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Ahmadabad

Ahmadabad

A tangled mass of factories, mosques, temples and skyscrapers, Gujarat's commercial hub, AHMEDABAD (also known as Amdavad), sprawls along the banks of the River Sabarmati, 90km from its mouth in the Bay of Cambay. The state's largest city, with a population of around five million, is appallingly polluted, renowned for its dreadful congestion and repeated outbreaks of communal violence. Give it a little time, however, and the mix of medieval and modern makes the city a compelling place to explore.

The historic heart of Ahmedabad is the bustlingold city, an area of about three square kilometres on the east bank of the river, dissected by the main thoroughfares of Relief Road (also called Tilak Road) and Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road, and reaching its northern limits at Delhi Gate. It's best to start exploring in Lal Darwaja, taking in the squat buildings of the original citadel, Bhadra, the mosques and tombs of Ahmedabad's Muslim rulers, as well as vibrant bazaars and pols (residential areas) – labyrinths of high wooden havelis and narrow cul-de-sacs that still house families all belonging to the same caste or trade. Ahmedabad is packed with diverse architectural styles, with over fifty mosques and tombs, plus Hindu and Jain temples and grand step-wells (vavs), while the Calico Museum of Textiles is one of the world's finest.

Particularly in the old city, it's advisable to cover your mouth and nose with a bandana or handkerchief to reduce inhalation of carbon monoxide. In 2002, a controversial canal project diverted water from the River Narmada into the Sabarmati, which previously had virtually dried up outside the monsoon. This has given the city a cooler feel, but Ahmedabad has a long way to go before it can breathe easily.