Our bestseller, it is favoured by many for being a concise representation of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage. The focal point of the walk is the Galle Fort, a UNESCO recognised world heritage site, and it is conducted by a 5th generation resident of this historic city located along the island’s Southwestern coast.
The Portuguese, Dutch, and British occupied the Galle Fort at various points during Sri Lanka’s colonial history, and they have each left a unique imprint on its fabric. As you navigate through the fort’s charming alleyways at a leisurely pace, a fascinating blend of local design traditions and European colonial influence become evident in the architectural style of its many interesting structures. The Galle Fort Walk is peppered with interesting facts, numbers, stories, and myths, all interwoven by the unique perspective and narrative of its host, who knows this terrain as well as the back of his hand.
Nestled within fourteen strategically erected bastions, which demarcate Galle Fort’s extent, are numerous places of worship, a plush hotel originally used as the Dutch Governor’s residence, an old warehouse utilized to safekeep ship equipment and store spices, several local schools, a post office, a lighthouse, a clock tower, and an assortment of other in service and nonfunctional buildings, all crisscrossed by a grid pattern of streets. The lives of many different groups of people - primarily the Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims, Burghers, and Malays - unfold slowly along its cobbled pathways and byroads. The cultural labyrinth that is the Galle Fort is also a centre for commerce, and it sustains the livelihoods of the diverse population listed above. Its, mostly, single-storey low houses which were built in accordance with the Dutch colonial style of architecture, have now been converted into several rows of quaint restaurants, bars, cafes, mini-libraries, clothing stores, jewellery shops, knickknack corners and everything in between, by their longstanding owners and also a select few who have managed to secure valuable retail space here in more recent years. Unobtrusively, culture and modern commerce exist in palpable harmony. It certainly makes for fascinating viewing and an out-and-out local, culture-intensive experience with a heavy historical stance to it.
A budding filmmaker, and a fifth generation member of a prominent gem trading family from Galle, the host wishes to promote an attitude of simplicity through his various efforts. Atheeq comments on the sights that the Galle Fort Walk affords while guiding you through it gently, to supplement the richness of this novel, alternate experience. Simplicity, in the form of maintaining this micro-economy by firmly supporting locals, their ideas, and their businesses, is one aspect that he wants to reinforce through this walk. Towards this end, it helps that even as young boy he got up to plenty of mischief within the fort’s immediate environs and, therefore, allowed him to form family-like bonds with many of its inhabitants. Also, he expends much energy in improving sustainable business practices within the vibrant Fort community and in promoting local culture to those who partake in the Galle Fort Walk. His message of simplicity and contentedness can be discerned in the few hours that you share with him/he shares with you. It is refreshing, and it punctuates the historical and cultural leaning this experience takes.