Delhi - Day 1
What a great day! Delhi is a beautiful city with wide, cool, tree lined roads and avenues. It's clean, and even more surprisingly, lacks that usually pervasive Asian city scent of rubbish, sweaty bodies and an overnote of untreated sewage. Instead, smog excepted, the air smells clean and fresh. Even the smog had lifted by mid morning.
It was cool again this morning - 10 degrees at 7 o'clock. We've been told that this is unseasonable, but it makes for a pleasant temperature to travel in as it rises to about 20 degrees by midday.
After driving past the red fort, we explored the Jama Majid mosque, the largest in India, capable of holding 25,000 devotees. Last year we became accustomed to the bright turquoise and lapis lazuli decorating the architecture of Samarkand. This building was made of red sandstone, a beautifully stark and monochromatic effect that blended in to the Indian cultural tradition that Islam encountered as it entered the sub-continent.
Following that we had a wild rickshaw ride through the Chandni Chowk Bazaar. The streets were crowded and chaotic and the noise of beeping car and motor scooter horns was overwhelming as we bumped our way through the twisting lanes of the area. We were powered by our enthusiastically pedalling driver, but it must have been hot, hard work for him. I loved the myriad of shops - book shops, beautiful fabrics, metal workers, all crowded together.
After an amazing lunch of varied Indian food we drove past the India Gate, built to remember servicemen slain in World War 1.
Most moving was our visit to Ghandi Smitri, a museum dedicated to the life and death of Ghandi. It was in a house that he'd lived in for the last four months or so of his life, and he was assassinated here in the garden.
The walls were covered in photographs celebrating his life and mourning his death, and there was a wonderful room full of diorama picturing incidents in his life.
Finally we went to Qutab Minor, a tall tower built in the 12th century. It's beautifully hand carved and impressive. Equally so was the rather mysterious Iron Pillar which has stood in situ for 1,500 years and not rusted.
This is shaping up to be a great tour. Our guide, Vikram, is polished, well-informed and a great leader.
We leave the hotel tomorrow at, heaven help us, 4.30am. Who knows what the temperature will be then? We're off to Varanasi.
The India Gate
The Jama Masjid mosque
A Christian symbol on the steps of the mosque?
A wild rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk Bazaar
A kite at Qutab Minar
Other visitors to the Jama Masjid mosque