We stayed at The Park hotel, which was fine, although a little corporate. Our first night in India, we all chickened out a little when it came to going out for dinner. We all agreed that since we would be having curry for 3 meals a day for the next week or so, that we’d like something a little closer to home for our supper. We opted for the well reviewed Italian restaurant, La Piazza at the Hyatt Regency. It was delicious, just what we wanted as tired travellers, although it wasn’t exactly traditional Indian fare.
The following day started with a hilariously in-depth run through of our itinerary, with the lovely trip organiser talking through everything multiple times. After our long, long discussion, we met our guide, Anita, who took us on a whistle-stop tour of Delhi. First stop, the Jama Masjid mosque in Old Delhi.
It’s the largest and most well-known mosque in India, with the courtyard able to fit 25,000 people in for prayers. I’ve been in to quite a few mosques, both in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia, and this was the most relaxed about women tourists in, and without covering our heads. We did however get to wear these very fetching floral robes, and teamed with the towelling slippers, I almost felt like I was in a spa!
Next, we hopped into rickshaws for a ride around the narrow bustling streets of Old Delhi. This is apparently the best way to get a feel for the old streets as you’re certainly immersed in to it. The streets are too small and crowded for anything bigger than a cycle rickshaw, with hundreds of pedestrians, cyclists, carts, motorbikes and cattle.
The streets are lined with shops selling wholesale fabric and jewellery that gets sold all over the world, as well as bookshops, auto parts, wedding dress and clothes shops. In front of these, literally on the street, are people selling food, fruit and vegetables and services such as ear cleaning, shaving and dentistry. They have a picture of the service they are offering for those that can’t read.
It was sensory overload in Old Delhi, and it felt very much like the colourful, haphazard streets that I was expecting. Did you know that with a population of 16 million, Delhi (the combination of both Old and New Delhi) is only the third largest city in India? Mumbai and Calcutta are bigger. New Delhi is also the greenest capital city in the world, thanks to the numerous parks and tree lined streets!
Our third stop was to Gandhi’s memorial, the place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated in 1948. According to Anita, our guide, Hindu’s believe in reincarnation, and believe that as Gandhi’s last words were about God, that he has been reincarnated as a God. We took our shoes off here, as in all places of worship, as they believe that you get good vibrations through your feet that wouldn’t happen if you were wearing shoes.
After a quick and delicious lunch, we drove across town to Humayun’s Tomb, the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayan. His tomb was commissioned in 1569 and was the first to be set in a garden, with the six squares of paradise complete with water features. As you can see, this impressive building is made of red sandstone, and was the biggest structure at the time to do so. It also shows the attempts to build domes on the top of buildings- apparently it took them a good few years and tries to get the perfect spherical domes that top the Taj Mahal and similar structures.
Within the same complex is Isa Khan’s tomb, an Afghan noble who had his tomb built while he was still alive, between 1547-48. He died in 15 All the brick work on these buildings was done by hand, and any patterns in the marble are formed from gem stones set in to the marble. You can tell the difference between Hindu and Islamic architecture by simple fact that Islamic buildings cannot have any human or animal images used to decorate them.
With the light fading across Delhi we pushed onwards to our last stop of the day; Qutab Minar, the world’s largest brick minaret. A minaret is a tower usually attached to a Mosque, with a balcony from which the call to prayer can be given. Work started on it in 1192, although the final storeys were added in 1368, completing the 72.5 metre tower.
It’s inscribed with Arabic carvings including verses form the Qur’an. You used to be able to climb to the top of the 379 steps, but sadly they closed that to tourists when it became a UNESCO World Heritage site. The surrounding buildings in the complex are the remains of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, built using the remains of Hindu and Jain temples that were destroyed for their materials.
Above are the intricate carvings in the cloisters of the the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque.
Our tour around Delhi did involve a lot of time in a mini bus driving between each ‘must-see’ but it did allow us to get an overview of the city in a short period of time. New Delhi, with it’s wide, tree lined streets, parks and multiple universities seemed far more modern and European (it was designed by two British architects). It sounds odd, but it was a lot more developed than I was expecting, and Anita told us that before the Commonwealth Games in 2010 they moved a lot of the slums to outside of the city, and have built walls to contain others. I loved this scene; towels from the hospital hanging out to dry by the side of the road. They were everywhere- in the trees, bushes, laying on the pavements. I would love to explore Delhi, and particularly Old Delhi in more detail if I ever have more time there.
I hope you guys enjoy my travel recaps, I’ll be sharing more Indian adventures over the next few weeks!
Question time- What’s destination is top of your wish list? Although mine changes frequently, Mexico is always in the top 3!