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Day 7: Fort Agra and the Taj Mahal

Agra Travel Blog

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The Taj Mahal in the distance

On saturday we would visit the Taj Mahal in the afternoon and Edo, Casper and I decided to visit Fort Agra in the morning. When we arrived in the hotel restaurant we met some people who had visited the Taj Mahal at sunrise that morning. Bastian was complaining that he had gotten up so early and that they couldn't even see the sun coming up because of all the fog. When I heard this, I was glad that I didn't went with them that morning. After breakfast we took a tuktuk from our hotel and drove to Fort Agra. Fort Agra was built by Akbar the great on the foundations of an older fort and later emperor Shah Jahan constructed new buildings inside the fort. The architecture of the buildings inside the fort looked quite similar to the architecture of the Red Fort in Delhi, but the buildings were preserved better here.

Fort Agra
There were tourists from every possible corner of the world visiting the fort and while we walked around we met a few other members of our group. At one corner of the fort we could see the river and on the right bank of it we could see the Taj Mahal in the distance.

After we had visited the fort we walked to a nearby market with Charlotte and dr. Farla. There were beggars sleeping on the sidewalk along the road and the market was even more crowded than the streets in Delhi. We didn't stay at the market very long because it was getting very hot again, so we took a tuktuk back to the hotel to spend the rest of the morning in the pool. We had lunch and after a few hours of swimming and reading everybody gathered in the lobby for our busride to the Taj Mahal. While Edo and Casper were getting ready I watched an Indian channel on out tv and I saw that a very famous bollywood actor was getting married that weekend in Mumbai.

Fort Agra
His arrival by bus was covered live and there were hundreds of people waiting for him. When he arrived in Mumbai he had the same wedding procession as we had seen on the streets of Agra, but we had to leave before it started.

Mr. Singh could not accompany us to the Taj Mahal, so we had a different guide with us. We stopped near the eastern gate and we would walk the last part to a different gate. Our guide warned us that there were a lot of traders and beggars in this area, because the site was visited by many tourists. We walked through very small and crowded streets and the closer we got to the garden of the Taj Mahal, the more soldiers were guarding the streets around it. Our guide wanted to change our rupis into dollars for no particular reason and it took a while before we were able to walk to the southern gate.

Tim ordering lunch at the pool
After antoher security check we arrived at a small courtyard and walked into the garden where the Taj Mahal was located.

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum that was built in 1648 by the moghul emperor Shah Jahhan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. She died while giving birth to his fourteenth child and he built this mausoleum as a monument for their everlasting love. The emperor had planned to build another Taj Mahal in black marble at the other side of the river, but he was deposed and placed under house arrest by his son before he could start building it. He spent his last years looking at the Taj Mahal from the fort in Agra and was placed next to his wife after his death. The Taj Mahal is the most famous building in India and in 2007 it was elected as one of the 'new' seven wonders of the world.

Waiting to visit the Taj Mahal

I had already seen the Taj Mahal on several pictures, but it was impressive to see it in reality at last. But the thing that was even more impressive to me was that the entire world seemed to be present in that garden and that everybody shared the same sense of wonder as they saw the beauty of the Taj Mahal. There were hindus, muslims, sikhs, Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Europeans and Australian people present and you could hear every possible language around you. We made a group picture at the southern gate and walked towards the plateau where the main monument was located. The Taj Mahal is supposed to be even more beautifull when the sun is shining on it, but unfortunately we arrived there at one of the few clouded days in Agra.

I took off my shoes before I walked onto the plateau and started walking around the monument.

The Taj Mahal
At both sides of the plateau there were two identical buildings: a mosque at the western side (towards Mekka) and a guest house at the eastern side. At the northern side you had a nice view of the river and I could see the foundations of another Taj Mahal on the other side of the river. There were children playing in the water on the other side of the river. By now the afternoon was getting very hot, even though the sky was clouded and it looked like a thunder storm would break out very soon. I walked inside the tombe for Shah Jahhan and his wife, but inside it was very crowded and dark. When I arrived back outside I could no longer see the southern gate at the end of the garden because of a huge cloud of dust and sand and I soon realized that this was a dust storm.
some people thought our group was more interesting than the Taj Mahal

