Thursday, April 24, 2014

I Vote for the Taj Mahal!

We went to bed last night looking out our hotel window into a black abyss. This morning when we woke up we could see the Taj Mahal out our window. It is really closer than pictures can show and rather impressive.
So we had breakfast and went for our morning quickly we settle into a routine. We met our guide AK and began our tour of Agra. It is a strangely calm day, most shops are closed because it is election day. Our guides voted before they picked us up and showed us their marked fingers as did some of the few shop keepers that were open for business today. They also decorated the street outside of our hotel because election observers are located here.

So we headed to the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah or what our guide AK referred to as the mini Taj. It truly is an under appreciated monument in Agra. Next up was the Agra Fort which is still used as barracks for the Indian military. It was built by Akbar the Great. It was also used to imprison Shahjahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, by his son Aurangzeb.

After we got back from our morning tour we decided to take a ride in a tuk-tuk! The drivers are forced to take you to the shops that their bosses own so we stopped in at a very expensive jewelry shop where we bought nothing. We ended up at a shop right next door to our hotel where the female shop keeper pictures above sold me a traditional Indian shirt.

After the tuk-tuk adventure we went back to our hotel to have lunch and take another dip in the pool, and then off to the Taj Mahal!

While we took our time exploring the area near the Taj Mahal our guide asked to be briefly excused so he could participate in the evening prayers at the Mosque at the Taj Mahal complex. While he prayed I took the photosphere picture above while Jammie got chased by a monkey! In India there is always more to do! On our way back to our car we went down from the Taj Mahal in what our guide AK called a "chariot". While heading down we saw our first camel on the street, which I'm sure we'll see many more of tomorrow when we had into the desert of Rajasthan and the Pink City of Jaipur!

Once we reached our car we stopped at an artisan shop that is actively involved in restoration work on the Taj Mahal. These artists and their ancestors have done stone inlay work since the time of Shahjahan. We were shown the process in which the stone inlay that exists both inside and outside the Taj Mahal was created. It is a truly amazing talent and skill.

Tomorrow brings another day. India is truly extraordinary!

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