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Congratulations! Ahmedabad becomes India's first UNESCO World Heritage City. It's an honour quite unlike any other, and this puts the old city of Ahmedabad in the league of other heritage cities like Paris, Cairo, and Edinburgh, and ahead of other Indian cities like Shahjehanabad in Old Delhi. This also makes Old Ahmedabad the third UNESCO World Heritage site in Gujarat, after Rani ni Vav and Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park.
"The walled city of Ahmadabad, founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river, presents a rich architectural heritage from the sultanate period, notably the Bhadra citadel, the walls and gates of the Fort city and numerous mosques and tombs as well as important Hindu and Jain temples of later periods. The urban fabric is made up of densely-packed traditional houses (pols) in gated traditional streets (puras) with characteristic features such as bird feeders, public wells and religious institutions. The city continued to flourish as the capital of the State of Gujarat for six centuries, up to the present."
Well, it primarily comprises of the old and residential residential heart of the city - typically called 'Pol'. Each Pol is typically a gated society where people from one community would live. Back in the days, a Pol would be open through the day, and it's fortified gates would close at sunset, and guarded through the night. Now, many such Pol come together to make a 'Pur'. The city has several such 'Pur' neighbourhoods and each such unit is often self-sufficient.
The houses in these communities were typically built very close to each other, and in a distinct style as well. They often opened in to one another and people living in these communities would often live like a large extended family. Interestingly enough, these house, Pol and Pur exist even today, though there the way of living has certainly undergone a sea change now.
The beauty of a Pol lies in the houses which make them - often made with wood, with rich and intricate carvings not just on the front facade, but inside the houses as well.
For all of us who have loved exploring the varied facets of Ahmedabad old city, this is a matter of immense joy and one that I personally feel extremely proud of. From my time as a student first at Nirma, and later at NID, I have explored the lanes and by-lanes of the this part of the city numerous times, yet there is always something new to discover there. Even now when I visit Ahmedabad, it's a part of my routine to visit Old Ahmedabad, even if it's just for a dinner at Manek Chowk, or a photo-walk.
The countries which supported Ahmedabad's nomination (a total of 20) cited a few reasons, which are often forgotten and in present times need to be remembered even more:
Well, there are two ways to do to this - join a Heritage Walk which takes place every day and starts from the Swaminarayan Temple, and ends at Jami Masjid. I have done the walk thrice, and trust me it's absolutely worth it. There is much to see and explore, and the guides for the walk have answers to most questions.
Timing: 8am to 10.30am
Cost: Indians: Rs 50, Foreigners: Rs 10
The other way is to explore the old city on your own. I have done this as well, but after participating in the organised walk. The walk can't possibly cover all parts of the old city, and it's truly worthwhile to do it on your own also, especially if you have time.
Pro tip: In case you want to explore how a traditional Pol house looks like, you can actually visit one such house which was restored a few years back to it's original glory. Even better, you can actually even stay there with the family. I interviewed them all for another project a while back, and I can absolutely vouch for them. Give Mr Jagdip my reference, and I am sure he will remember me :)
Ahmedabad has numerous places to stay which can meet all budgets, but my favourite hotel there, by far, is House of MG. Located right opposite Sidi Sayyed Mosque, it's a heritage property and has two of city's best restaurants - Agashiye and Green House.
House of MG
Hyatt Regency Ahmedabad
Even though it's not the capital of Gujarat, all the infrastructure here would make you believe that it is. The city has an international airport which is connected to a few international destinations, and a domestic airport which is connected to all major Indian airports with numerous daily flights.
Similarly, the city is well connected with the rest of the country well through railways and busses as well.