No matter how beautiful pictures of India may be, they cannot compare to finding yourself on a journey of silence amongst its stunning serenity and its many masterpieces of hospitality.
Our journey across India began when my companion and I arrived at Delhi airport from Dubai via Emirates airline. Upon landing the first thing my friend suggested we do was buy a local SIM card. I have to thank her for this brilliant idea because it helped us to communicate with everyone back home and share our magical experiences throughout our trip.
We took a taxi to the Oberoi hotel, Delhi, where we were greeted with the wonderful local rites of holding beautiful roses and candles at the hotel lobby. The atmosphere was exquisite, made even more graceful by a backdrop of light natural rain. We were given a wonderful reception accompanied by the word “Namaste”, where one bows forward with both hands together. In Hinduism this means “I bow to the divine in you”—a sentiment that we carried with us throughout our spiritual expedition.
Everywhere you look while at the wonderful Oberoi Delhi you can see greenery from all sides—the favorite color of my heart and eyes. We enjoyed a beautiful two-day tour of the city where we visited several tourist hot spots, including the India Gate. This historical landmark dates back to 1921. It was completed in 1931 and stands tall in the center of Delhi as a tribute to the thousands of Indian soldiers who died in the First World and the Third Anglo-Afghan Wars.
We visited the Souq Khan market after a beautiful tour amid the light rain in a traditional Tuktuk, which are widespread in the capital city. The Khan market is a modern crowded market where you can hardly move more than a cart. You will find local products, remnants of Old Delhi and an old spices market that we particularly enjoyed.
The view was magnificent and fascinating in Jama Masjid—one of the largest mosques in India—which was built in 1656 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, a prominent teacher. It was originally called Masjid-i-Jahan Numa, meaning “mosque commanding view of the world”. A spectacular tourist attraction in New Delhi, the mosque is located at the beginning of the Meena Bazaar Road, with the tour leading you to the Red Fort, an ancient historical monument.
On day two we visited Qutb Minar, the tallest minaret in the world made up of bricks. This magnificent landmark has beautiful graffiti and a dazzling display of architecture, which combine to bring a sense of peace and tranquility. This splendid place well deserves its listing by UNESCO in the World Heritage List.
At the end of our Delhi visit was a beautiful bazaar where many local products are available. Tired and happy we went back to the Oberoi hotel to enjoy dinner at one of its specialty Indian restaurants that served an array of delicious dishes. Returning to our room we reluctantly packed our bags to travel the next day to Shimla, the capital city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, which sits in the Himalayan foothills.
Despite getting to the airport at 4am the next morning, bad weather at Shimla airport meant that by 10am our flight was canceled. Undeterred we jumped in a taxi and ten hours later arrived at the Oberoi hotel in the city of Sukhvilas Chandigarh. We were gratefully greeted by a wonderful team and delicious food, while the hotel’s beautiful design features left us enthralled.
After a short break we went on our way to Shimla and arrived at night to another unforgettable reception. Despite the weather and the long journey, we enjoyed the rest of the evening, and in the early morning set out fresh for a tour of the stunning Shimla, ending with a wonderful meal in the oldest of the Oberoi hotels.
Our trip to Shimla, unfortunately, ended quickly but it was followed by the dream that was Agra and the Taj Mahal.
We arrived at the Oberoi Amarvilas hotel by night and were thrilled to find ourselves in a room directly overlooking the Taj Mahal. This magnificent hotel is consistent with the beauty of the world-famous structure. As it was Friday, entry to the Taj Mahal was reserved only for citizens, so we resolved to go on Saturday morning.
Sadly, the poverty in Agra cannot be ignored. Despite the income from tourists that flock from around the world, the city needs to upgrade its facilities and other adequate services for its visitors. Its narrow streets are heavily congested with Tuktuks and pedestrians, which could overwhelm the visitors.
In contrast, visiting the Taj Mahal is an endless love story. This beautiful symbol of love and beauty was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The magnificent white marble building combines both Islamic and Indian styles.
In a play performed at the Agra Theater, you will discover details telling the story of how and why this love edifice was built. The construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632 AD and was completed in 1653 AD. Thousands of craftsmen brought it to life, led by Abdul Karim Maamur Khan, Makramat Khan and Ahmed Lahore. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
The hospitality at the Oberoi Amarvilas hotel, combined with Agra’s simplicity and the love that bursts from the Taj Mahal make for a unique and distinctive travel experience. Saturday evening, we returned to Delhi via the Agra Delhi Road—a wonderful construction developed by the private sector.
As we boarded our plane to come home to the emirates, we waved goodbye to one of the most rewarding and calming trips of our lives.
Today our hearts beat for the beauty and charm of India.