The very last stop on my cultural tour of India, took me to Delhi. After driving across India from Jaipur to Pushkar, to Ranthambore, to Agra, I couldn't imagine a sidewalk more packed with people, or more cars and mopeds jammed into traffic, but this is true in Delhi. If you go back in history a few thousand years, you can see why Delhi was the home to some of the most powerful Indian emperors in history. It's has been ruled by Mughals, Hindu Kings, and Muslim Sultans. To really explore the city of Delhi and get a quick bit of history, add these six stops in Delhi to your list.
1. Jama Masjid
Built in 1644, it was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The red sandstone structure makes you feel incredibly small in front of such a massive Islamic style mosque. You have to take off your shoes before entering the mosque. I just left mine underneath a bench and they were still there when I got back.
You can enter the mosque for free if you don't have a camera on you (this includes your phone). The entry fee is so cheap though (Rs 200 or $3 USD), that it's worth it to take a few pics. You'll see men and women dressed in Westernized clothing wearing a cloak to cover their shoulders. This was included in the entrance and it made for a cool picture.
Jama Masjid is situated in Old Delhi. I took the photo below from the back steps of the mosque. I remember taking this picture and the overwhelming feeling of a huge city laying right in front of me.
2. Raj Ghat
Raj Ghat is a beautiful garden with a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. A flame constantly burns in the center of the black stone platform. Visitors are asked to remove their shoes before entering the memorial area. I got in trouble for carrying my sandals under my arm. Not the first or the last time in my life I'll get yelled at in Hindu.
I walked around in my saree that day and got stopped so many times to get pictures with Indian tourists and especially their children. I thought it was so funny how people would try to "sneak" a photo of me, but I would surprise them and pose for their picture. You only get to be famous once right?
One man said to me, "You are dressed like Indian, but don't look like Indian!" I just laughed and smiled.
3. Humayun's Tomb
This was my favorite place in Delhi and UNESCO World Heritage site. This Persian architecture was built in the 1560's and is made from red sandstone and the entire park offers several buildings to lose yourself in. The cost is Rs 500, or about $8 USD. I could have spent hours wandering through the ruins that have fallen into disrepair over the years.
One of my favorite photos was with this woman who was on her honeymoon and wanted a photo with me.
4. India Gate
The Arch de Triiomphe of India is the India Gate. It represents the 70,000 Indian soldiers that fought in World War 1 for the British Army. It's a really busy tourist spot and also lots of traffic, but remember, we're in New Delhi!
5. Lotus Temple
This temple is a place of worship, but all religions are allowed to practice inside this flower shape structure. It's one of the most visited places in the world and it's architecture has been featured in hundreds of magazines.
5. Qutub Minar
Another UNESCO World Heritage site, Qutub Minar was our very last stop before heading back to the New Delhi airport. It was built in the early 13th century and is one of the oldest mosques of Northern India. Most of the stones are recycled from Brahman temples.
The tour inside the complex is an impressive monument. It took 3 Muslim rulers to finish the entire building. I enjoyed wandering through the many arches and ruins as I said goodbye to India.
It was a bitter sweet final hurrah of my Spring 2017 tour. I had started in London, then to Portugal, Spain, Dubai, and then India. I had planned to continue on to Thailand, but had to change my travel plans and return to Iowa.