India (6): Agra, home of the Taj Mahal

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After the oasis in Khajuraho and Orchha’a, Agra meant going back to the India we had known a few days before: big city, traffic, and noise. Agra was the capital of the Mogul empire for a century, and the heritage of that time makes them be a popular destination for travellers all around the world: the Taj Mahal. One of the non-argued Wonders in the world, and which can be a reason on itself to put India as your next destination.

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The Taj Mahal is considered one of the most expensive and beautiful (from a material perspective) proofs of love in the history of Humankind. It was ordered to be built by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his wife. A colossal white marble building that can be seen from several spots in Agra, and which looks fascinating from all of them. If you see the video, you can see one of the most hair-raising moments of the trip, when you cross a gate and the Taj Mahal appears in front of you… It is hard not to immerse into the picture-taking hysteria around you. When getting closer to the building itself, you are jealous of not being able to take the same famous picture as Lady Di with an empty complex, although we did a homage to it.

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As this was one of the main drivers to come to India, we carefully planned our stay in Agra around Taj Mahal. We stayed just 1 km away from the least crowded gate in a hotel with a swimming pool with views to the Wonder, we made sure not to be the day it closes, and we were before the daybreak to make sure we could avoid the hordes of visitors, and if possible, we could see the magic building change its look minute by minute, as the sun lights it from different angle. Some piece of advice for you regarding this: if the day is foggy (quite frequent), there will be no such thing as those changes, and it may not be worth to get up that early. Moreover, instead of queuing to be the first ones, you can easily be there 30 minutes after they open the complex, and you will avoid queues… If you are not a morning person, don’t thank me for this advice.

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The century of ruling the Empire from Agra left the city a few more stimulating spots apart from the Taj Mahal. Its fort is one of the most refined ones in our stay, as it incorporated styles and tastes from different dynasties, which combined the red and the white stones with a noteworthy result. Also, if it was not for the proximity of the Taj Mahal, the known as Baby Taj would be a major highlight in Agra.

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Before leaving to Jaipur, also by car, we asked the driver to stop in the Fatehpur Sikri complex, which is in the outskirts of Agra. This complex lies in a high hill, and it is formed by a fort (yet another one!), and a mosque. The fort is a concatenation of buildings and vast halls, with very few people inside. If I were more into art or architecture, I may have discovered the subtle differences with the other forts in India… but it is not the case. On the other hand, the mosque was a terrific choice. Its entrance, facing a vast valley, and steep steps gives you the feeling of entering a rural major mosque, full of tourists, and probably because of that, full of activity.

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A pleasant way to finish our visit to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, which we will for sure remember regardless of how many years go by. A more than justified Wonder of the World.

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