Yesterday I spent the entire day sightseeing in Old Delhi - an amazing and brain boggling experience! Old Delhi is a vast maze of bazaars and markets built in narrow passageways on the first floors of crumbling old buildings. These buildings are a mish-mosh of architectural wonders from 600 years of Indian history. The passages are filled with people, bike-rickshaws, sights, and smells. Truly a bizarre bazzar!
Old Delhi also has majestic Moghul mosques, forts, and palaces. Top that off with numerous Hindu and Jain temples filled with giant glittering alters to a vast array of dieties scattered everywhere, and you get an inkling of an idea.
I took the Metro in the morning from my sister's house. It was easy; the Metro is clean and convenient. One brilliant feature is that every train has a "ladies car" where only ladies can be. Since most of the metro riders are male, sittting with all women was lovely. We could all look around and smile at each other without any wierd vibes.
I took a bike-rickshaw from the station to Jama Masjid. Fun, swift, bone-rattling and white-knuckled way to go as the rickshaws just weave in and out of everything, passing pedestrians and cars with an inch or two on each side.
Jama Masjid, a mosque built in 1656, took my breath away. The soaring, swooping architecture lifts my spirits right along with it. I spent an hour here praying and taking in the beautiful, ancient energy of the place. I paid 100 rupees to climb to the top of one of the minarets and take in the dizzying view. The temples built at Burning Man each year borrow heavily from Islamic temple architecture. In fact, I do believe that this year's Temple of Transition was based on this very one!. While the Burning Man temple lasts for one week, this mosque is going on 500 years. Incredible.
I was told to find Karim's for lunch, in a tiny passage down a narrow bazaar. After losing myself completely, kind people pointed me the way. Karim's family has been cooking there since the 1700s, so the story goes. It was a remarkably clean little enclave with white marble floors in the midst of filth and mayhem. I ate the most delicious chicken lunch of my life. Recharged, I hit the bazaar-wandering in earnest.
I found the wedding bling market
the gem market, and the sari market where I was made to try on a sari that kept dropping in price...
I found my way into a crumbling marble Shiva temple, and a beauitufl Jain temple which has a charity bird hospital attached.
I went to the Red Fort, a sprawling comlex from the Mughal Empire. It was very busy with Indian families and groups touring. Actually, I saw very few non-Indians all day. Delhi is not a toursist destination for Westerners. A funny thing happened at the Red Fort though. All these people, especially small groups of nattily dressed young men, wanted to be photographed - with ME! I was a rare, exotic creature to them. I was happy to oblige since all day I had been snapping shots of people in the bazaar. It seemed like a fair exchange.
Another wild ride on a bike-rickshaw through the spice market to the Metro, and I came back to Amy and her precious baby just as the sun was setting. What a day!
Today Amy and I are going to lunch with her friend who works in an NGO that aids traditional midwives in rural areas. Hmmm...that just happens to be right up my alley... Then tonight I am taking an overnight train to Jodphur in Rajasthan. I will stay there for a couple days and then return. Blessings!