A Fort, a Mosque, a Pillar, and a Tomb in New Delhi

The imposign "India Gate," a monument dedicated to the 90,000 soldier's that died in three different wars around the early 1900's

The imposing “India Gate,” a monument dedicated to the 90,000 soldier’s that died in three wars

After finding my seat on the airplane, I looked up to watch the remaining passengers board and began the game of mental Russian Roulette as to which person walking down the aisle will be the lucky one who has the seat next to me.  Shortly thereafter, a short man with a silly smile on his face that I had seen sitting at the airport bar earlier clumsily fumbled down the aisle and pointed at the seat next to me.  Alright, he seems a little off-kilter, I thought, but a nice enough person to spend the next 14 hours sitting next to.

About 30 minutes later, once we had taken off and achieved cruising altitude, the first beverage service of the flight began.  Being slightly paranoid about the close proximity of a large number of people I don’t know, I opted for the immunity defence of a glass of orange juice.  As soon as that was in my hand, my neighbor leaned over me and ordered a large scotch and soda, and was quickly handed a plastic cup with a few ounces of whisky and a can of soda water.  He paused briefly before changing his mind, “Actually, miss, can I have two scotch and sodas?”  Interesting order.  Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him slam the first glass without so much as even a courtesy glance at the unopened can of soda.  When he went for the second glass, however, he flubbed the pick-up and ended up spilling its golden contents straight into his lap, instantly filling the entire row with the smell of cheap alcohol.  At this point, most people would grab for a napkin and attempt to sop up the liquid soaking through their clothes, but his first instinct was to immediately look up and order a third scotch (which was possible, I’ll note, as he disposed of the first two drinks so quickly that the stewardess running the beverage service was still standing next to us).  I wonder what she was thinking to herself.

After another half hour or so, our lunch service began.  My neighbor hadn’t spoken much since the whisky incident, but he piped up long enough to order himself the vegetarian entrée and another round of scotch.  Roughly 30 seconds after he received his meal, he poked at his food enough to make it look like he’d eaten something, slammed the drink, and then proceeded to knock his salad bowl over, causing it to rain its leafy contents and salad dressing down his shirt and pants, forming a small, green outline of his person on the floor.  Apparently he figured the best method for cleaning up the mess was to wad up his napkin and throw it on the floor  to chase after the lettuce, which is exactly what he did, at least until he passed out a few seconds later.  So it was there that I found myself, sitting very close to a passed out, snoring man who reeked of airplane whisky and was using his lettuce as a blanket, still with 13 of the flight’s 14 hours left to go, thinking to myself, “These things don’t happen in normal life, so yep, I guess this means I’m back on the road again…”

My first stop is that of New Delhi, India, a city overflowing with vibrant colors, pungent aromas, a cacophony of car horns, and more people crammed into a small space than seems remotely possible.  It is also a polarizing city — as I expect much of India to be — as extreme wealth butts up against extreme poverty, the chaotic nature of the place drives some away while drawing others near, the oppressing claustrophobia is occasionally marked by moments of serenity, the anonymity of the crowds is punctuated by the locals’ tendency to wear their hearts on their sleeves, and the filth and humanity are hard to ignore, just as is the more tender, the human side.  Love it or hate it, India is a relentless assault on both your senses and your mental state — it can wear you down quickly if you’re not prepared, but if you’re willing to take an extra step and dig a little deeper, you’ll be rewarded many times over.

The streets of the Old Delhi section of town

The streets of the Old Delhi section of town

Paharganj Area 4 - Indian Mission near RK Ashram Marg Metro

The colors and aromas of the Spice Bazaar are particularly tantalizing

The colors and aromas of the Spice Bazaar are particularly tantalizing

Drive to Delhi 4 - Streets

Paharganj Area 3 - Colorful Doorway

Paharganj Area 3 - Side Alley

The Paharganj Area (the backpacker district) as seen from above

The Paharganj Area (the backpacker district) as seen from above

Colorful tea tins for sale in one of the many bazaars

Colorful tea tins for sale in one of the many bazaars

Old Delhi 10 - Colorful Facades

The Red Fort:

The most recognizable landmark in New Delhi is that of the gigantic fort constructed of red sandstone, appropriately known as the Red Fort.  Anchoring the eastern corridor of the busy Chondni Chowk street that forms the main artery of the Old Delhi section of town, the walls of the fort extend an impressive 2 kilometers along the North-South axis.  Originally completed in 1648 by then Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (also famous for building the Taj Mahal), it remains today a lasting remnant of the power that the Mughal Dynasty gained during the peak of its rule:

The massive walls of the Lahore Gate, the main entrance to the Red Fort

The massive walls of the Lahore Gate, the main entrance to the Red Fort

The early morning sun framed by the archway of the Naubat Khana

The early morning sun framed by the archway of the Naubat Khana (or Drum House)

The interior grounds of the Red Fort

The interior grounds of the Red Fort

Red Fort 6 - Arched on Naubat Khana

Floral motif designs carved into the sandstone walls

Floral motif designs carved into the sandstone walls

Red Fort 12 - Diwan-i-Am

The many arches of the Diwan-i-Am

Jama Masjid:

