|May 31, 2009: Fatehpur Sikri and Jaipur
After we woke up we had breakfast. The hotel had a great breakfast buffett. We then
checked out and met Sonka outside. It was raining. Good thing that we went for the sunset
on the Taj last night instead of the sunrise (as anybody would get me out of bed early for
sunrise pictures....). We made our way out of Agra. The traffic was chaotic and the rain
contributed to make a dirty place even dirtier. Our first stop today was Fatehpur Sikri, only
about 40 km southwest of Agra on the way to Jaipur.
Fatehpur Sikri was the capital city of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It was built between 1569
and 1585. It only served as the capital city for a brief period of time and was abandoned
soon after it was finished. The most prevalent theory is that the Mughals just left it which
suggests a wastefulness the Mughal's were known of.
We arrived at the carpark. Our guide at the Taj Mahal the day before had warned us about
the people at Fatehpur Sikri. We should not take a guide as the people there could not be
trusted (I found out later that the people who live in Fathepur Sikri are Moslems and our
guide at the Taj was Hindu, so that might have been the explanation). So we followed this
advice and just took a riksha up the hill to the palace. At the big mosque, however, our
driver stopped and sure enough we were surrounded by people offering their guide
services. We said "no" and walked from the mosque down to the main entrance into
While at Fathepur Sikri, there was a constant drizzle. Too bad as it would have looked great
if the sun would have been out with all those red sandstone buildings. Marc and I walked
around and visited the main buildings of the palace. Although abandoned for several
hundred years, the buildings were still in great shape.
After an hour or so, we left the palace and walked down to the mosque, the Jama Masjid.
The mosque was completed in 1571, before the palace was constructed. On the steps up to
the entrance many self-appointed guides were waiting for us. We ignored all of them, took
off our shoes and entered the mosque. However, there was one guy standing there
watching us who was not aggressive at all smiling all the time and I asked him whether he
would like to show us around. It turned out to be a good choice!
We entered the mosque and our guide showed us around. The prayer hall on the west side
of the mosque is the focal point with an enormous arched gateway. Inside the courtyard is
a marble tomb, the Tomb of Sheik Salim Chishti. Emperor Akbar, who had countless wives,
had not been able to "produce" a male offspring so he consulted the Sheik who predicted 3
sons for him. This happened and so Akbar built a tomb for the Sheik in the mosque. Many
women come here still today and pray for male offspring.
We entered the tomb, but had to cover our heads with little plastic baskets which were
available to be rented for a few rupees by many helping hands.
After spending a lot more time at Fathepur Sikri than we originally intended, we went
outside and looked for our riksha driver, but he had gone. We got another one and he drove
us back to the carpark. We stayed at the carpark for a few more minutes talking to some of
the locals. Interesting that all of them had glazy eyes and their tongues were red. I think
they all were eating cannabis.
We finally left Fathepur Sikri. Slowly the sun was coming out and the closer we came to
Jaipur, the hotter it got. We were driving now through pretty much a desert area. We saw
lots of camels pulling rikshas, an interesting sight. All along the highway there were many
many brick productions with their huge smoke stacks. We had lunch at one of the midway
restaurants. Food was pretty good and there were a couple of more tourists at the
restaurant who were on a similar trip than us through the Golden Triangle.
We finally made it to Jaipur late afternoon. We went directly to our hotel, the Arya Niwas.
Very clean located in a side street. The hotel was family operated and we got a very nice
and clean room.
A few minutes later, our guide picked us up to show us around. Our first stop was the
Jantar Mantar. This is an observatory which was built between 1728 - 1734. The Mughals
were very interested in astronomy and the most impressive structure of the observatory is
a 27 m high sundial.
Despite this observatorium being an impressive sight, astronomy is nothing for me, so I
was not too enthused to the dismay of our guide who probably would have liked to talk
about those sun things for another hour or two.
I, however, was more interested in walking around and exploring the Pink City. Our guide
looked at me a little puzzled and then had to walk behind two Westerners at 110 degrees
Fahrenheit walking through the streets of "his" city.
The Pink City is the heart of Jaipur. It is enclosed by high walls and imposing gates. It has a
regular grid plan, with wide dead-straight streets laid out at right angles and broadening out
to spacious plazas at main intersections. It was an awesome place full of people and lots of
traffic. Much more interesting than that dull observatorium....
Unfortunately it was too late to get into the City Palace as it was already closed. We saw the
other big attraction in the Pink City, the Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds. As the sun was
setting behind the Hawa Mahal I waited with pictures until the next morning when the sun
shone at it illuminating the building.
We finally made it back to our hotel. We were looking for a place to have dinner. There
were a couple of restaurants in the vicinity of our hotel, but they did not look too inviting
to us and we decided to have dinner at the hotel. The food here, although vegetarian, was
really good. The kitchen and dining room were so clean, we could have eaten off the floor.
And then, when we paid, there was a big sign "No tipping". Wow!!
Definitely can recommend this hotel. Went to our room and watched the French Open.
Nadal got his butt whipped buy a Swedish guy. We slept great!