The wind that was coming from the river was very warm and it carried a lot of dust with it and even a few drops of water. I walked back towards the river, where the wind was at its strongest and started making pictures from the storm. Most people were either taking shelter now or were gathering at the river side of the monument to look at the storm. The children on the other side of the river were now hurrying home. The storm lasted for about fifteen minutes after which the sky became clear again and we could see fort Agra along the river bank. I walked around the garden and joined a small group who were returning to the city to have dinner, while other members of our group waited at the Taj Mahal to see the sun go down. We drove to a restaurant somewhere in the city by tuktuk and found a table on the roof between some trees.

Our group
I liked the mugs that they had at this restaurant, so after our dinner, I asked the waiter if I could buy one of them. He asked his boss, who invited me to sit with him and his friends and then told me that I could have the mug for free.

When we left, we were discussing our plans for the evening, when all of a sudden the lights went out in the entire city. The only lights in the city were the headlights of tuktuks and cars and from every shop or restaurant along the road little Indian men were running outside to start generators. Most stores along the main roads had backup-generators, but everywhere else in the city the streets were completely dark. I decided to try to find a market with Chris, Guido and Alco and after talking to a few tuktuk-drivers, we found one that would take us to fort Agra.

Agra and the river
All the streets were dark and after a while it felt as if we had left the city alltogether. We passed another wedding procession and arrived at fort Agra, which was completely deserted by now. The place was very different from the busy intersection I had visited earlier that day. The place had been filled with shops and traders in the morning, but now we were the only ones there and we decided to take another tuktuk to the market. After a few minutes a tuktuk came by which had blue lights around the roof and a stereo with loud Indian music. With this music we drove to a nearby bazaar and the driver dropped us of at a very crowded bus terminal.

We walked around for a while and bought four bottles of water for the following day, before we decided that there was nothing else to see and we returned to our hotel.

The dust storm
We made a short stop at a liquor store, where I bought two bottles of whisky for less than 2 euros and where Alco got a phone number from a guy who offered him 'drugs and women'. Back at the hotel everybody was having a party a one of the rooms and everybody had brought something to drink. I tried some of my whisky, but it tasted as cheap as it actually was, so I got a beer instead. After a while we almost ran out of beer, so everybody collected some money and I went on a little beer-finding expedition with Thijs and Dennis. Marlous asked me if I could take her videocamera to film one of the wedding processions, so we left our hotel to look for a tuktuk armed with a videocamera and about 1.000 rupis to buy beer. Finding a tuktuk was the easy part and I soon also had filmed a few shots of a wedding procession.
Caroline, Robin and Chris at dinner
Our driver made a wrong turn at one point and when we told him to turn around, he did not wait for the first opportunity to take a turn to the right, but instead he immediately turned his tuktuk around 180 degrees and started driving directly into the headlights of an approaching bus. After this thrilling experience, Thijs asked some directions and we were accompanied by another man who knew where we could buy beer.

He told us that all the liquor stores were closed and that we had to pay extra taxes (to him) because it was after midnight. Thijs did not believe this and they started negotiating about these extra taxes. When we arrived at a liquor store, the shop was closed and all around the city the lights were still out, so it was very dark. The man first wanted to take our money so that he could buy the beer, but Thijs told him that he would go with him. Dennis and I waited for about 5 minutes with our driver and when Thijs and the other man still hadn't returned, Dennis went after them. They returned a few minutes later with a box that was filled with bottles of beer. The bottles were not cooled, so we had to drive to another shop to get ice. When we were finally finished, we returned to our hotel and continued our party. After the rest of the beer was finished, everybody went to bed.

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The Taj Mahal in the distance
The Taj Mahal in the distance
Fort Agra
Fort Agra
Fort Agra
Fort Agra
Tim ordering lunch at the pool
Tim ordering lunch at the pool
Waiting to visit the Taj Mahal
Waiting to visit the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal
some people thought our group was …
some people thought our group was…
Our group
Our group
Agra and the river
Agra and the river
The dust storm
The dust storm
Caroline, Robin and Chris at dinner
Caroline, Robin and Chris at dinner
Agra
photo by: rotorhead85