Our first day in Delhi started with a monsoon-like downpour. It flooded many of the streets and we were ankle deep in water most of the morning. We saw some incredible monuments like the Red Fort and the largest Mosque in the world. The precision and scale of construction is mind boggling, especially in the modern age of computers and motorized cranes. Enormous victory pillars and memorial arches dot the landscape and are just a few of the 1300 recognized monuments in Delhi alone. Many of these were “old” long before anyone stepped foot in the Americas. The history for many of these ruins follows the same themes: beautiful temple/tomb was built by some benevolent ruler and filled with unimaginable material wealth, until some Muslim raider pillaged the thing down to the foundation. We then went to a Government subsidized shop to look at hand-knotted carpets from the Kashmir. The disputed territory has seen some vicious terrorism of late so no tourists are allowed to buy the rugs made by the family artisans there. We had some special saffron and cardamom tea that comes from the region while we watched a demo of the hand-knotting process (we learned that this is much better than simply ‘hand-made’). The quality and style of the silk and wool pieces was nothing short of stunning. We resisted the somewhat hard sell, even with our ’special’ off-season price.
Our guide, Anil told us that there were only 3.5 million foreign tourists last year, something that I find odd considering the size and beauty of this place. He figured that since we wouldn’t be traveling to the South, he would take us to a restaurant specializing in Southern cuisine. He ordered course after course, with several types of delicious bread and what became our favorite dish, Chicken 65, so named after the year it was created. We were plenty full, but not thankfully not stuffed and the whole bill came to a whopping $22. From there we went to see Delhi’s tiny working synagogue that serves mostly foreign diplomats and the nine native Jewish families. We then took a driving tour of Capitol and Parliament buildings, we decided were more impressive than Washington’s because India is a bigger democracy. We were a little beat from there and I even slept in the car a bit on the way back to the hotel. We stayed in the room that evening, not even bothering to go for dinner because of our big lunch. The only thing I could have done without was my phone ringing from 1:30 to 3:30am from people trying to get a hold of me in the States. I really like it here so far and even the abject poverty observed on every corner hasn’t affected me as much as I thought it would.
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