Friday, April 15, 2011

Fatehpur Sikri

I  finally had a full night's sleep, eventhough I was awake at 4am!!!  Since I was up so early I decided to catch up on some emails, had breakfast and was ready to go to Fatehpur Sikri by 8am.  This place is located about 40 km from Agra and somewhat of a relaxing drive.  To get out of the city however we had to drive through the pandemonium of the's so difficult to capture in words the sounds of the trafic in India.

Agra has a population of about 3 million people and it's not really a place I would stay longer than a night...heavily populated, lots of pollution and garbage and of course the poverty everywhere.  As we were leaving the city I noticed a herd of water buffalo walking up the side street and then around our car, little kids were tapping on my window while we were stopped in traffic,  a parade went by and we were caught in a traffic jam due to a passing train.  Just a typical day in traffic I would imagine...never a dull moment around here!!!

We arrived at the city of Fatehpur Sikri at around 9am where I hired a guide to take me through the palace and mosque.  My driver recommend I hire a guide, as this was a muslim area and it would be safer for me.  It was a good idea, however my guide decided to take over my camera while we were can image how well that went over with me!!!  At one point I actually had to ask him for my camera back so I could take some of my own pictures, but all in all he was a half decent guide. 

On our tour we visited the palace-city of Fatehpur Sikri built by Mughal Emperor Jalal’ud-Din Muhammad Akbar in 1575.  It is made of sikri sandstone (red sandstone) and where Akbar moved to with his pregnant wife, as well as his two other Muslim, one Christian, one Hindu.  Akbar didn't have any children for a long period of time and was so worried about this that he eventually went to pray for a child.  After this prayer his wife became pregnant and the mosque where he prayed became very famous for answering peoples prayers.

The palace is very large, with various sections dedicated to each of his wives...needless to say, the largest section was for his wife the Queen who had his first child.  The detailed carvings in the palace were spectacular!!!  From the palace we headed to the mosque where Akbar had prayed for a child.  Today apparently, many people come to pray here because of its fame, so of course since I was here I thought I should take up the opportunity.  After buying my scarf to drop flower petals on while in the mosque, I was then given three strings that I tied to a gated window as I prayed and made three wishes....I guess we'll see what happens!!!

The mosque was made of white marble similar to the Taj Mahal with the surrounding wall constructed of red sandstone.  It has the highest gate in the world with a door ornate with horseshoes for good was incredibly massive!!!  From the steps of the entrance you had a panaramic view the old city of Fatehpu Sikri.

I finished my tour around 10:30am and then started my journey back to Delhi.  Another 5-6 hour drive with lots of excitement.  The first hour we passed through farm's harvest season at the moment so there is lots of work being done in the wheat fields...very hard work, as it's mostly done by hand.  Along the way I also saw a women making cow patties with her bare hands...yes she's doing exactly what you think she's doing.  They make these patties, let them dry out and then use them to burn in their fires...they assured me they do not smell bad, but who knows!!!

We also got caught in another traffic jam while a train was going by.  Once it passed we started to cross the tracks and were stuck again, but this time another train was approaching!!!  There was lots of horn honking, very slow movement of vehicles, when finally...just in time...we made it across the tracks.  My driver seemed a bit concerned during this, so I decided to get my shoes on and was ready to bail if we had didn't help that he told me vehicles get hit all the time on the tracks by trains...CRAZY!!!

From here we passed through various communities where you saw everything from men getting their faces shaved in tiny rooms that looked like shacks, people working the fields, women carrying large amounts of wheat on their heads, men urinating on the sides of the roads, lots of people selling fresh vegetables and fruits and young children and women sifting through huge pills of garbage along the roads.  There was also lots of construction taking place in India.  I think in one hour I saw five large IT institutes being built, along with a couple private schools.  The IT industry has boomed here in the past several years.

Something else that has grown in the past 5-10 years are the number of vehicles on the road.  Previously it was very difficult to get money from the bank to purchase a car, however that has changed and now many more people have bought cars and motorcycles, making the driving situation very difficult in Delhi.  To help alleviate some of this congestion, a new over pass section just recently opened in Delhi that my driver told me has help tremendously....what took us 5 minutes to drive through, used to take over an hour!!!

I finally arrived back in Delhi around 4:00pm at the Hyatt Regency Delhi where I will be staying for the next two nights.  As we entered the complex we were swept for bombs and as I entered the building I had to go through a metal detector and have my hand bags checked....a slight different protocol at a 5-star hotel versus a B&B or Homestay!!!   Apparently this is common practice now since the Mumbai bombings in 2008 where many people were killed at a major international hotel.

I said my goodbyes to excellent driver for the past two days...and spent the rest of my evening relaxing by the pool and enjoying my stay in a VIP room.  I can't complain really!!!

Tomorrow will be another great day with appointments scheduled to meet with students and parents who plan to study in Halifax at Saint Mary's University.

Until then.....

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