Another iPhone alarmed early start (this time well before dawn) wakes me in the ITC Mughal. The one hotel of the trip I wasn’t pleased to arrive at or stay in but was delighted to leave. Not helped by being the epicentre of Northern Indian tourism Agra is far from brimming over with decent hotels. This one’s best attribute was its spa, the rest is not worth writing about unless you want to hear a diatribe of complaints so I won’t. I can only put down to the excitement of seeing the Taj Mahal the atrocious behaviour of many of the guests and the poor condition of the bathrooms the hotel can get away with by not renovating as none of the guests are likely to ever be coming back.
My guide and the ever faithful Manjeet are waiting and it’s still pitch black. Time is of the essence to get to the Taj Mahal, collect pre ordered tickets, transfer to the actual site in an overfilled golf buggy crammed with said tourists and get in the security queue before it opens. Any delay will mean missing seeing the sun rise over one of the most iconic sights in the world and if I have to queue barge I’m going to get there.
This white marble mausoleum on the southern bank of the Yamuna river was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his (favourite) wife of three, Mumtaz Mahal who died in childbirth bearing their 14th child. 20,000 workmen, using 1,000 elephants, 28 varieties of semi precious and precious stones and marble from all over India and as far as China and Arabia took a total of 22 years to build it.
It’s difficult to describe my first view of the Taj Mahal, perhaps it was the sun rising behind it but I can quite honestly say no building that I’ve ever seen before has brought a lump to my throat.
Being there at dawn is so very special. As the sun rises the light constantly changes on it giving you a different perspective every time you look at it. The ever changing colours, depending on the time of day and whether there is moon at night some believe represent the changing moods of a woman. No comment.
So that was the main touristy bit of my trip and I won’t digress again I promise from this being primarily my Food Travels, but it seemed a shame to leave something as important as one of The Seven Wonders of the World out. And if you haven’t seen it for yourself and are within a stone’s throw of India I thoroughly recommend a detour, no matter how difficult it may be.
Tomorrow Manjeet and I are onwards on our travels to Jaipur, Rajasthan where amongst other things I will be attending a private cookery school and learning to make proper Northern Indian curries as well as being taught to make breads like the nomads when they are travelling. And meeting a lot of very large 60kg monkeys, one of which came far too close for comfort. But that’s another story.