We visited Delhi just after Christmas. I had heard good things – incredibly rich history, diverse cultures, and fantastic food – and bad things – crowded, terrible smog, and horrendous traffic. In retrospect, Delhi is all those things, and more. Read on, and check out the galleries: photos of sights, photos of people.
Delhi [location] is an ancient city, dating back at least 2,500 years. North India was ruled for centuries by Mughal emperors, who were Muslim, and who brought Arab and Persian influences to the local culture, food, and architecture. Indeed, there have been eight cities built on this location, with “New Delhi” being only the most recent (it was built by the British in the early 20th century).
We hired a local tour company to arrange a guide and an itinerary for seeing the highlights of Delhi, since we would only be there for two and a half days. It was foggy, as it so often is in chilly December Delhi, so we saw little of anything before 11am. Otherwise, we had a fine time, visiting Jamid Masjid (Asia’s largest mosque, at right), Qutb Minar (the tallest brick&stone minaret in the world), the Red Fort (the seventh city of Delhi, built by Shah Jahan in the 17th century), Humayun’s tomb (above, the inspiration for the Taj Mahal), Rajghat (Ghandi’s cremation site), Akshardham temple (the largest Hindu temple in the world), Lodhi gardens, and Dilli Haat… all very worthwhile. (The 7m tall iron pillar at Qutb Minar is neat: made of exceptionally pure iron, it was cast almost 2,000 years ago, but scientists can’t figure why it never rusts.) I hope the photo gallery gives you a better sense of these sites.
What I really enjoy, though, is photographing the people [photo gallery]. We took a cycle-rickshaw ride through the streets of Old Delhi on Sunday morning, and although most shops were closed – indeed, on any other day we would have had to jostle our way through the crowd – there were people of all sorts to see. Street vendors selling fish. Old ladies selling fruit or vegetables. Men getting a shave on the sidewalk. Huge piles of used clothing for sale. Snake charmers. Bicycle repairmen. You name it. Meanwhile, at the tourist sites we saw pilgrims and tourists from all over India (relatively few westerners; the 26/11 incident in Mumbai was just a month prior and many tours were cancelled).
At Dilli Haat – a well-managed craft bazaar with shops from all regions of India – there was a sketch artist who drew pictures of all our kids. The kids really enjoyed it, and the sketches turned out well!
We stayed in an extraordinarily fancy 5-star hotel – the Intercontinental Eros – which was fantastic, especially since the rates had been cut in half after 26/11. The lobby was the place to be, each evening, as Delhi’s finest strolled by in the most impressive (and expensive) Indian fashions – golden saris, Sikh turbans, you name it. The restaurants were incredible – vast buffets of excellent food, but at a high price.
The traffic in Delhi is bad, or so I was told. Actually, after living in Bangalore for 4 months, I didn’t see what was so bad about Delhi. Bangalore traffic is in a snarl every day, and the city is far behind places like Delhi in developing modern road infrastructure. On the other hand, one massive traffic jam – coming as we returned to Delhi to catch our flight, and nearly causing us to miss it – more than made up for the difference. More on that in the next entry.
The real challenge, though, was getting out of Delhi, and on to Dharamsala – gosh, it was one of the most challenging travel moments we’ve had yet. But that’s a long story, so hang on for the next entry.
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.