Tuesday, November 22, 2005

India - Day 9

Today we passed up the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal at 6 am with the group, and decided to sleep in. Did that ever feel good! I'm sure it would be cool to see the Taj at sunrise, but we decided that it couldn't be that much different in the afternoon, and we needed our sleep. So we got up at 8 am and had a lovely, leisurely breakfast with Suzanne Pacifico-Ahlgren. (You can read some of her comments about the India Excursion by clicking here http://blog.unitus.com/?p=32)

At 11 am we boarded a bus and took a guided tour of Agra fort. It is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and is truly a remarkable place. You can read more about the fort by clicking here http://www.aviewoncities.com/agra/fort.htm
Here's a few images that we took at the fort.

Later in the afternoon the same tour guide took us on a tour of the Taj Mahal. We entered through the main gate, which is the one that the Shah would have entered in. It is really cool to actually be there. It almost looks unreal. It is a beautiful building, built with great symmetry. I always thought that it was a mosque, but in reality it is a tomb, built by the Emporer Shah Jahan to house the body of his wife, Mumtaz, the love of his life. The theme of the building is grief, and there are quotes from the Koran written on the outside, all having to do with grief. On one side of the building, is a mosque, and on the other side is a dummy mosque, to complete the symmetry.

We had to either take off our shoes or wear booties to cover our shoes to go inside. The building is made out of marble, inlaid with precious stones. Since the marble is not porous, the dirt and grime easily wash away, so it remains looking beautiful and white, in spite of all the soot in the air. If you're interested in ready more about the history of the Taj Mahal, go to http://www.angelfire.com/in/myindia/tajmahal.html.

Here's a picture of us in front of the Taj Mahal http://www.flickr.com/photos/24435927@N00/66541860/

Later in the evening as we were getting ready to go to dinner, we heard on the news that there had been some bombings in Delhi. The bombings were at 6 pm and this was at 6:15 pm so the details were still a bit sketchy. We were worried about some of the people from our group who had left for the Delhi airport around 3:30. As the news reports continued to come in, we learned that three markets had been bombed, as well as a bus. Fortunately, everyone from our group was safe and accounted for, but we were disappointed that it would no longer be safe for us to tour the markets in Delhi the next day, something we had looked forward to. I quickly went to the shops in the hotel and bought a few more souvenirs to take home, since I had planned to do this in Delhi. In the evening we had another nice dinner with the last five people left in our group.

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