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Published: August 7th 2018
The past couple of days in Delhi have been fairly mad, the city just doesn’t stop! Wikipedia tells me it has a population of 16 million to just slightly more than Hangzhou and about 1/3 that of Shanghai but it honestly is such a sprawling metropolis that it feels much bigger than any city in China.
On Saturday, my first full day here, after sleeping for 13 hours I took a Tuk Tuk to the Red Fort. The ride itself was an experience- I don’t think I’ve ever seen the underside of so many trucks so close up! We did get there much faster than any metro though and, as it was school time, the traffic in the city was bad so we went the long way and through the President’s area with some beautiful gardens. The Fort itself was super interesting: it was first constructed in 1638 when the then emperor moved the capital from Agra (site of the Taj Mahal) to Delhi and became the main residence of the Mughal dynasty. Inside was much different to what I was expecting. It wasn’t so much a fort but a sprawling area with lots of individual buildings and beautiful gardens.
Like every tourist place in Delhi, there were huge queues to get in and through the security checks. However also like all queues in Delhi, the line for women was empty so I could bypass all the men standing in the midday heat and walk right in! On entering there is a market selling all sorts of cloths and 'gold' and this then leads into the complex itself. These people were pretty cleaver and arguably ahead of their time – they’d built a network of drainage channels between the gardens and buildings to keep the buildings cool and also irrigate/water the land. I spent a few hours wandering round here before heading out to Jama Masjid.
What I find incredibly confusing about Delhi is the fact that things are so spread out and there are no road signs or directions to anywhere! Walking out of the Red Fort and dodging people with cameras or people offering taxis, Tuk Tuks, bicyclea, unsolicited advice and all sorts, I realised I was a little lost. Asking some army men where to go, they directed me across the road and through a narrow market. I was a little hesitant but figured the army
could be trusted right?! So I began the walk through the market towards the minarets in the distance. I soon realised that this was obviously not a tourist route and that perhaps I shouldn’t have been there – narrow streets, dark alleys, lots of men selling car parts and all sorts of tools. Definitely not somewhere for a foreign female to be! All was fine though and I ended up at Jama Masjid,
Jama Masjid was built in 1656 and is one of the biggest mosques in India – 25,000 can fit into the courtyard alone. It’s a huge imposing structure on top of a hill, opposite the Red Fort and across the alley from the markets. It’s also incredibly crowded. Reaching the top of the steps, I took my shoes off and was told I had to pay a fee for 'having a phone’ – essentially a foreigner tax- and was then given a robe to wear. The problem with going round a temple in the 40 degree heat of Delhi is that the red stones are boiling hot! A small slither of red carpet stretched around certain routes and I joined the masses in tip-toeing on the
carpeted parts only. It became a battle of wills when faced with someone coming from the other direction as to who would give way and step off this hallowed mat! The temple was huge, there was one main praying site and the majority of people seemed to either sleep in a shady spot or take lots of pictures.
After this I wanted to head to some market places that I’d read about that were apparently culturally interesting. As this is Delhi, even with Google maps it took me an hour or so of wandering round to find roughly where I wanted to go! Eventually I followed some people and found myself on a street surrounded by cars, people and shops in a way that I’ve never seen in China or Asia in general! There were just people everywhere. Everywhere. It’s really hard to describe but I’ll give it a go: looking up, wires fill all the spaces, tangled and woven together and I have no idea how they work out what goes where with a power cut! At ground level, small stalls spill out onto the already crowded pavements and stalls holders, potential customers, stray dogs, cows, and lots
and lots of litter fill any and all available space. Add to this the never ending cacophony of horns, motor bikes revving, tuk tuk drivers asking if I need a lift and just general shouting and screaming and it’s all incredibly busy!I spent a few hours wandering through this area and then another few hours trying to find my way out again! This involves going through a more manufacturing area where people used cows to help them shift all their plastic products or spices. Eventually I found Old Delhi station and some form of sanity!
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