Along with a few other sites, today we planned on checking off our last of the three UNESCO “World Heritage” sites in New Delhi: Red Fort. I gotta be honest with this one, it looks like a construction zone and is really in no way picturesque inside. This place was touched in many areas by Shah Jahan (the Taj Mahal guy) and you can see it in some of the white marble and the patterns used with it. However, a lot of the marble inlays, including jeweled flowers, have been gutted and are missing. Many of the buildings are being renovated or are in serious disrepair. Most of the landscaping is unkempt. Whatever bureaucrat at ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) is in charge of this place should be fired. Or maybe a UNESCO visit might prompt some cleaning. In any event, it’s one of the big sites on most itineraries, but we didn’t think it was worth it. Of course, even if we were told that ahead of time we still would have went. Just like the Trajineras in Mexico City (believe it or not they’re also a UNESCO site). It did take a few hours to explore though because it had a few museums included, so not a total ripoff or anything.
That being said, right across the street and down a few blocks (which can be an eternity in this country) is a very pretty mosque with towers that give nice views of Red Fort that are hard to appreciate when you’re actually inside the place. The mosque is called Jama Masjid. It was the third mosque I’ve been inside of in India, and it was the first mosque that I’m pretty sure I didn’t offend anyone inside. Everything seems so serious and touchy inside and it’s hard to know what’s ok and what’s not sometimes. I did walk past a family and I heard a young kid say something like “Mama what is wrong with him” and the mom replied “that is a white person.” When I looked over she smiled and laughed a little uncomfortably. Hmmm. Oh, another thing about Jama Masjid (like any mosque) is that you have to take your shoes off outside. They kinda have a thing with the shoes and all. I kinda get it, and then I kinda don’t. Anyway, what makes that part interesting at this place is that after you remove your shoes and walk barefoot through a little shaded arch you enter this HUGE courtyard made of red sandstone. That sandstone is hot as hell. The July New Delhi sun is just baking it. My feet hurt sooooo bad walking across that giant courtyard barefoot I was sure I was gonna have burns on them (I didn’t). These two young male Korean tourists came in behind me and they started dancing and hopping across the courtyard yelping and saying “Oh god, hot, hot, hot.” It was pretty funny to watch. I tried to stay stoic though and not bring shame upon my people. I mean, all the locals were walking barefoot across this thing. Anyway, nice view at the top of the towers and I was pleased the visit didn’t elicit any dirty looks.
We closed out the day in the area around “India Gate.” Kind of a carnival atmosphere around the thing. Martha had a last chance to get some more Henna art done but took a pass. The stuff on her left hand/arm is already fading though. Anyway, India Gate is a pretty cool structure. It’s gigantic and it has some badass Indian military guys guarding it. Not much else to say there. Also, there are large fountains on each side with huge standing pools of water that locals kind of use as a swimming pool. Little kids were going berzerk in these fountains play fighting and romping around in the water by the dozens. The water itself was….ummm…. lets just say that I’m pretty sure I would acquire some kind of illness if I was submerged in it. It was bright green with algae and had lots of trash in it. Somehow though, it was really cute seeing all those little kids just having a hell of a time splashing around in there.
That closed out our last full day here in India. We managed to check off everything on our list as well as see a few extras. Our flight to Bangkok tomorrow is at 11 pm, so we have a little time in the morning and early afternoon. You have to be at the New Delhi airport 6 hours ahead of time.