Not long after we departed Delhi it was daylight. Then we noticed that many of the people on board were very physically fit and they carried assortments of odd metal artifacts. After Agra, the flight was going on to Katmandu, Nepal, the gateway to the Himalayas. These people were ‘trekkers’, i.e. mountain climbers — bound for Mount Everest?
Arriving at Agra, another guide met us. He had already realized that we were running a day late, and probably could not stay at Agra that night, which was correct. We were booked on a flight to Jaipur that evening.
So he drove us out to the beautiful Taj Mahal. The road there was covered with walkers, cyclists, and goats. Our driver weaved through the melee, honking his horn continually.
The entry to the Taj is a caravanserai. Sure enough, they had camels there, perhaps only for show; but maybe, for actually carrying and trading goods.
The Taj Mahal is a real ‘be-there’ experience. I don’t care what pictures you’ve seen, the perfect symmetry and the perfection of the gardens are breathtaking. From the entry you see the Taj in all its splendor, reflected in the long pools extending from your position to the tomb. The layout of the grounds is in the shape of a cross (really!). at either ends of the cross are two stone buildings. The entire layout is positioned so that the building on the left, which is a mosque, faces directly toward Mecca. The building at the other end of the cross is identical, but is only there to make the layout symmetrical. It is used for storage.
It was good that we made the trip when we did. The Taj, made entirely of marble (structurally), has been worn down where tourist traffic has gone so they no longer allow tourists to enter the building, or even to climb its (marble) steps. We, however, did get inside, right into the central room where the sultan’s sarcophagus is located.