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Published: February 12th 2018
After a leisurely start, we are after all on holiday, we had breakfast (sadly and surprisingly only juice on offer is orange which Bob can't drink) then found our driver waiting at the hotel front door. It had been raining and we could only hope it wouldn't rain much more as, perhaps foolishly, when packing to come away, we considered the possibility of rain and discarded it and therefore our macs in sacs.
We left Agra on the same totally unsurfaced road we came in on as we were heading for Fatehpur Sikri. Took us a good hour to get there and our driver had phoned ahead to book us a guide as he said we needed one here. Another Unesco World Heritage site and petrol / diesel vehicles are excluded so we had to drive in on a special site bus. All very complicated and Indian chaotic and we certainly needed the guide just to navigate the bus system. He was also very useful in giving us the history of the site. Two separate areas to see.
The first, the palace complex of which lots still remains but that is only a small part of what was there
originally. A palace built for Emperor Akbar in 1571 and his 3 wives, one each of muslim, hindu and catholic. Story is that none of the wives could give him a son so he sought help from the holy man, Salim Chishti, and miraculously, after that, one wife became pregnant in 1568 so he then built the complex in honour of the sainted holy man and the miracle he had wrought.
My more irreverent interpretation of that story is that the holy man saw his chance, and unknown to the king, impregnated one of the king's wife and it was a plus situation for everyone.
There are some astonishingly ornate buildings in the complex, including a house for each wife. The carvings are intricate, multi patterned and cover entire buildings. There are also paintings but much of these have faded with time.
The second area is the Sacred complex, Jami Masjidt the Mosque, which contains the tomb of Salim Chishti. We had already 'purchased' for a number of rupees, a scarf and a good luck string and once inside the tomb building we spread the scarf over the tomb, scattered it with rose petals and then tied
the string to the window and made a wish, which will surely come true. The scarf and rupees paid are donated for charity. The tomb is now the place where people come in search of miracles so let's hope my wish comes true too. The tomb is marble and incredibly and meticulously sculpted. We are seeing a lot of marble in India and have to say it is put to spectacular use.
The complex is contained within walls and massive gates and towers over the town below.
Lots of photos taken by me, of course, though some on the hoof as our guide, though helpful, had his own route to follow and I lost him a couple of times when I stopped to click. Good thing he was wearing a brightly coloured striped top !
Back in the tourist bus then and to our waiting taxi. We said we didn't want to stop for lunch and just to head back to Agra for the Fort. We rarely lunch on trips like this, just a good hotel breakfast and dinner at night. Too much to see and do to be sitting down eating in the middle of the
So back to Agra, this time we used the bypass instead of the unmade road, which was much more comfortable, and then to the Red Fort. Our driver found a parking spot with at least 2 inches to spare on either side of the car and we headed off for our visit. We had to go through strict security including a scan and then a bag search. Bob was told off for having some softmints in his bag as, as food, they are not allowed but fortunately, they were not confiscated. He did offer one to the security man but it was declined. Fortunate as Bob might have been arrested for attempted bribery !
The Fort is massive and comprised of about 4 main areas with no directional signs so we managed to lose ourselves at one point. More magnificent buildings. Not quite on a par with Jaipur Amber Fort but that of course has the fantastic views as well. Having said that there is a very fine view indeed from the Agra Fort and that is across to the Taj Mahal. We could see the smoke at the base and to the right of the Taj
Mahal which is where the funeral pyres are made.
More wonderful carvings in wood and marble everywhere we looked. There were plenty of others enjoying the Fort and though normally I do my best to take photos without people in view, here, where the ladies are so often dressed in their colourful saris, it is a pleasure to capture a flash of their brightness to bring the photos to life.
Mustn't forget to mention the raptors which swooped low over the buildings and filled the air above them. Easy to spot a dozen at a time and though we haven't identified them as yet, there were at least 3 different types of kites as well as frequent fly pasts by squacking bright green parrots.
After the fort we decided we had done enough sight seeing so headed back to the hotel.
I went for a swim and got stuck in the lift with a young Spaniard. We were on first name terms by the time the lift man had forced the doors open enough so we could clamber out as the lift was stuck 1 foot down from the floor level. I decided it was safer
to walk back down the three floors to our room after my swim .
Later we (foolishly maybe, but surely lightening doesn't strike twice ?), took the lift up to the rooftop restaurant for dinner. Decided as it was raining to go back to the restaurant downstairs but the lift got stuck again, this time 2 foot from the floor level. After most inelegantly clambering out, we had walk back down 5 flights of stairs to the downstairs restaurant where they were serving a buffet. This was excellent and Bob was offered a beer, somewhat cloak and dagger style. We queried the lack of beer and it seems that most places don't have a licence so can't sell alcolol openly... but as we were in the basement it was ok but it wasn't included on the printed bill ! Back up 2 more flights of stairs to our room and out came the Voltarol as my poor knees were giving up the ghost.
Taj Mahal tomorrow.
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