In 2018 I decided to spend my Christmas Holidays in India. Having just a couple of weeks at my disposal I had to decide which area of the Country I could visit. I choose Rajastan, the north west region, but obviously as my entry gate was Delhi which is not far from Agra, I also included the Incredible Taj Mahal in my visit.
I still remember how frustrated I was the morning I left Delhi on my way to Agra, driving along the newly built Yamuna Highway which connects the two cities. In fact, when I left the metropolitan area of Delhi, which is usually pretty unclear due to the high concentration of smog, a very dense fog wrapped the hole landscape, making it very hard to even see the road ahead. At 11 am the fog was still there, thus I started getting upset that such dense white and impenetrable cloud would make it impossible for me to even see the Taj Mahal.
I have been told by some locals that such fog is very common in that area which is normally pretty humid, although the high concentration of smog in the air also enhance its density and sometimes it really stays around all day, making it pretty hard to breathe.
However, I have been pretty lucky. When I approached Agra, around 12.00 am the fog started lifting up, clearing up sort of a “grey” sky, which, thankfully made it possible for me to see the roads and to find my hotel.
I left my bags at the reception and took a taxi to take me to the entrance of the Taj Mahal. It was 1.30 pm when I got there. Incredibly enough there was a very long line (I mean VERY long) to face. I spent some 15 minutes in line until, thanks to a sign written in English, I understood that there actually were two lines: one reserved for the Citizens of India (the very long one) and another for foreign visitors, which actually was no line at all. So I stepped out and rushed to the tiket office. There were no other foreign visitors at the booth. I bought my tickets and got in very quickly.
Be aware that if you are not travelling with an organised group, you will be approached by several guys who will tell you that you will skip the line if you enter with them. That is not true. Most of these guys are fake guides, and there is no line for you, if you are a foreign citizen.
There is a security check before the entrance where you also have to leave your bag if measures are beyond the allowed size. Then, I crossed the red coloured gate and entered the first courtyard, took a look at my left, where thousands of locals where entering an arcade, to see the Taj Mahal in a distance, at the end of the famous long fountain.
I am sure you all know the Taj Mahal is actually a Mausoleum, built by the Moghul Emperor for her beloved wife called Mumtaz Mahal. When you enter the main court you feel a sort of magnetic attraction and you cannot stop staring at it, despite the thousands of local visitors who keep bumping into you or ask to take a selfie with you. I walked along the garden for a while until I reached a bench which was surrounded by dozens of visitors. I wondered why people were so attracted by a bench until I overheard a conversation saying it was the bench where Princess Diana sat to take the famous picture of her visit to the Taj Mahal.
I kept walking in the garden but I decided to step away from the fountain because it was too crowded, and I found a little corner, almost completely negleted by the visitors offering a nice view over the Taj.
Then I started approchiang the basement to go inside. Also in this case you fill find two separate lines for India Citizens and Foreigners. However, when you get to the terrace where the gate of the Taj actually is, the two lines merge an I found myslef surrounded by thousands of locals willing to enter the building all at the same time. I do still remember how my feet were not even touching the groud. I have been literally pushed inside by the flow as if I was a drop among millions of a river rushing to the sea.
Finally, when I entered, all the quiet of the world. Despite the presence of hundreds of people inside, the place was silent, just few youngsters still taking selfies and asking me to take one with them.
I strolled around the sargophagus of Mumtaz Mahal and went out. Despite the beauty of the place and the sudden quiet, the place was so overcrowded and so humid that it was even hard to breathe normally.
I went down to the basement level again. I took the time to admire the outer decoration made of carved marble plates and lines in Arabic.
Then, I decided to move to the western court and to wait for the sunset. It is in fact well known that at sunset, the Taj Mahal turns into a pinkyish colour due to the reflection of the sun light. I have to say that from my point of view it turned to a golden colour rather than to a pink one. But I believe it might depend on the season and the intensity of the light.
I spent 5 hours at Taj Mahal. Around 6 pm the fog started falling down again and the view over the Taj started being opaque so I decided to exit the park. It took me some 20 minutes to go back to the security desk and to collect the bag I left unpon entering the compound.
I had planned to dine at a restaurant recommended by several guides because of the nice view over the Taj Mahal from the upper terrace, so I meandered in the little backstreets around the park area until I found the entrance (it woul be impossible for me to do the same route again). The Restaurant was not there anymore but there was door open and a staircase behind. I knocked but nobody replied, so I climbed the stairs until I reached the terrace, where the restaurant was supposed to be. There were no tables neither chairs, just a couple of monks eating bananas. The view was actually nice, but the fog made it very hard to see the Taj Mahal. I took a pictire anyway.
The Taj Mahal is actually an incredibly beautiful place which traps you with a sort of magic that makes you want to stare at it forever. To enjoy your view, remember that foreign visitors have access to a fast lane, so do not stand in line where you see there only are local visitors. If you didn’t book a guide, be aware that you will be approached by several guys offering services in return of a skip the lines service provision, which is not true. Also remember that for some reason the locals love to take selfies with western visitors. You will be approached several times. Don’t be bothered too much by that, and be kind to them.
Finally, keep yourself from screaming out loud every time a local will bump into you pretty rudely or will walk over your feet and won’t even look back to beg your pardon: it will happen dozens of times. It’s their way and they won’t change.