Only a short walk from the Red Fort stands my favorite attraction in Delhi, that of the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque.  Another architectural masterpiece built under the rule of Shah Jahan, the “Friday Mosque,” as it is known, is said to be capable of holding upwards of 25,000 people at any given time.  In additional to exploring the interior of the mosque and being able to climb atop one of it minarets, the immediate area surrounding the Jama Masjid is also famous for its variety and abundance of street food options — of which I, of course, took part (but that will have to wait for another post):

Jama Masjid 3

Jama Masjid 10 - Prayer

Jama Masjid 6 - Looking up at Arch

Jama Masjid 18

As mentioned above, one of the two minarets, each standing 40 meters high, is open for the public to climb.  The views back over the Old City of Delhi were certainly worth the exertion

As mentioned above, one of the two minarets, each standing 40 meters high, is open for the public to climb. The views back over the Old City of Delhi were certainly worth the exertion

Jama Masjid 26 - View through Screen

Jama Masjid 31 - View over Dome from Tower

The view of the courtyard below, with the walls of the Red Fort visible closer to the horizon

The view of the courtyard below, with the walls of the Red Fort visible closer to the horizon

The view of the crowded streets of Old Delhi

The crowded streets of Old Delhi

Jama Masjid 41 - Inside of the Tower

The Qutub Minar: 

To the South of the Delhi, outside of the city center, stands India’s tallest minaret, the Qutub Minar, reaching 72.5 meters (about 23 stories) into the air.  Built in 1192, its red sandstone and marble construction has five distinct layers — each with its own fluting pattern — and is inscribed with a variety of intricate carvings and verses from the Qur’an.

The Qutub Minar, stading high in the background

The Qutub Minar, stading high in the background

More carvings and etchings engraved into the sandstone

More carvings and etchings engraved into the sandstone

Qutub Minar 29 - Looking up at Pillar

A few of the other ruins remaining after nearly 1,000 years

A few of the other ruins remaining after over 800 years

Although the Qutub Minar and its surrounding sub-temples and ruins are quite fascinating in and of themselves, the strongest memory that I’ll take away from the experience was getting mobbed but a few hundred school children that just happened to be visiting at the same time I was.  Although there were clearly other Western travelers wandering around, for some reason (maybe because I’m tall, I have shaggy hair, or because I smiled a lot?), they picked me out of the crowd and I spent the better part of an hour shaking hands, posing for pictures, exchanging a few pleasantries in English, and just laughing with the kids.  At one point, I looked over to their teacher to see her reaction, and she gave me an exasperated smile that seemed to say, “Thank you for putting up with this,” to which I could only smile back in return.  And just as they took pictures posing with me, I was able to snap a few photos of these youngsters, too:

Qutub Minar 10 - School Children Portrait

Qutub Minar 21 - School Children Portrait

Qutub Minar 22 - School Children Portrait

Qutub Minar 26 - School Children Portrait

Humayun’s Tomb:

Almost a century before the Shah Jahan built the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid (both pictured above) or the Taj Mahal, another Emperor helped (with aid from Persia) to bring the Mughal Dynasty to the level of power that we now associate with it, spreading its influence over much of what is known today at Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Northern India.  His name was Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun, and after his death, his wife commissioned for his tomb, surrounded by a series of gardens, to be built out of a combination of red sandstone and white marble, creating what is still today one of the most magnificent sights in the city of Delhi:

The first sight of Humayun's Tomb upon entering the complex

The first sight of Humayun’s Tomb upon entering the complex

Humayun's Tomb 44

Humayun's Tomb 15 - Looking towards Entrance

Looking back towards the main gate

Humayun's Tomb 31

Humayun's Tomb 45

After New Delhi, I have a quick stop planned in Agra (to see the Taj Mahal, of course) before heading West into the state of Rajasthan.  And of course, I’ve been doing my best to eat my way through the city, too, so I already have some of the groundwork laid on another culinary post to satisfy you fellow foodies out there.  Until then, I’ll leave you off with a few more images from around the city.  Cheers from New Delhi!

Going for a ride in one of the many orange-and green Tuk-tuks, or auto-rickshaws

Going for a ride in one of the many yellow-and green Tuk-tuks, or auto-rickshaws

A spice vendor setting up shop right on the sidewalk

A spice vendor setting up shop right on the sidewalk

The Rashtrapatis Bhaven, or President's House

The Rashtrapatis Bhaven, or President’s House

Even the freight trucks here in India are decked out in a hyperactive array of color

Even the freight trucks here in India are decked out in a hyperactive array of color

An artisan carved an intricate pattern into marble

An artisan carving an intricate pattern into marble

One of the two Secretariat Buildings

One of the two Secretariat Buildings

I always held the assertion that the subway systems of the likes of Tokyo and Beijing were the most crowded in the world -- that is, until I attempted the Delhi metro system

I always held the assertion that the subway systems of the likes of Tokyo and Beijing were the most crowded in the world — that is, until I attempted the Delhi metro system

And finally, yours truly looking down upon the courtyard of the Jama Masjid

And finally, yours truly looking down upon the courtyard of the Jama Masjid

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About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

25 Responses to “A Fort, a Mosque, a Pillar, and a Tomb in New Delhi”

  1. I think your seat mate was the original “ugly American.” I understand why those kids were enchanted by you. Remember all the comments when we were in England? (How tall are you??) Part of that is, of course, that you are tall, and part of it is that you exude friendship!
    Hayla

    • Thanks, no matter what, I always find that a smile is the best way to connect with another person, regardless of their background, culture, religion, or language. And if it leads to hanging out with a bunch of cool kids, then that is just a bonus!

  2. Great photos and scary heights!
    You also seemed to have many of the large sites almost to yourself. Or you are really patient until everybody else has left the picture.

    Sorry to read about the fellow passenger on the aircraft. I am also always never lucky in the aircraft roulette, so I always take enough reading material to cover the flight. If I ever won’t need it because a hot girl will entertain me all flight (never happened), then I won’t regret having brought too many books.

    • The fact that the sites are almost empty is more due to the fact that I was suffering from jet lag, was waking up at 2am in the morning, and subsequently was walking into each place just after dawn (when most weren’t even open yet).

      And as far as the flight, I, too, am still waiting on a hot girl to entertain me all flight. It hasn’t happend yet, but I figure that with all of the flights I’ve taken in the last two years, the chances are in my favor!

  3. I love the mist and emptiness of the your Humayun’s Tomb pictures and the pictures with the kids are great!

    Good luck on your India adventure! (What an auspicious start on the airplane :))

    • Thanks, Christina! The mist was actually the pre-morning fog that hadn’t quite been burned away yet by the sun (I arrived just after the sunrise, but more for jet lag reasons than atmosphere).

  4. I love your photographs from Delhi’s most interesting historical places. I’ve been dreaming to go there someday. However the air pollution seems really bad, probably on par with Beijing’s. By the way, if you go to Indonesia, you would get the same attention from local school kids.

    • The pollution was pretty bad there, but it is also stems from just a dusty and dirty environment in general (less major industrial plants, as in China), though traffic is equally a cause here, too. It has already gotten to the point that I’ve developed a bit of a cough just from breathing in the air. Oh well — still totally worth it.

      And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am definitely going to make it to Indonesia at some point on this trip, so I can’t wait to meet the school children there, too!

  5. Awesome photos! Great post! Safe travels and better luck next time with seat mates.

  6. Where in the heck do you find places to stay? What is the average cost for a night. I would panic arriving in a strange country and not have reservations.

    Dave T.

    • I usually book accomodation ahead for at least my next city, so I’m not arriving in the middle of the night in a strange city with no where to stay (that isn’t to say, that that hasn’t happened to my anyway). And there are a few websites out there (I use hostelworld.com, for example) that list of the hostels in a particular city along with photos and reviews, which makes it easier to decide which one to choose.

      As far as price goes, it varies wildly by country, city, and how nice of accomodations you’re looking for. I go the budget route, but by no means the bottom of the barrel (I usually look for the upper end hostels, if available). India is definitely one of the cheaper places I’ve been, as I’ve been booking private rooms en suite (with private bathroom) and breakfast included for roughly $15/night. If you don’t mind sharing bunk bunds in a more dorm style room, the price can drop well below $10/night.

  7. Today, while golfing with your grandma Lucy (of which she is a great golfer) I mentioned I received your second blog to her and she is worried about your safety. I assured her you would be fine and what do I know. LOL. Happy travels and do be safe.

    • Whereas safety is always a concern in a foreign country, I always think that I can just as easily get hit by a bus in Wooster, OH, too. In fact, I’ve actually felt far safer in many of the countries in which I’ve traveled than the United States. Regardless, however, I find that just being aware of my surroundings is the best way to ward off any immediate danger, and to have a few contingency plans in the works in case I should happen to find myself in a tight spot. Thanks for the well wishes, and best of luck beating my grandmother out there on the links!

  8. Yay!!! You are back on the travel journeys!!! As always Andrew, your pictures speak thousands of words!!! Love them all!

    • Thanks, Steph! And yep, I am back traveling again, although I will say from the get-go that I’m running on about a half-tank of gas (metaphorically speaking), so I’m not sure that this leg will reach the 4-5 month mark that each of my previous excursions has. But we’ll see — it certainly feels nice to be on the road again, so I’m just taking everything day by day.

  9. What lovely photos! I especially like the Red Fort. And what a bad flight story…that sounds like a pretty miserable way to spend 13 hours.

  10. A most enjoyable post…lovely pictures. Most favorite picture..the last one. Looking good 🙂

  11. Crazy airplane story! Good luck on your India adventures. Great pictures!

  12. Loved the entire post, but I especially loved the lettuce blanket! Thank you for sharing such amazing photos!!

  13. You’ve captured the beautiful of Delhi so well. Some of those early morning misty pictures are stunning and suggest a peace and calm that’s rare in New Delhi 🙂 What time of year was it you took these pics? I’m going there with friends at the end of December this year… will we get warm weather and sunny days like this?

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