Lucknow is an ancient city, now the capital of Uttar Pradesh and bursting with nearly 3 million people. I spent a fascinating morning exploring some of the palaces and mosques of the nawabs.

I spent a morning visiting a few historic sites in Lucknow [location], before hopping a plane homeward.   I have many photos in a Lucknow album. Read on!

The second gate to Bara Imambara; Lucknow.

First, I visited the Residency, which was the headquarters of the British East India Company in the region.  It was the site of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and was reduced to ruins during a seige that lasted an incredible 148 days. The old brick buildings are roofless, with all of their past glory gone, but the grounds are well kept and there are signs to label each building.  On a sunny morning while I strolled the stone walkways past green lawns, I could feel how grand this place must have once been.

I then visited the Asafi Imambara (popularly known as Bara Imambara), including the ‘Bhul Bhulaiyan’ (Labyrinth).  This grand building is a Muslim shrine built in 1783. Incredibly, I did not take a photo of the main building, although the Wikipedia link above has a good shot.  The photo at top is just the main gate to the courtyard in front of the imambara.

The guide I hired at Bara Imambara.

I hired a guide (right) – there were many hanging around, eager to be hired – and although he was nice he was 60 years old, walked very slowly, and spoke only marginal English.  He took me through the main hall, demonstrated its impressive acoustics, and then showed me through the Bhul Bhulaiyan.  This is a very impressive three-dimensional maze comprising the top floors of the building.  Narrow passageways weave in and out, with intersections often offering you a chance to go straight, up, or down.  The point was that invaders could get in but not easily find their way out!

My driver urged me to visit a particular chikan shop, where they do exquisite needlework on shirts, blouses, saris, and the likes.  He gave me the full treatment… please sit down sir, and sip this tea while I pull out several hundred shirts and saris to show you. I am not exaggerating… his workers would bring stacks of plastic-wrapped items, and he’d whip each out in turn, spread it in front of me, and convince me that every one was more beautiful than the prior.   In the midst of this, all of a sudden a holy man opened a cabinet, pulled out candles and incense, and then blew (loudly!) on a seashell.  This was the time for prayer, and several workers paused while he chanted a certain blessing.  For me, the shirts kept coming.

This shop tried hard to sell me on “chikan” embroidery.

Then my driver urged me to try a restaurant, the “best kebabs in Lucknow!”  We stopped on a grimy back alleyway of Lucknow, and went into the basement restaurant past the open grills and sweating kebab cookers, who were out on the sidewalk doing all the cooking.  It was early, but the place was packed with people in for lunch.  I had to share a table with a young man and his motorcycle helmet.  The food was ok, but it was the greasiest food I’ve yet had in India.  Filling, at least, and I’m not sick yet.  Best part was the price: $2, and that includes my expensive choice of bottled water over tap water. 

“The best kebabs in town”, I was told; they were tasty but greasy!

See the photo album.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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