We depart the hotel early this morning and make our way to the Taj Mahal to watch as the sun rises over this extraordinary building. Built by Shah Jahan’s as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal the beauty of this structure is unmatched. On the death of his beloved wife, in wild extravagance, Shah Jahan built her this memorial. 20,000 men laboured for over 17 years to build this wealth of white marble and precious stone. We have time to walk the corridors and gardens before continuing on to the Agra Fort.
With its grand courtyards, royal pavilions and palaces the Agra Fort is a fitting testimony to the Great Moghuls – Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan – during the era when Agra was the capital of the Moghul Empire. The most impressive part of the Fort is the Dewan-e-Am, where the Emperor sat on his throne to dispense to his subjects, and the Dewan-e-Khas where he received foreign dignitaries.
A brief visit is also made to the marble inlay workshop - where one can see the art that went into the inlay work at the Taj Mahal. This workshop has brought back into India this almost forgotten art style, tomb of Itmad-ud-dullah, father of Queen Nur Jehan – a two storied tomb bearing mosaics in inlaid semi-precious stones.
You will then return to your hotel where you will have free time. If time permits you should visit Itimad-ud-Daulah, known as the ‘Baby Taj’; it was built before the Taj Mahal by Nur Jahan, queen of Jehangir, for her parents. The first Mughal building to be faced with white marble and where ‘pietra dura’, (precious stones inlaid into marble) was first used. Or alternatively head down to the Yamuna River and take a small boat across the river to get a glimpse of the Taj Mahal from a different angle and a different perspective - truly magical.
Agra is a great place to try barbecue meats (kebabs) mixed with Indian spices. Petha, pieces of white pumpkin dipped in sugar syrup, and Gajak, a crumbly sweet made with sesame and jaggery, are delicious local sweets and sold everywhere - try them. For a splurge have a drink at the Oberoi Amarvilas. Built in typical Mughal style, barely 600m from the Taj Mahal, they have the most stunning view of the monument.
*Please note the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays