If I mention beautiful Dargahs, quaint mosques, museums, lovely havelis and a market serving mouthwatering nihari, kulcha and tandoori chicken, you’ll think that I am talking about Delhi. But no, this is not the Capital of India but the capital of Gujarat, Ahmedabad. Recently declared the first Indian World Heritage City by UNESCO, Ahmedabad holds everything that hides in Delhi along with bustling night markets, culinary culture and scattered monuments in every corner of the city Ahmedabad has something that Delhi lacks and it is the safety that makes traveling here an extraordinary affair.
Are you planning to take a trip down the capital of Garba, Fafda-Jalebi and Kites? Here is how you should plan your trip.
Explore the well-maintained heritage trail of the city.
Like Delhi, Ahmedabad evolved into a city of strategic importance during the reign of Sultan Ahmed Shah. He developed the part of the city today known as the old Ahmedabad. He invited sufis and mystics to reside and spread their knowledge among the folks of his city. The city of Old Ahmedabad was protected by the famous Bhadra fort with gates opening into every corner of the city. The famed Dilli Gate and Laal Darwaza are two such protected monuments still existing around the Old City.
A short walk or an auto rikshaw ride will take you to Old Ahmedabad. Another short walk will further take you into a lane where the area is divided into a number of 'pols'. Think of these pols like the 'katras' of Chandni Chowk where a small lane emerges into another and you'll keep coming next to a gorgeous building or another.
Doshiwada ni Pol
Doshiwada is one of the most gorgeous pols of Old Ahmedabad. The lane is filled with lovely havelis with intricately designed doors and windows. In the old days, these havelis were the home and offices of the rich Gujarati traders. These havelis were the meeting place with traders from Rajasthan, the modern Pakistani provinces and even those who visited from the land of Persia.
You walk out of the fort and a short rickshaw ride will take you to Laal Darwaza. This is the region where the heritage of Ahmadabad is scattered. A short walk will further take you to the glorious Tin Darwaza, this gate served as the main entry point for the city of Amdavad during the reign of Sultan Ahmad Shah.
Jumma Masjid – Jumma Masjid or Jami Masjid is the most beautiful mosques in the city. Carved with intricate designs, beautiful pillars and arches make this mosque an amazing piece of architecture. Visit this mosque during the evening to enjoy the beautiful sunset from its premises.
Fun Fact: The history of this mosque dates back to 200 years more than the time Taj Mahal was constructed.
Sidi Saiyad ni Jaali – A marvel of the Gujarat Sultanate, Sidi Saiyad Mosque is known for its beautiful carvings and jharokhas.
This mosque is the original location of the ‘Tree of Life’ from where IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed its logo.
Lucky restaurant – While not a heritage location, Lucky Restaurant is known for something very unique and eerie. The restaurant is built over a graveyard and has made sure that none of its sleeping guests are disturbed.
As you sit at your table, you can see these graves around you. While the ghosts don’t come out to trouble you, the staff certainly makes your day with lovely bun makkhan and chai.
Sarkhez Roza – Located at a fine distance from the main town of Ahmedabad, Sarkhez Roza is a mosque and Tomb complex in Makarba village. The complex of Sarkhez Roza has seen multiple extensions by the emperors of Gujarat Sultanate. Historians have called it the Acropolis of the east. The multiple buildings of Sarkhez Roza house the tombs of the kings and queens of Shah Dynasty. The beautiful amalgamation of Hindu and Islamic architecture makes exploring this place a memorable experience.
Adalaj stepwell – Adalaj Stepwell or locally known as Adalaj ni Vav, is one of the many beautiful stepwells in the city. The mix of Indo-Islamic architecture of this stepwell is filled with a glorious history of love, war, and hatred.
This stepwell has a haunted reputation and it is said that the spirit of Rani Roopba still wanders here. She committed suicide after her husband was killed by the king of the neighboring province. The beautiful artwork, carvings of mythical figures, calligraphy on the walls is the reason it attracts hundreds of visitors every day.
Rani ni Vav – Rani ni Vav is not located in Ahmedabad but in the neighboring city of Patan. This 2014 winner of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, Rani ni Vav speaks of grandeur.
