After a five hour private bus ride, I am in Agra. Prior to coming here, our group visited the Spice Market in Delhi. What I will remember most about India will be its varied smells. Everywhere we went today, I smelled some kind of incense. At the Spice Market, I sneezed many times, my nose unsure how to digest all the spices in its midst. The Market is a site of frenzied activity--many men walk swiftly with large bags on their backs, yelling to highlight their presence. Unfortunately, the Market doesn't seem very large, and the items all seem similar after a short stroll.
We also visited the Friday Mosque in Delhi. Inside and outside, a few small monkeys wandered around, unmolested by anyone. The Mosque was large--apparently, it can hold up to 25,000 worshippers--but a bit too commercial for my taste. It is owned by or leased to the Indian government, and one must pass through a metal detector as a bored-looking military guard sits near. (What did he do to deserve this particular assignment, I wondered.) To take pictures, you have to pay 200 rupees, which isn't much, but several people who didn't pay and receive a ticket tried to use their camera phones and were immediately asked to pay the charge.
Several teenagers beckon you to take pictures and then ask for money afterwards. One of them asked me where I was from. I said, "California." He replied, "Do you have California money?" with a wide, friendly smile on his face. Some schoolgirls talked with my sister, asking only for her name. They were happy to say hello and continue along. Overall, my experience at the mosque didn't strike me as particularly religious. Perhaps tomorrow, when I visit a famous symbol of Islamic architecture, the Taj Mahal, I will have a different experience. So far, however, I've seen nothing here that exceeds the impressiveness of the holy places in Iran.
After the mosque, we visited a Sikh temple, where we were required to wear a head covering. We were able to attend and bring our cameras without charge. The Sikhs serve thousands of small food portions to the public each day--a noteworthy accomplishment in a country that has many impoverished residents--and even we were beckoned in to have some food (which we politely declined).
I had only two sweet lassis today, but plenty of naan. We stopped at a local restaurant and had a wide variety of dishes before coming to the hotel. Tomorrow we visit the Taj Mahal. Until then,
Your humble traveler,
Bonus: Part 3 is HERE.
Bonus: Part 3 is HERE.