We departed Amman around 4 am on Etihad Airways and with a free seat in between us we were able to sleep the couple of hours until we landed in Abu Dhabi. We had a 6 hour layover in Abu Dhabi and the airport website is super helpful by suggesting different things you can do depending on the length of your layover. Additionally, if you have an onward ticket you can get fast tracked through immigration and an on arrival visa. So we ventured out into the United Arab Emirates and took a taxi to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
I knew we were going to go to the mosque so I specifically wore a long dress, sweater and brought a scarf to cover up with. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough and I still had to put on a burka so I ended up being doubly hot! Next time I’ll just wear something comfortable and plan on wearing the provided clothing.
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque was definitely worth being hot! It was absolutely breathtaking and definitely rivaled the most beautiful cathedrals and synagogues we’ve seen. Outside the mosque is covered in white marble and 82 white domes while inside the white marble is decorated with green and pink marble that is cute into vines and flowers. Everything is beautiful from the doors to the massive colorful crystal chandeliers.
After our visit we headed back to the airport with plenty of time for our next flight. Drew’s only regret from our visit to the UAE was that we didn’t have time to visit Ferrari World. Our next flight was even less full than our first one and we each had a row to ourselves but instead of sleeping we enjoyed several movies and lunch before arriving in New Delhi.
It was late when we arrived so after getting to the hotel we just headed to bed. After two full weeks of being on an organized tour we were a little exhausted and had quite a bit of errands to do so that’s what we spent our first day in Delhi doing. Don’t worry though we still got lots of new experiences. Someone told us that India is an “assault on all of your senses” and now I definitely understand what they mean. You will see the most disgusting pile of trash and refuse and then the next moment the most beautifully bright colored sari with intricate stitching. Similarly you will walk by a street and smell the worst thing you’ve ever smelled and then two steps later you’ve pass a food stand with the greatest smells in the whole world coming from it.
I think Drew’s most interesting experience on our errand day was seeing a mouse scurry through the grocery store. My favorite experience was taking a tuk tuk to the laundry in the middle of a torrential downpour (it is monsoon season) and the streets became rivers so we driving down a river.
The next day we got up really early for a 4-hour drive to Agra. Although Agra is not that far away it takes about 4 hours because of all the traffic and the fact that when cows decide to take a nap in the middle of the road everyone has to just drive around them. Drew loved this though and took photos of almost every cow we passed.
After getting to Agra our first stop was the Taj Mahal. There are several entrances but most of them require about a half a mile walk or a ride on a electric vehicle (they are trying to limit destruction to the Taj Mahal by limiting gaseous vehicles around the mausoleum). We decided to walk there and it was a great decision because we got to see tons of monkeys in the parks along the walk. Our first view of the Taj Mahal was through the gate and everything from the gate, to the park, to all the stones decorating the Taj Mahal are perfectly symmetric except for the tomb of the King (because he wasn’t originally supposed to be buried here).
In addition to teaching us all about the Taj Mahal our guide was a fantastic photographer. He took great photos of us and suggested good views for Drew – I think he was Drew’s favorite tour guide!
One of the things that makes the Taj Mahal so beautiful are the amazing flower decorations. What is even more amazing is that the white marble is was hand carved out and then precious stones such as sapphire, rubies, and emeralds were inlaid. It’s almost unbelievable but after our trip to the Taj Mahal they took us to a workshop where this method is still done so we knew it had to be true.
After lunch we went to the Red Fort, which was built before the Taj Mahal and where the Kings, Queens, and concubines lived. It was once just as beautiful as the Taj Mahal but people have looted it over the years but it was still interesting to see how royalty lived back then and it also has great view of the Taj Mahal.
Our final stop was the area where the King meant for his mausoleum to be built. Unfortunately his third born son after murdering his two older brothers became King and imprisoned his father in the Red Fort and stopped the building of the King’s mausoleum. The spot is across the river from the Taj Mahal and now a beautiful garden and viewpoint.
Originally we hadn’t planned to go to India but since New Delhi was on the way to Thailand we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check one more World Wonder off our list. Together we’ve seen all 7 World Wonders (individually we’ve each seen 6) and the only remaining Ancient World Wonder (the Pyramids of Giza). India ended up intriguing us in many ways though and I hope to go back to experience more.