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The Fog on the Taj

Agra is perhaps the most popular tourist destination in India, home to the Taj Mahal. It’s open to the public on every day except Friday, so naturally we arrive late on a Thursday. Fortunately, there’s other stuff to do in Agra, so on the Friday we set off for the Fort. It’s popular, as The Taj is closed 🙂

We also see the Itimad-ud-Daulah, also known as the Baby Taj, the tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg. It’s a smaller version of the main attraction, as you can see.

I’ve mentioned the fog before, as it affects our rail journeys in this area. Well, it’s pretty bad on Saturday morning as we head to the Taj Mahal. Our auto rickshaw driver drops us at the South Gate, and we walk in through a long array of Taj-related tat: snow domes with little Taj Mahals inside, books about it, marble (or perhaps not) Taj Mahals and so on. Foreign tourists buy a more expensive ticket than the locals, something which is common in India. In this case, we pay 750 rupees while the locals pay 10 or so. For our extra cash, we don’t have to queue to get in, nor queue to get into the mausoleum, and are given a small bottle of water and a pair of shoe covers each. Here’s the traditional Taj shot, with the mausoleum lost in the fog behind me. The whole shebang was built to contain the body of Mumtaz Mahal, beloved wife of Emperor Shah Jahan. It was completed in 1653.

We walk on, and the ghostly white marble gradually emerges from the murk.

Being a Saturday, it’s very popular indeed. Here’s the non-high-price ticket queue for the mausoleum.

So, I hear you ask, what did we think of it ? It’s a wonder of the world, after all. Well, it is fantastic, an astonishing monument, made of shimmering, translucent marble, covered with carved flowers and inlaid with semi-precious stones. The entrances are flanked by quotations from the Koran in Arabic calligraphy, which I think looks beautiful all by itself. Here I am, standing in front the queue, wearing a pair of shoes covers, grinning foolishly, and pointing at some of the aforementioned script.

So, a thumbs-up for the Taj Mahal. (Not a Thums Up, by the way, which is a local brand of cola). Now we’re off to Khajuraho on an overnight train to tour the Jain temples, complete with mucky sculptures.

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