The 5am Islamic call to prayer woke me up at my hotel in Taj Ganj on Saturday morning. I grabbed a camera and book and walked out into the dark alleyways, soon joined by other tourists making their way through the same neighborhood. We waited in lines watching as the world became brighter and brighter around us and hoped to make it through the gates before the sun rose completely.
It was a hazy day. At times it was difficult to make out the Taj against the gray and polluted sky. But it was simply stunning.
How strange it was to be standing in front of this marvel, not quite believing my eyes, and experiencing it alone. It is such a shock at times to realize that there is no one to turn to and celebrate with or just smile in disbelief at the sheer wonder it all. Sometimes I'll be walking around or on a train or bus and it will hit me that there is no one else in the world who knows exactly where I am right now. It's such a strange feeling but there was also something special and profound and exhilarating about seeing this sight alone, about keeping it to myself, about walking in the dark and finding my way, and knowing I'll have and remember this for the rest of my life, even if there's no one else to share the memory.
The Agra Fort and the “Baby Taj” across the river are also pretty wonderful, but I have to say that I was just basking in the glory of the Taj Mahal all day.
Taken at the Agra Fort:
Taken at the Baby Taj:
Agra itself was pretty undesirable. It has a reputation for being one of the worst places in terms of people hassling you, trying to sell you things, quoting ludicrous prices, and generally just trying to scam tourists and beat the system. I definitely found this to be true, particularly because I had my first ever bedbugs experience at my hotel in Agra and, despite several arguments with the manager, was only refunded 200 rupees ($4)...but that's another story.
I think it was worth it.