Ahmedabad Becomes India’s First UNESCO World Heritage City and Joins the Ranks of Paris, Rome, Cairo

Despite having UNESCO World Heritage sites, no Indian city was recognized as a World Heritage City by UNESCO until the walled city of Ahmedabad was declared India’s first UNESCO World Heritage city on Saturday night (IST), July 8. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the declaration of 600-year-old Ahmedabad as a world heritage city by UNESCO as “a matter of immense joy for India.”

Founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah in the 15th century, Ahmedabad is the former capital of Gujarat and the sixth largest Indian city. With the ‘UNESCO World Heritage City’ tag, Ahmedabad joined the ranks of Paris, Rome, Vienna, Edinburgh, Cairo and Brussels. Ahmedabad is also one of the hundred Indian cities selected for the Government of India’s project, Smart Cities Mission.

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Heritage conservation and sustainable development are among the whys Ahmedabad became a UNESCO World Heritage city in India. From the Sultanate period, the city has been a prominent hub of Indo-Islamic architecture and Hindu-Muslim art. There are as many as 2600 heritage sites and 26 ASI protected monuments in Ahmedabad, according to the city’s municipal commissioner.

Located on the eastern banks of the Sabarmati River, India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City Ahmedabad was a thriving center of trade during the regime of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Ahmedabad was where the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan spent the prime period of his life, commissioning the construction of Moti Shahi Mahal in Shahibaug.

From the Sultanate period till the independence of India, Ahmedabad witnessed the rise and fall of several dynasties including the Mughal, the Maratha, and the British. It was the provincial headquarters of the Mughal Empire until the Maratha power took control of it. Ahmedabad became home to a thriving textile industry during the British Raj in India. Since then, India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City has been nicknamed “Manchester of the East.”

Some of the best places to visit in Ahmedabad are associated with the life of Mahatma Gandhi and the history of Indian Independence Movement. The National Freedom Movement gained momentum in Ahmedabad City when Mahatma Gandhi initiated the Dandi Salt March from his Satyagraha Ashram (now Sabarmati Ashram) in 1930. The city is a must visit during the international kites flying festival and Navaratri in Gujarat.

Both historically and culturally, India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City Ahmedabad is a happening tourist destination in Asia. The Rani ki Vav stepwell, a UNESCO World Heritage site; the Vadodara Palace, the Girnar, and the Champaner-Pavagadh archaeological park, a UNESCO World Heritage site are some of the tourist places near Ahmedabad City in Gujarat.

India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City Ahmedabad has good air connectivity with some of major cities in the United States and other countries through international flights from and to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport (AMD), the eighth busiest airport in India. Cheap Air India flights connect New Jersey and New York with Ahmedabad via London Heathrow.

UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage cities incorporated Ahmedabad in 2011. Ahmedabad was in competition with Mumbai and New Delhi for this prestigious title. Being India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City, it expects a lift in the number of foreign tourist arrivals.

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