Over the weekend of my visit I had a chance to explore Agra. While the city might not sound familiar, it’s the site of the most famous monument in India, the Taj Mahal. After flying to Delhi and visiting a work location, we checked into our hotel and got ready for an early expedition the following morning.
About 6 months a new road opened linking Delhi to Agra. It cuts down the travel time by about an hour and takes you on a zippy and fairly empty road straight into Agra. It cuts through the countryside and past the new F-1 track. It’s a nice, but boring drive. Thankfully after each toll road there is a small rest stop with snacks and decently clean bathrooms.
Once we arrived in Agra it was a different world from the streets of Bangalore. For the first time I saw water buffalo, cows, monkeys, pigs, and goats all wandering the streets. Mingling with the pedestrian, motorbike, and rickshaw traffic I’m amazed they don’t get run over on a daily basis.
Pulling up to the Taj Mahal’s west gate we exited our vehicle to begin the walk up to the entrance gate. It’s a path full of vendors wanting to sell you camel rides, trinkets, water, etc. I was extremely thankful to have a guide with us as I would have felt overwhelmed without him. After making our way to the ticket counter we found out it was closed due to a VIP event (rumor was an Iraqi delegation) and that we would have to return in a few hours.
The Taj Mahal being delayed, we drove up the road to the Agra Fort. It was quite a sight, but I’ve been to a lot of forts and they do tend to look the same. What did make this stand out was the beautiful mosque and views of the Taj Mahal. Legend has it that the king who built the Taj Mahal for his love and was later imprisoned in the fort was locked into a room where he could only see the building through a reflection in a diamond. At least that’s what our guide said…
After a few other detours (marble working shop and jewelry store) we made it to the Taj Mahal once again. Making our way past the camels and solicitors we arrived at the ticket booth and I was dismayed by the insanely long line. However, I soon realized this was the “local” line and as a foreigner I was to pay a much higher entrance fee with no wait. The higher fee also meant shorter lines at security and throughout the rest of our Taj Majal visit. It was awesome, but I did feel a tad guilty waltzing past so many people queued up in the extreme heat.
We could not have picked a more beautiful day to visit. The sky was a remarkable blue with a few puffy clouds scattered about. The Taj Mahal itself gleamed in the sunlight and the detail of the craftsmanship was stunning. I am lucky to have been able to experience it. While walking about I was disappointed in myself for not knowing more about Indian and Persian history. The architect that built this was from Aleppo and it made me realize the casualties in the current Syrian war are not contained to just human life. Countless historical treasures are in peril.
Here are some photos from my trip. I plan to enlarge a few and put them up in my house. They came out even better than I had hoped.