Designed with Hindu style of architecture, the walls of this step well are decorated with ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The Pillars are designed as if a kalash is kept on the top of them. Carvings of human figures in different stances make Rani ni Vav a wonderful place to explore.
Sabarmati Ashram – How can one talk about the heritage of Ahmedabad and miss the Sabarmati Ashram? The venue that served as the home of Mahatma Gandhi during this freedom struggle today houses his rare artifacts from his life.
Sabarmati Ashram hosts regular fares and festivals to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s life and teachings. A huge fare is organized in the Ashram and is a sight to behold.
Modhera Sun Temple – Among the few Sun Temples in India, the one at Modhera is the most beautiful. This sun temple is one of the three world heritage sites in Gujarat. One can start from Ahmedabad by bus or personal vehicle and reach Mehsana district in an hour.
The beautiful carvings of this temple along with the torans and mandapas increase the beauty of the temple. Anyone who loves architecture and history will find this place very fascinating.
A Short Introduction to the Food of Ahmedabad
Not a lot is known about the food culture of India’s first world heritage city. What follows is a string of stereotypes about the sugar-flavored food, along with jokes of their habits on carrying their meal during their journeys. Trust me, once you learn about the culinary culture of this city, you won’t wish go on a food trail in any other city, ever.
Gujarati Snacks –The life in Ahmedabad starts with a scrumptious plate of Fafda Jalebi. The sweet jalebi and salty fafda, when served with deep fried chilli, takes your tastebuds to a beautiful place. Restaurants like Chandravilas and Oshwal are a few of the best places to enjoy this heavenly dish. You can also enjoy it at small eateries scattered around the different corners of the city.
Other than Fafda Jalebi, you can also enjoy Dhokla, Khaman, Dalvada, along with several kinds of namkeens sold here.
The Non-Veg Food of Old Ahmedabad – For a state that is ridiculed for its vegetarian food has corners that sell the most delicious Nihari, Haleem, Biryani and Tandoori Chicken.
When you take a walk from Ahmadabad’s Bhadra Fort towards the Jumma Masjid, you’ll find a number of small eateries and carts selling the most amazing non-vegetarian food in different corners. This area is known as Bhatiyar Gali or Cook's Lane. One can try the keema samosa at Bera or fried chicken at ZK Fry Center. The heavenly cuisine brings the food lovers from faraway corners of the city to this place.
Kathiawadi Thali – Kathiawadi Thali originates from Gujarat’s Saurashtra region. Unlike the food of Gujarat that is sweet in taste, the Kathiawadi thali is extremely spicy. The most popular dishes from Kathiawad region are bhakri, eggplant curries, stuffed chillies, undhiyo, patra, dhokla, dhokli and chunda. This region has a unique way of preparing the food. They lit the coal a few feet under the ground and bury the food and ingredients in earthen pots for a few hours. The prepared meal is then taken out. This was a practice followed by the traders and shephards of this region who wanted to save the food from getting spoilt because of the high temperature.
Night markets of Law Garden and Manek Chowk – The nightlife in Ahmedabad doesn’t seem to end. The night markets of Ahmedabad are known to be up and running till 4 AM in the morning. The jewelry market of Manek Chowk turns into a hustling market by the evening. One can find Biryani, Pao Bhaji, and Kulfi in every corner of Manek Chowk. The popularity of this market can be guessed by the fact that the seats are never empty and you’ll probably have to wait for at least fifteen minutes before your turn arrives.
Law Garden market turns into a hub for food lovers who come here from far away corners of the city to enjoy the delicacies. Jasuben’s Pizza is one of the famous joints here that serves a super cheese burst pizza. You’ll never have anything like this anywhere.
This small guide is just a peek into the captivating architecture, culture, nightlife, and food of this city. A trip to Ahmedabad requires a lot of time to experience the best of this heritage city.
Travel Tips: Ahmedabad and a majority of Gujarat experiences extreme heat for 10 months of the year. Plan your trip post September and before February to so that you can walk in the lanes without getting exhausted too soon.