Nestled by the banks of the iconic Sabarmati River, the ancient city of Ahmedabad immediately summons up images of its connection is with Mahatma Gandhi, its importance as a textile hub and its architectural heritage. The city is a beautiful fusion of contemporary commercial growth and nostalgic vibes of its historic past. Peeling back the layers of its many avatars since its founding in 1411 by Sultan Ahmed Shah offers many delightful hours of explorations.
The Sultan has played a pivotal role in the growth of Ahmedabad as an artisan’s hub as he encouraged not just traders but also craftsmen to ply their ancient skills in his new city. When you wander through its old bazaars and market shops you will discover an enticing range of things to buy. A wander through the Textile Museum will surely bring those glory days alive of this ‘Manchester of the East’. In fact with the introduction of modern machinery for the textile industry by the British and Mahatma Gandhi’s call for wearing clothes made in India gave an impetus to the textile trade here.
Walking through the old bazaars of the walled city of Ahmedabad, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will encounter many examples of why it was such a successful commercial and textile hub. Mirrored in the bazaar shops is not only Ahmedabad’s but also the fabulous range of Gujarat’s textile heritage. From Patan come the gorgeous Patolas, zari-embroidered fabrics from Surat, the craft of Bhujodi, (home to award-winning weavers from the Vankar community), Ahmedabad’s block printed fabric and Jamnagar’s tie-and-dye work – all of this is wonderful. But what you will find quite irresistible is the vibrant mirror work to be found in cholis (blouses), kurtas, bags and wall hangings. The pavement market in Law Garden’s reveals great souvenirs for family and friends. Equally rewarding are the shelves at the SEWA craft shop. The beauty of the textile experience in Ahmedabad is that you even get to interact with some of the artisans involved in these beautiful textile traditions
A sightseeing spree on a heritage walk is the perfect way to discover the city’s many architectural gems, as also its beautiful mosques and monuments. They reflect the delightful cross-cultural Islamic, Hindu and Jain vibes of the city. It’s ideal to do a guided tour of the Old Quarter as one can miss some of these beautiful gems. You will learn all about the history of the city and its community-based residential areas (pols) and antique bazaars sequestered in the old town. A book market, vegetable and fruits market, an old-stock exchange, old mosques and temples— they all shed some light on the life and times of the multi-layered city. Unmissable too are the vintage homes that beckon with their architectural beauty marked by features such as intricately carved wooden brackets.
A unique insight into the city’s monumental heritage and local markets can be captured by the camera lens. You will discover some of the most charming aspects of iconic landmarks such as the Juma Masjid with its 260 supporting pillars covered with numerous Hindu carvings— and the Sidi Syed Mosque, with its beautiful stone-carved Tree of Life; early morning scenes at the flower market offer perfect photop moments too.
Not to be missed is the Vintage Car Museum filled with Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Daimlers, Langondas, Mercedes, Maybach, Packards, Cadillacs, Buicks, Auburns, Cord, Lancias, Lincolns, Chryslers et al. This is a truly unique fun experience as one wanders around the biggest collection of vintage cars in the world; the museum offers insightful views into the time of history when automobiles were considered a symbol of wealth, power and style.
Ahmedabad is an excellent place to set about discovering Gujarat’s amazing culinary heritage. You can even go a step further by learning how to make some popular dishes from a home chef. What makes it even more fun is you get to visit a vegetable and fruit market and the spice bazaar to pick up fresh ingredients for the meal with your host!It will also give you an excellent opportunity to enjoy some other cultural insights of its people, over a sit-down meal at a local home.