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Day 6: Fatehpur Sikri

Agra Travel Blog

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the street outside our hotel

As always I was the first to wake up and after taking a shower with warm water for the first time, I waited for Edo and Casper to get ready and watched the street outside our hotel. In a small garden across the street there were some people preparing seats and decorations. The traffic on the street still looked chaotic from where I was sitting and when I opened the window, the sound of continuous horns came in along with the heat. At breakfast the buffet was a lot more diverse than the toast and egg that we had had each day in Delhi. We finished our breakfast quickly, because we wanted to get inside the hotel swimming pool as soon as possible. The pool in Agra had been something we all had been looking forward to in our first extremely hot week in Delhi.

discussing our plans

The air in Agra is a little bit clearer than the air in Delhi (although Agra is still a city with about 5 million people in it), so we had to use a lot of sunscreen again. The water was very refreshing and we jumped in a few times, while the rest of our group joined us. Erik told us about a dream he had had that night about the pool. In his dream we had made a pyramid with people and when he told us about this, it seemed to be a good idea, so we tried to do it. After a lot of failed attempts, we finally succeeded in building a pyramid with 6 people in the base and two people on top of them, after which Tim climbed to the top of them. My job was to provide the connection between the base and the top, so Tim could use my back to get on top.

After this we all were tired, so we spent the rest of the morning in the sun or playing by the pool.

one of our failed attempts
We would leave after lunch to visit Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur Sikri used to be the Capital of the Moghul empire during the reign of Akbar the Great, who was a son of Humayun. It was built in 1571 in honour of a holy man who had predicted that Akbar would get a son. Before we left I walked with Edo and Casper down the street to get something to eat on our ride to Fatehpur Sikri. We bought a few bags of chips and three bottles of water and walked back. It was only a short walk, but during it we were continuously being asked where we were going and if we needed a ride by tuktuk-drivers or bike-ricksha's. The drive to Fatehpur Sikri took about one hour and although it was not an official part of our programme, the entire group joined us. I read some more about Gandhi during the ride.
succes!
It was a chapter about the truth and standing alone and it meant a lot to me at that time.

A local guide joined us to show us Fatehpur Sikri, which was deserted after a couple of years in the 16th century because of a shortage of drinking water. This was the first time we experienced the Indian sun without the protection of the smog of big cities, so everyone took more than enough drinking water and used some more sunscreen. The complex consisted of several palaces and houses, which were all beautifully decorated in a style which mixed hindu, muslim and christian architecture. The guide told us that Akbar had had 3 official wives and about 40 girlfriends. He had been very interested in the aspects of different religions (he even founded his own religion to ease the tensions between the different faiths in his empire) and therefore he took a hindu wife, a muslim wife and a christian wife.

Fatehpur Sikri
He had his first son with his hindu wive, so she was the most important one. The guide showed us all the different buildings and after a few hours we went back to our bus to visit the mosque that was next to the complex.

The mosque was an important sight for tourists, so there were a lot of tourist walking around and the road towards the mosque was filled with traders and beggars. As I walked towards the mosque I negotiated with a man about the price of a gift for my mother and when we arrived at the gate, I got it with some cards of Agra for only 150 rupis. I gave my shoes to a muslim outside the mosque complex and when I walked inside, a little boy with a baseball cap started following me and told me things about the the mosque. At first I tried to tell him that we had our own guide, but he continued to follow me and eventually I began to like him, so I let him guide me around the complex.

Fatehpur Sikri
He showed me the tomb of the holy man of Sikri: Salem Christi, who had made the prediction about Akbars son and he showed me the mosque and the eastern gate. By now everybody in our group had his own little guide and I admired the creativity of my guide because during my tour, he continuously used new arguments and tricks about why I should give him money, while he was explaining things about the mosque. At the end I wanted to give him 100 rupis, but I only had a 500 rupi bill. I told him I wanted to give him 100, he asked me 200, but when I refused and threatened to leave him without any money, he changed my bill. At the gate I thanked him and started negotiating with the man who had my shoes to get them back. When I walked back to the bus, the same man who had sold a statue of Ganesh to me earlier, tried to sell the same 'one of a kind' statue to me for three times the price he had offered to me at first.
The gate at the mosque
I already had that statue in my pocket, so I really wasn't interested in another one, but when I arrived at the bus, he finally offered me a price that was lower than what I had payed for it.

