Head on a weekend getaway to India's first UNESCO World Heritage City Ahmedabad

Jul 14, 2017, 11:18 IST | Krutika Behrawala

India's first UNESCO World Heritage City, Ahmedabad, makes for a great weekend getaway for foodies and culture vultures alike

Dada Harir Vav
Dada Harir Vav

The graves in Lucky Restaurant pics courtesy/Amit Vachharajani
The graves in Lucky Restaurant pics courtesy/Amit Vachharajani

For culture vultures
Enter Dada Harir Vav, a 500-year-old stepwell in Asarwa, and you are transported back in time. This is where travellers would come to drink water and rest. "It is a neglected but beautiful monument, lesser known than the famous Adalaj Vav," says Amit Vachharajani of Backpack Films, who works as a line-producer with international documentary film crews in India.

The NID alumnus' other oddball find is Lucky Restaurant built over a graveyard near Lal Darwaja, a shopping hub in Ahmedabad. "It's fascinating to find actual graves inside the restaurant. It also flaunts an original M F Husain painting gifted to the owners by the artist himself," he adds.

Veechar Utensil Museum. Pic/AFP
Veechar Utensil Museum. Pic/AFP

For paisa vasool coolth
If you're a seeker of cool but on a budget, head to Veechar Utensil Museum (closed on Mondays), located in the premises of Vishalla, a village-themed restaurant.

It has a collection of 4,500 utensils of all shapes and sizes, many even 1,000 years old. "Another cool spot is Amdavad ni Gufa, an underground art gallery exhibiting the works of M F Husain," says Vishal Hanmattekar, co-founder of travel firm, The Blueberry Trails.

For foodies
A food memory that chef Saransh Goila relates with Ahmedabad is his visit to Mahila Swashraya Kendra in Paldi, where he witnessed 100 women sitting in groups and making Gujarati snacks like khakra, fafda and gathiya.

"Their passion for cooking was inspiring," says Goila, who loves the city's food scene for its experiments like volcano paan or chocolate dosas. His reccos include Shrikhand and Khaman at Das Khaman House, and Handvo, a spiced cake made using various lentils. "Try it from the stall at the entrance of the Municipal Market [Navrangpura]," he suggests.

Kandi embroidery on Godiyu
Kandi embroidery on Godiyu

The heritage hotel. Pic courtesy/house of M g
The heritage hotel. Pic courtesy/house of M g

For handicraft and textile lovers
When Radhi Parekh, founder of ARTISANS', plans a trip to Ahmedabad, she includes a Sunday in the itinerary, so she can visit Ravivari, a Sunday flea market at the Sabarmati riverfront. "You never know what you'll find!" exclaims Parekh, an NID alumnus. "My family is originally from Ahmedabad and I spent my early childhood there, until we moved to Mumbai in the '60s. My grandfather's house is now part of the heritage hotel, The House of M G [Mangaldas Girdhardas]. It has a textile gallery and shops that stock antique textiles, and artisanal products from across India."

Her reccos for traditional textiles include Kasab on University Road for the Ashavali sari, the original Ahmedabad brocade, and stalls at Law Garden for mirror work pieces. But her favourite is Rani No Hajiro, the historic market near Jama Masjid. "You'll find local crafts like red cloth-bound account books, seasonal paper tazias and kites." She also suggests a visit to Calico Museum, which is the first collection of textiles in India open to the public.

Jaali work at Sidi Saiyyed mosque. Pic/AFP
Jaali work at Sidi Saiyyed mosque. Pic/AFP

Landmarks of Ahmedabad
Jama Masjid: Near Manek Chowk, it was built in 1424 by Ahmad Shah.

Bhadra fort: Located adjacent to Teen Darwaja, the fort complex was once used as a royal court.

Sidi Saiyyed Mosque: It's popularly known as Sidi Saiyyed ki Jaali because of its 10-stone latticework windows.

Ruff (philomachus Pugnax) birds near Thol Bird Sanctuary. Pic/AFP
Ruff (philomachus Pugnax) birds near Thol Bird Sanctuary. Pic/AFP

For nature Lovers
Within the city limits, head to Kamala Nehru Zoological Garden, situated near Kankaria Lake. Or explore nature spots roughly four hours away. Dr Anish Andheria, president, Wildlife Conservation Trust, recommends:
Thol Bird Sanctuary (29km): Located in Mehsana district, the lake sanctuary is home to 100 species of birds, including spoonbills and whistling teals.

Nalsarovar (60km): Visit during winters to spot migratory birds like Black-tailed godwit that travels from Central Europe.

Velavadar National Park (145km): Located in Bhavnagar district, the park has the largest population of blackbucks in India.

Expert speak
'The city has a mix of everything. It is rich in medieval monuments, which are over 600 years old and protected by Archaeological Survey of India. It also houses modern marvels by Corbusier, IIM by Louis Kahn and Sabarmati Ashram designed by Charles Correa. Another interesting aspect are the pols [housing clusters] that form Ahmedabad's social fabric. Their architecture is traditional Indian in true sense, without any Western influence.'

'The city has a mix of everything. It is rich in medieval monuments, which are over 600 years old and protected by Archaeological Survey of India. It also houses modern marvels by Corbusier, IIM by Louis Kahn and Sabarmati Ashram designed by Charles Correa. Another interesting aspect are the pols [housing clusters] that form Ahmedabad's social fabric. Their architecture is traditional Indian in true sense, without any Western influence.'

Ahmedabad in the news
On July 8, the 600-year-old walled city of Ahmedabad became the first Indian city to be declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO. The other contenders were Mumbai's architectural mix of Neo-Gothic and Art Deco buildings in Fort, and Delhi. Ahmedabad was founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, on the eastern bank of Sabarmati river.

EXPLORE THE CITY To book a heritage walk, log on to houseofmg.com or take a self-guided walk via uexplore.in

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