Agra

Other than the undeniable beauty of the Taj Mahal, Agra was the least interesting stop on our tour – apart from the Taj itself, the rest of the city isn’t much to look at, and although the Red Fort had some attractive elements too, it’s the only place we visited which I wouldn’t bother to go back to.

All that notwithstanding, sunrise at the Taj Mahal was absolutely worth the trip!

We were extremely lucky to have a clear and sunny day – the ones either side were hazy and rainy – and the monument looked absolutely spectacular. Of course we stopped for a photo shoot on “that” bench, and I enjoyed the “is this real or am I dreaming” sensation I always get when seeing something so ridiculously famous with my own eyes.

Up close, the building is decorated with detailed and beautiful designs inlaid with semi-precious stones, but that’s pretty much all there is to see. Inside are replicas of the tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan (the originals are in a crypt which isn’t open to the public), comparatively simple marble affairs partially concealed from view by a carved screen.

The monument is flanked by two attractive red sandstone buildings, which were a mosque and guest house, and we spent some time admiring their decorations too.

The entire site was set in a lovely garden, which managed to be somewhat peaceful even despite the throngs of tourists, and it was pleasant to wander around for a little while, before succumbing to the need for breakfast (these sunrise excursions are all very well, but I do like to start the day with food!).

After a leisurely breakfast back at the hotel, it actually made a nice change to have nothing to do for the morning, especially as I needed to spend some time working on my conference presentations.

Our distant view of the Taj was pretty special, too.

Mid-afternoon we set out to visit the Red Fort. I didn’t have much of a preconception about what this would be like, so it was nice to walk through the various parts of the structure, learning about the various Mughal emperors who contributed to it.

Other than visiting the Taj Mahal, it seems that the main thing to do in Agra is to admire it from various viewpoints, and the fort had more than a few of those. Last stop on the itinerary was the Moonlight garden on the other side of the river for, you guessed it, yet more Taj views.

Back at the hotel, we took advantage of the rooftop bar, and, yes indeed, that view again…

It was wedding season while we were in India, and coming back to the hotel from dinner we came across a groom’s party assembling in the street.

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