French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday (Sep 11) enjoyed a ride on a traditional panshi boat operated by Contic, a sister concern of NGO Friendship SPO. The France Embassy in Dhaka and Friendship SPO jointly organised the river cruise, said a Friendship press release. Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud, lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury, French Ambassador to Bangladesh Marie Masdupuy, Friendship founder Runa Khan, and senior officials of the two countries accompanied Macron on the trip.
The largest panshi boat named 'FlSche d'Or (Golden Arrow)' departed Mirpur's Bara Bazar Eco Park dock on the shore of the Turag River at 11am with the French President onboard.
The leisure cruise also traversed through Karnatali River, which flows past Kaundia Union in Savar, to take in the scenic beauty of rural, riverine Bangladesh.
The organisers stated that this boat trip highlighted the lives and livelihoods of river-centric, rural Bangladesh and the centuries of culture and history tied to these waterways.
The passengers enjoyed various festivities, including a boat race, a musical performance featuring traditional instruments and baul folk songs, and a live demonstration of local fishing techniques during the cruise.
Panshi boats were one of the main means of transportation for people in the river basins of North Bengal when rivers and tributaries were the main highways connecting the various islands and villages.
In particular, the farmers of Bengal used these boats to transport paddy from their fields to markets and other places, before diesel engines and generic factory-made boats rendered them obsolete.
Wooden boats were used for everything from transporting cargo to racing to combat, along with commuting, fishing, and exploring.