Sunrise at the Taj Mahal

We've seen a lot of sites on this trip. Some we knew we'd visit before we left Boston, others we didn't know existed until we were in the city next door. Not since visiting the Great Wall of China, however, have we visited such a famous site: the Taj Mahal. 

Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, dedicated to Mumtaz, the third and favorite wife of Shah Jahal (remember him from the Agra Fort post?) in the 1630s-1650s. It's made of white marble with inlaid precious stone inside and outside the structure. The building blends Islamic, Ottoman, Turkish, Persian, and Indian styles. We took 90 minute train ride from New Delhi to visit in Agra on the banks of the Yamuna River. 

The Taj Mahal is open from (roughly) sunrise to sunset everyday. We wanted to get the most out of our visit so we decided to arrive early to make sure we got in right when the doors opened and before everyone else. We made a video about our morning and the... unexpected guide we picked up as we went in... The video is a bit different than ones we have posted previously.

We never asked for the gatekeeper's son to be our guide, but it was really fun and he did a pretty good job. From time to time in our traveling we've had people try to be our self appointed tour guides and we have always declined - they come across almost invariably as pushy and will of course press for a tip at the end. In this case we thought it was a fun experience and, even though we knew the tip he'd expect at the end, went along and gave said generous tip.

The gatekeeper to the East Gate of the Taj Mahal. In the pre-dawn hours Kelsi asked him, "If you're the gatekeeper, do you have the key to the Taj Mahal?" "Of course!" he replied, pulling out the key in this photo.

Standing with our morning guide, the gatekeeper's son

Story aside, it was an amazing building (as you might expect given the reputation). It was bigger in person than I imagined and the symmetry was as beautiful as it was obvious in every part of the construction. The walls, interior and exterior, are inlaid with semi-precious stones that glitter in the light, a feature I had never seen in photos. You can walk inside where it is actually a very simple building, but no photos are allowed.

Inlaid semi-precious stones glitter in the sunrise

Much of the design on the building is Arabic calligraphy, as seen over this doorway. If you look carefully, you can see that the lines are not a random pattern but in fact Arabic words.

Kelsi is really proud of some of her photography after we were left to our own devices to wander around the Taj. We still can't believe we managed to get them without other people in the shot. Here are some of her favorites. 

She crawled on her belly under a bench for this one while I shoo'ed people out of the shot.