Bhaktapur,27 Nov 2o14: While the Heads of State/Government of the SAARC countries flew in to Dhulikhel, a tourist destination nearby Capital for a retreat, a bevy of their First Ladies drove to Bhaktapur, a city of cultural, historical and religious significance- a World Heritage Site.
Out of the four First Ladies who came Nepal for the 18th Summit, only three came to the Bhaktapur tour are Pakistanâ€™s Begum Sahiba and Maldivesâ€™ Fathima Ibrahim. They were joined by Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi Foreign Ministers’ spouses,Â Sabitri Neham Peiris and Shaheen Ali, respectively.
They were accompanied by Nepalâ€™s First Lady Sujata Koirala and the Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambika Devi Luitel. Koirala is Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s niece.
The distinguished first ladies began their Bhaktapur tour with a stroll around Bhaktapurâ€™s Durbar Square, a landmark in the city believed to be built during the Medieval time (12th to 15th century).
The stroll was followed by a visit to the Art Museum situated in the Durbar Square itself.
There was a small exhibition organized by Bhaktapur Chamber of Commerce and Industry in view of their visit, showing the traditional handmade items as woodcraft and clothes.
The hand-made pashmina and the traditional handloom drew the attention of the most of the First ladies, said Sradhdha Prajapati, a young local vendor who had a stall in the exhibition.
The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister’s spouse, who also bought a â€˜Pashmina’ shawl, and a couple of other handicraft items, delivered her remark on the exhibited items as â€˜Excellent!â€™
The distinguished VVIP guests then walked towards the five-story Taumadi Temple, another marvel of this ancient town. The Pakistanâ€™s First Lady, in the meantime, managed to mingle with the media. She answered the mediaâ€™s queries.
Others continued their walk, listening to the briefing about the site by an official from the Department of Archaeology.They stopped by a Nyatapol CafÃ©, a cafÃ© that is built in the temple styled building.
A small group of distinguished locals were awaiting their VVIP guests, who according to Mukunda Manandhar, a local shopkeeper, came to Bhaktapur after a long period of time.
â€œThere was no coming of the VIPs lately,â€ he shared. While the First Ladies were setting their eyes on the cultural dance being shown in the ‘Dabaliâ€™, an open stage, the locals too had their eyes glued on the First Ladies.
According to the CafÃ© owner, Shyamsundar Dhaubhadel, who also attended to the guests himself, said that the guests there only had tea/coffee and cookies.Asked if a lot had happened over coffee amongst the First Ladies and the other team members, Dhaubhadel answered with a grin, â€œThe Ladies seemed to bond over tea/coffee.â€
â€œThey were more interested in the cultural dance show â€˜Devi Pyakhaâ€™ that was being held while they stopped by the cafÃ©,” he added. “They would ask me in between the dance what it was as the dance described the co-existence between the God/Goddesses and their creations, birds and animals.
Devi Pyakha is a traditional Newari dance of three Hindu Goddesses, Mahakali, Kumari and Mahalaxmi.
Sujata Koirala, Nepal’s First Lady, who was taking the other First Ladies around Bhaktapur, said that the guests were very delighted to take a tour around the city. According to her, the guests remarked their tour impression as ‘Very Interestingâ€™.
Some locals were elated to see the First Ladies and the dignitaries, who they had seen the other day in the television during the opening session of the 18th SAARC Summit, from close quarters.
Pramila Bariya, 33, a local woman who could deal briefly with the First Ladies during their exhibition visit said, â€œThe First Ladies, who spoke in English with us, were very courteous.â€ Bariya had a Pashmina stall in the exhibition which had drawn a considerable amount of interest from the guests.
The other locals who were restricted to go to the premises where the traditional dance was being held were watching the guests, sometimes giggling among themselves, sometimes watching the dance with a deep interest, from a stone throw distance.