After Hong Kong, Yangon, Penang and Colombo, iDiscover comes to Ahmedabad. The travellers’ itinerary is curated and designed by locals to give people an authentic cultural experience. It will have an illustrated map of Khadia and Bhadra area.
It’s always fascinating to see Uber drivers and Zomato delivery guys reach one’s desired location at just the push of a button. With all the roads and landmarks precisely mentioned on Google Maps, the world has become so easy to navigate! Now imagine a map like this that’s also been creatively designed to give travellers a personalised and enriching travel experience. Imagine curating an itinerary by consulting a guide that’s been created by locals, designed by locals and powered by locals; a guide that suggests what to eat, see and experience, which has been put together by people who are intimately well versed with the place, perhaps since generations. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?
The makers of ‘iDiscover’, a free digital travelling tool, create maps after personally visiting places, interviewing the communities there and understanding the local culture and heritage. The app is already helping travellers explore the Asian continent and, after its successful release in cities like Hong Kong, Yangon, Penang and Colombo, the entity is all set to launch in apnu Amdavad by the end of this year. The app contains an illustrated map of Ahmedabad’s Khadia and Bhadra areas. The narratives of the map will feature creatively written text that share facts with humour and quotes of the people interviewed.
Since 2014, the not-for-profit initiative iDiscover has been roping in enthusiastic planners, geographers and creatives to make these culturally sensitive maps alongside Urban Discovery, a Hong Kong-based social enterprise. The idea for iDiscover emerged when the team realised that Asia’s most captivating neighbourhoods need a tool that can keep their heritage alive. Thus, they came up with the idea to make a creative map that can exhibit local culture and stories, such that people can travel good with a ‘handy map and savvy app’!
The Ahmedabad chapter has been supported financially by Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development and is the brainchild of Ester Van Steekelenburg, Director of Urban Discovery, as well as of architect and urban/regional planner Sameeha Sheth, who met Steekelenburg in the Philippines. Steekelenburg, who moved from Amsterdam to Hong Kong for Urban Discovery more than two decades ago, is also in the process of making experientially enriching maps for cities like Galle, Manila, Chiangmai, Java and Bali. In Ahmedabad, Steekelenburg and Sheth collaborated to conduct three workshops in Khadia, Bhadra and the surrounding areas and interviewed more than 40 indigenous Amdavadis to discover what makes every neighbourhood a culturally and historically vibrant place.
Sheth who works as a heritage and smart tourism consultant, said she was fascinated on unearthing various untold stories of Ahmedabad from the locals. Through community engagement workshops and interviews, the team took suggestions from the people directly. She explained, “We didn’t want to know if they have visited the Jama Masjid, Jain Derasar or the Magen Abraham Synagogue; instead, we asked them what we should see in Ahmedabad! While interviewing a 14-year-old, we came to know about Shree Jivkor Vanita Vishram High School. A girls’ school whose foundation stone was laid by none other than our father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, more than 100 years ago. In an era when people are forgetting Gandhi, this 14-year-old in Khadia remembered. We don’t want to talk about the Manek Chowk and Pols through iDiscover.”
Sheth added, “A kid told us about how he loves his friend Laaloo’s residence, which, according to him, is a good-looking house. But after our visit, we found it to be a historically significant and picturesque edifice. Our app would feature not just the popular destinations but also informal places like Laaloo’s house, and the Vanita Vishram High School.”
The app focuses on enabling the traveller to gain first-hand experiences of involvement in the community. Sheth told us that, through iDiscover Ahmedabad, one would be able to find pockets in the walled city where a visitor can become part of the local community. The app will have locations marked where one can feed cattle, play cricket with local children or talk to local elderly women, hawkers and sellers. There will be dedicated bicycling itineraries and craft-walks through which visitors can find shops that sell locally made artefacts and artworks.
The iDiscover app will be launched by this year’s end and promises to be more than a travellers’ tool. It is an ode to the city’s living heritage and stakeholders.
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