WORDS: FABIOLA MONTEIRO
PHOTOGRAPHS: HIMANSHU PANDYA
GO FROM: Mumbai
GO FOR: To appreciate Ahmedabad’s new UNESCO World Heritage status
It’s always reassuring to see history being preserved well – and it’s what you’ll see in action in the old historic city of Ahmedabad. Founded in the 15th century, this is one of India’s newest destinations to receive UNESCO World Heritage status. Obviously, that means there’s a lot to cherish here. What better way, then, to immerse yourself in the city’s storied history than by checking into these homes-turned-hotels?
Narrow winding lanes in Dhal ni Pol (pols are traditional neighbourhoods – you’ll find them all over the old city) mark the course to chic French Haveli, a boutique B&B that’s sited in a restored 150-year-old heritage home. Set up by Threee Foundation, an organisation that is working to conserve various old buildings in the area, there isn’t anything particularly French about this place. Instead, its name harks to the Indo-French partnership that triggered a conversation about its conservation. What is fairly European, however, are the cherubic sculptures on the outside of the building. Inside, you’ll find a wooden swing, block-printed furnishings, and steep staircases that lead up to spacious, cosy rooms.
Another 150-year-old property is the majestic white structure called Divan’s Bungalow. Once the home of the Divan of Radhanpur, and, most recently, the home of renowned architect IM Kadri, it’s now a heritage hotel. The staff is courteous and helpful, and the rooms are comfortable, but what seals the deal is the ‘Divan’s Special’ lunch – a hearty, home-made feast that includes kebabs, chicken qaliya, khatta gosht and a fall-off-the-bone mutton masoor pulao.
If that’s too much meat, however, tuck into the wholesome vegetarian thali at Agashiye. It’s a popular fine-dining spot on the rooftop of The House of MG. Another heritage option in the city, this one’s luxurious, well-located, right opposite the delicate Sidi Saiyyed ni Jali (or the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque), great
that helped regulate temperatures in the old homes, how brick and wood was used in alternating layers to make more sturdy, earthquake-resistant structures, and of the drainage system that networks underneath the old city. Then, walk over to Chandravilas, an old and famous little joint near Jami Masjid, to fuel up like the locals do: over plates of hot-hot fafda, jalebi, and dhokla. Ahmedabad can seem like a busy city on the run, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find friendly folk, ancient homes and vibrant stories. It’s all in the name of history, after all.