December 2016 “My greatest moment is when children come here with curiosity and excitement,” said Aaliya Sultana Babi, a member of the Royal family that once ruled the Balasinore estate in Gujarat when I spoke to her recently. Aaliya Sultana Babi: A curator of India’s pre-historic fossil wealth In the winter of 1981, scientists from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) accidentally discovered fossils in the sedimentary rocks of Raiyoli village. The geologists had been conducting a mineral survey when they found some unusual stones, the size of large fruits. Lab testing later determined that the finds were dinosaur eggs and bones. After this, they uncovered fossils belonging to at least seven species of dinosaurs, making Raiyoli the third largest dinosaur hatchery in the world. Now, recent studies conducted by expert paleontologists have revealed that the most popular species that was discovered in Raioli was the carnivorous rajasaurus narmadensis (measuring 26 to 30 feet), also known as the Prince or Regal Lizard. Aaliya, who had studied literature in a nearby college and had absolutely no idea of paleontology, was fascinated at this discovery, and decided to make dinosaur tourism her cause. She read all she could on the subject, spoke to many experts, and did all that she could to preserve the region’s prehistory and fuel the interests of others too.She wants to assist students of paleontology in their research and ensure this entire region is preserved and maintained well. Raiyoli is now part of a protected area in Gujarat called Balasinor Dinosaur Fossil Park—regarded as the most significant site for dinosaur remains in India. Aaliya runs the Garden Palace Heritage Hotel from her royal haveli in Balasinor, offering a home stay with the royal family. It is through her hotel that she has promoted the dinosaur relics, preserved in the Balasinor Fossil park, a 71-acre reserve that has life-size models of the dinasaurs, as well as relics not just of the eggs but also of bones, and teeth. Her efforts in protecting her pre-historic lineage have made international headlines, inspiring many to learn more about fossils. She has been featured in various publications and TV shows like Femina, Hello, Hi Blitz, Discovery Channel, BBC, History channel, Living Foodz, Travel XP and so on. “My parents, especially my mother, have always supported me in pursuing my passion,” she says. Jurassic Park, anyone?
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