Nowka Bais

Traditional Bangladeshi Boat Racing Bought to the UK in 2007

Nowka Bais is the traditional form of dragon boat style racing in rural villages of Bangladesh held after the monsoon rains and reflects many of the customs of the country. Nowka Bais was introduced to the UK in Oxford by Aziz-Ur Rahman and his sons Abdur & Rashel in 2007.

Since Birmingham became the home of Nowka Bais in 2015, it has gone from strength to strength and has now become one of the country’s leading Bangladeshi cultural event attracting thousands of people from all over the UK and Europe. Nowka Bais in the UK is organised and operated by Nowka Bais CIC a community interest company, and with the help of a steering committee.

How it all began (Source, Alex Martin Author) 
In 2007 the county of Oxfordshire celebrated its 1,000th birthday. was asked to organise Go with the Flow, a festival of the waterways and reminders of a slower pace of life to this busy part of England. fishermen, sea scouts, navy cadets, the Glasgow lifeboat, the actor community and university boat clubs, we had a memorable day One of its highlights – and for many the most thrilling event of Bangladeshi canoes, or Nowka Bais, along the Thames in Oxford. long, painted bright red, white, yellow and green, with an eight-paddling furiously to the beat of a drummer in the prow. Spectators paddles threw up arcs of spray, the pointed beaks of the boats surged jostling for the lead. The riverside was on fire with excitement.

The event was a great success. Everyone wanted to know where who were the crews, how did we put the whole thing together?

The idea had come from Aziz ur-Rahman, a well-known Oxford and a keen supporter of the Cowley Road Carnival and other community offered to build two traditional racing canoes in Bangladesh and time for the big day. He would also supply crews, prizes for the television news team. With luck, he said, the High Commissioner He was as good as his word. The canoes arrived in dramatic fashion, race, in a Thai Airways Boeing 747. Each boat was in three sections, together. I remember the scene as we manhandled the sections was a cold May evening, late and dark, and the canoes and the cannoes semed loaded with lead but we managed it somehow.

The next day a team of carpenters assembled the sections and nailed metal plates over the joins to make them watertight – a much trickier business than we thought. During the races, the hulls were one-third full of water by the time they reached the finishing line, but in the jubilation of the moment it didn’t seem to matter. I was glad, though, that all the crews wore buoyancy-jackets – just in case they went overboard – and that the Glasgow Humane Society lifeboat was in attendance.

Since 2007, Nowka Bais has continued in the city with the founding in 2008 of the Oxford Bangladeshi Boat Club (OBBC) based at the Falcon Rowing and Canoeing Club, which organises training on the river, and two annual race meetings – one run by OBBC, the other by Aziz. Together these events offer a great opportunity for Bangladeshis from all over Britain to practise this healthy, traditional and immensely exciting sport in a new context.

Nowka Bais continued with its great success with the running of the national race on a annual basis. Organised by Aziz Ur Rahman and his sons from 2008-2013, notably #NowkaBais2012 being dedicated to Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Her Majesty personally sent a message to Aziz Ur Rahman for the great work and contribution they gave to their supported charities. Since 2015 Nowka Bais has been hosted by Birmingham, and now its new home at Edgbaston Reservoir.