beach serves as melting pot of Bangladesh’s culture. This is a place that every social class can afford a vacation. Until my early twenties, this was my only association with culture surrounding the beach and ocean.
The 96-mile-long nestled in the southern tip of Bangladesh along the Bay of Bengal is markedly different from its regional neighbours like Pattaya in Thailand or Goa in India. Tourists arrive at the beach dressed in their finest attires, delicately approaching the shoreline, eager to dip their feet in the brackish foams the tide brings. They stand like pilgrims at the end of a journey, content to look on at the horizon across the sea.
Roving merchants seek out potential buyers among clusters of tourists, offering the full range of what candies or goods they have. There is a notable lack of urgency, as if time itself has advocated to deshoulder everyone’s burdens at the beach. The children yelp, but there is no raucous yelling in parental response. The air smells of salt and affection.
After living in the United States for a number of years and returning to Cox’s Bazaar, I am surprised by the culture. I see my own memories reflected in the beach goers collecting shells, making sand sculptures, or viewing newly wed couples taking photos on the shore.
It is still the same as when I grew up, but also full of surprises. This series of photos represents both the connection and disconnection I feel towards an area overflowing with memories, knowing that this is what Bangladeshi beach culture is.