In the bus everybody was relieved to be free from their guides and the traders outside. Some had bought the same statue of Ganesh as I had bought for my mother, but I had paid the lowest price of our bus. On our way back I was sitting besides Singh and he asked me if he could listen to my mp3-player. He liked the dutch songs of Rowwen Heze and Guus Meeuwis on my mp3-player, but he didn't really like 'vlieg met me mee naar de regenboog'. At the hotel we immediately changed our clothes and jumped in the pool again. We talked a bit, but when the temperature dropped below 35 degrees we got out of the water and I walked outside to an internet cafe with Edo and Casper to write an email before dinner.

Iris and Marlous with their guides at Fatehpur Sikri
I had to cross an intersection to get to the internet cafe across the street, but this intersection was just a large sand square where tuktuks, cars, bikes and buses were coming from every possible direction. At first I stood there and wondered if it wouldn't be safer to just order a tuktuk to take me to the other side of the street, but after a while I  started walking and hoped that the drivers around me that I didn't see coming, did see me. I survived the walk and even made it back again.

We went to eat at a restaurant that looked Italian, but inside we were the only guests and there was no beer at first. After a while the waiter arrived at our table again to say that they did have beer now, but that one of them was not yet cold. On our way back we bought a few bottles of beer at a local liquor store and had to visit some other stores, before our bike-rickshawdriver was satisfied and he dropped us of at our hotel.

the wedding procession
We played poker inside the hotel lobby, but I was out after a few rounds because of a stupid bluff. On the street in front of our hotel there was another wedding procession and I went outside to check it out. Casper and Erik had been invited to dance with the family in the procession. The lights of the lamps were very bright and the loud Indian music was energetic with a lot of drums. After a while they were finished and most people went back inside, while the family went inside the garden across the street. Erik, Chris, Alco and me were left outside to talk with some members of the family. After a while they invited us to come inside as their guests. Erik wanted to compliment them for their hospitality and said that 'Indian people are very hostile to their guests'.
the groom

Everybody was sitting inside the garden or eating something, while they were waiting for the bride and groom to arrive. We were introduced to a lot of members of the family and we made some pictures with our new friends. While we were talking about the differences between Indian and Dutch weddings and what we had been doing for the past week, more and more people were listening to us, untill almost everybody was sitting around us. At one point everybody started laughing and Erik told me that they had said that I looked like Harry Potter, who turned out to be very popular in India. We were offered to eat with them and then the marriage couple arrived. While the ceremony was being performed, I was standing besides a friend of the groom and he explained to me what was happening.

chris, Erik, Alco and me with some friends
When the ceremony was over, we thanked them for their hospitality and returned to our hotel. Inside the hotel we knew that there was supposed to be a little party in one of the rooms, but we didn't know which one. So Erik made a few people very angry as he walked into different rooms and just when I had decided to give up and went to bed, Chris came back to tell me he had found the party. In one of the rooms Thijs, Marij, Robin, Caroline, Suzanne and Paul were still awake and it looked as though they had been drinking a lot. We told them what had happened at the wedding and finished our last beers. Some of them wanted to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise, but I decided that I could see it in the afternoon and that I could see the pictures from the others to see what it looked like in the morning sun, so I went to bed.
the wedding

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the street outside our hotel
the street outside our hotel
discussing our plans
discussing our plans
one of our failed attempts
one of our failed attempts
succes!
succes!
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
The gate at the mosque
The gate at the mosque
Iris and Marlous with their guides…
Iris and Marlous with their guide…
the wedding procession
the wedding procession
the groom
the groom
chris, Erik, Alco and me with some…
chris, Erik, Alco and me with som…
the wedding
the wedding
Agra
photo by: rotorhead85