The red and green flag fluttering by the side of one of the many dirt roads in Bamako is a welcoming sight to a visiting Bangladeshi.
Set in a remote part of Mali’s capital city, the building is known among locals as Bangla House. This is where Bangladeshi peacekeepers of the UN stay briefly before being deployed to different areas of operation.
While staying here, they also keep in touch with the headquarters of forces in Bamako city.
The second floor offers a view of the River Niger, flowing through the city, and green fields along its banks.
“Welcome to Bangla House,” greets Shanu, a cheerful man from a nearby neighbourhood who looks after the house.
Shanu has been working here for around six years and understands Bangla quite well.
“Bangla officers [peacekeepers] are good people,” he tells this correspondent, “They help us in all kinds of situation.”
Capt Tanjim Ahmed, who is in charge of the Bangla House, says 19 staff members stationed at the house provide assistance to around 1,000 UN peacekeepers.
“The house basically serves as a transit point for Bangladeshi peacekeepers and their equipment. Liaison with force headquarters and emergency services are also coordinated from here,” he says.
Major Rehgir says, “It is a mission support centre. We have to go to the operation areas through here.”
Troops also come here looking for respite from the stress of being in operations, he adds.
This place offers relief from the stress of being in the operation.
Just like the entire country, internet is quite slow in the building. The soldiers often face water shortage. But it still serves as a safe vacation house for the peacekeepers.
Soldiers go to the nearby shopping malls to get daily necessities or take walks on the bank of the Niger.
“Even the weather feels nicer at the Bangla House when compared to that of the operation areas,” says Major Nishat Jahan, who is preparing to go to Bangladesh on leave.
One can get a fairly good idea of the culture and people of Mali while living in Bamako, she says.
In Mali, nothing feels more pleasant to a Bangladeshi soldier than this house which gives a taste of Bangladesh some 10,000 km away from home.