A Personalized Tour Guide of Ahmedabad; Weather, Hotels and Tourist Spots
Ahmedabad was the city that I was most excited to visit because it’s the hometown of my friend, Suraj. It would be a different tour because we didn’t need to use local tour guides or taxis but instead my family and I got a personalized tour. Suraj and I had met in Morocco where we had developed a deep bond. He had already planned the places for my family and I to sight see. We had been making these arrangements ever since I arrived in India a week and a half ago. Suraj picked us (my mother, sister and I) at exactly 1 o’clock from our hotel, the Hyatt Regency, on Ashram road. He came along with his mother, Priya, who was driving. Suraj got a new haircut and recognizing him with bangs was quite intriguing. Standing before me was my friend with long skinny arms reaching out to me for a hug. Before, he had a beard and full head of hair, looking like a true Moroccan.
Priya and my mother sat at the front chatting away whilst Suraj, Imani and I sat in the backseat, catching up on how we’d been since Morocco and our future travel plans. Whilst we were all caught up in our conversations, a man on a motorcycle came out of nowhere, almost hitting Priya’s Mercedes C7. Luckily he fell before impacting the vehicle, gathering himself and hastily speeding off in the opposite direction. We were told that in India people just drove as they please. There’s no respect for lanes or street lights, people just go as they please. The drive was about 30 minutes long to the best restaurant in town, Mango.
We were lucky to have found it empty with an unoccupied table right next to the entrance. It was a chic restaurant with low lamp shades adjacent to people’s heads. The food was purely vegetarian. If I lived in India, I’d be a vegetarian very easily throughout my lifetime. The food was absolutely spectacular, mouth melting with every bite. We had some margarita pizza, then some butter and cheese naan which tantalized our taste buds. Suraj ordered some rice. The sauce was brown cheese stew. For dessert we had Lodi with ice cream and everybody had a mojito.
The grounds were lovely, perfect for a trendy outing that all ages could enjoy. The highlight of the restaurant was a small man-made pond. It was home to large catfish which were black, white and orange. You could see them swimming a few inches below in the dark shaded pond water. There was a charming little boat inside the pond, it was as pretty as a picture. The ceiling had garlands of orange, yellow, white and pink flowers. It was painted with orange on the pillars and the wooden seats. It stood unapologetically in the background of such an enchanting restaurant.
Weaving in and out of traffic we went driving for about half an hour. We got to our first destination, Gandhinagar, which was home to Adalaj stepwell. In India, wells weren’t just ordinary deep holes in the ground with water and possibly a cemented little covering and hatch to notify passerby’s. Instead, people built huge structures with detailed Indian designs incorporating elephants into their wall structure. This well was made into a landmark which ancient architectural geniuses constructed in 1458 in memory of the late king Rana Veer Singh by his wife, Queen Rudadevi.
It looked like an optical illusion; you could see the rows, rows of floors and walls. It was like looking into a mirror which had multiple layers in the background, you can see yourself then you get smaller every time. There were layers of floors like the way an onion has layers. We walked down to the very bottom where the large hole for the well was. From here you could see all the floors of the building, it didn’t look multi-dimensional anymore. There was a grill at the top of the well, about 200m from the top where children were comfortably sitting on top of. The joy of being a child is that you’re carefree and oblivious to the dangers of the world.
The place was crowded, most people wanted to take photos here. The masses made the small space more humid than the original sweltering thirty-three temperature. It was getting unbearable to stand in the clustered space and had to leave. The outside temperature was getting even worse, it was rising. We quickly got into Priya’s air conditioned car and were on our way.
To the second destination. It was the Swaminarayan Temple in Ahmedabad. We weren’t allowed to bring in our phones or our handbags, shoes were also prohibited. We saw their God’s, Krishna and Radha. Shiva the destroyer and the elephant god and went to a museum of a history of their religion where they explained the history of the religion. It was mostly in Hindi and Suraj had to explain to us what the voice over was saying. It was lovely despite the language barriers. The statues could speak and there was a coordinated light show. Various statues were placed in the museum for the sake of imagery and a deeper understanding to illustrate to the public what went on. Swaminarayan (1781-1830) was an ascetic and yogi whose life was about the revival of Hindu practices such as ahimsa, dharma and brahmacharya. He is believed to be a manifestation of God.
After the temple Suraj and I talked about politics, the origins of Pakistan and the concept of all religions. We went on to our final destination which was Suraj’s favorite snack shop, home to an array of Indian sweets. My favorite were the jelebis. Sweet and succulent orange coiled sweets that oozed out with sugar and delightfulness with each bite. Outside, there was a mehndi man who painted both my sister and I’s inner hands. He took less than ten minutes for the both of us. He was swift and skilled.
The last stop of the day was taking us back to the hotel. Suraj told me about his hair dyes and how he had plans to dye his hair some more. It was time to bid my friend goodbye. We hugged and watched him drive away with his lovely mother, Priya. It was simply farewell for now, until we meet again, my friend.
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