An eerie silence pervades the restaurants and shopping malls in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, usually teeming with well-heeled urbanites, now standing empty since the killing of 20 hostages at a popular cafe.
Five days after the siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery in the Bangladeshi capital, many establishments remain closed, with shaken residents of Gulshan too afraid to venture out.
“Our guest numbers have gone down dramatically so the management took the decision to keep it shut for a while,” said Abdul Mazid, a guard at Meraki, a well-known restaurant in the neighborhood.
The run-up to Eid celebrations that mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan usually see shopping malls overflowing with crowds and millions of dollars changing hands in just a few days.
But this year Gulshan DCC market, usually bustling with Eid shoppers ahead of the biggest festival in the Muslim calendar, stand deserted.
The festivities, which start in earnest tomorrow, are likely to be subdued, with attendees instructed not to bring bags and high security at the National Eidgah Maidan in central Dhaka, where thousands will congregate for prayers in one of the largest such gatherings.
At least five gunmen stormed the bakery on Friday evening, sparking an 11-hour stand-off with police that saw victims murdered with machetes, most of them Italian or Japanese.
Around the corner from the site of the attack, Thai restaurant Soi 71 and neighboring Korean diner Suraon, which usually remain lively past midnight, were shuttered on Tuesday.
“Ours is a happening business, it’s hard to believe how quiet it has become over the past few days,” said Mohammad Farhan, manager of the upmarket Butlers Chocolate Cafe, where waiters were standing around.
“It has just turned upside down.”
Britain was among countries urging its citizens to avoid areas frequented by foreigners, such as international hotels, large supermarkets or clubs, while Japanese firm Uniqlo restricted non-urgent travel for employees.
As Dhaka residents attempt to regroup, fears are mounting that the attack may herald an escalation of violence in Bangladesh.
Islamist militants have been blamed for a wave of murders of foreigners, religious minorities and secular writers over the past three years.
However, Friday’s murders were on a totally different scale.