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Discover the soul of Galle with iDiscover Galle

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Galle Fort is a gem of a heritage town; its red-roofed, white-washed colonial houses catapult you back to days-long-gone. But more than the buildings, it’s the people that make this place unique. The Fort is a place that celebrates unity in diversity; a glorious potpourri of ethnicity with a cosmopolitan vibe that is a vivid reminder of its multicultural past. iDiscover Galle App & Map is a locally curated and illustrated guide, featuring three handcrafted walking itineraries through the UNESCO-listed heritage town, to help locals and tourists navigate Fort and learn more about its unique architecture, culture and community.

A true collaborative effort, the iDiscover Galle project is a partnership between the Hong Kong-based non-profit iDiscover and the Galle Heritage Foundation. The project is proudly supported by the Netherlands Embassy in Colombo, as well as some of Fort’s leading hotels: Galle Fort Hotel, Amangalla, Fort Bazaar, Deco on 44, Pedlar’s Inn, and Fortaleza. These establishments are at the frontline of revitalizing Fort’s heritage buildings, with great respect to the soul of Galle.

“We are proud to be part of this initiative. Fort has so much significance as a living colonial heritage site. Heritage conservation is more than just restoring the streetscape and preserving the buildings, it’s about keeping the stories of Fort alive. We have to protect it for the next generation,” said Tharanga Liyana Arachchi from the Galle Heritage Foundation.

iDiscover Galle is the second in the App & Map series in Sri Lanka. The iDiscover Colombo guide was launched last year, and has brought culture and heritage in four old neighbourhoods – Fort, Pettah, Slave Island, and Cinnamon Gardens – to the traveller’s attention. The iDiscover guides come in an award-winning format of a savvy app, a hand-drawn map and an exclusive storybook, bringing cultural heritage to life by introducing the stories behind over 30 sites, 30 people and 10 streets in Fort.

The App helps to navigate, gives background stories and shares some little-known secrets. Content was created by the crew from the Galle Heritage Foundation. Students from Moratuwa and Ruhuna University helped with historic research and surveys in the Fort community.

The Map is an artistic ode to the Fort. Inspired by historic seafarer’s maps, a team of passionate architecture students from Moratuwa University took out their pencils and brushes. Gayan, Hirantha and Shenan jointly created a map of the city they love.

The ‘People of the Fort’ Storybook contains 30 interviews with Fort residents, providing an intimate glimpse into Fort daily life and what makes this place so special. Interviews, copywriting and photography were done by the very talented team of Daisy, Atheeq and Praveen.

The iDiscover Map highlights the places in Fort that matter most to the locals. Even more, through the interactive travel app, one can access the stories of the places and the people behind them, giving the traveller an intimate insight in the daily lives of the people of Fort.

“All over Asia, we come across the same story again and again: historic neighbourhoods are gentrifying, the original residents slowly moving out. We are proud to be working with some amazing young and committed people in Fort who deeply care about their heritage and we hope this mapping project will be an important step to the path of keeping the spirit of Fort alive,” said iDiscover founder Dr. Ester van Steekelenburg.

“Galle Fort is a classic example of a place of vibrant cultural, social, ethnic, economic and religious diversity. It is a unique place that celebrates unity in diversity, something that’s even more important to highlight in these times. The Sri Lankan tourist industry needs an extra boost to reassure visitors and this guide helps people to see the city through the lens of locals, travel respectfully and truly appreciate the different layers of history in Fort.” said celebrated architect Channa Daswatte, one of the initiators of this project.

“Sri Lanka and the Netherlands have a long, shared history and this project highlights the many marks of this rich past that have survived into the present: buildings, names, streets, stories and even food. 

With this project the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Sri Lanka wants to show that cultural heritage is more than just a reminder of our past, it is what makes the city of Galle unique today and for future generations,” said Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Sri Lanka Joanne Doornewaard.

To celebrate the iDiscover Galle launch, there will be a one-week exhibition at the Maritime Museum in Galle from 21-27 July. Maps will be available for free at the leading hotels in Galle and the iDiscover App is available as a free download on both iOS and Android. Download information can be found on iDiscover’s website.

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