India Agra 2001.12.08 - 12.09

Taj Mahal

Agra has an impressive marble tomb called Taj Mahal. The city around this world famous tourist attraction is the most polluted part of India we saw. Despite visits by millions of Indian and foreign tourists, the streets stank of unimaginable contamination. The area around our hotel was polluted to the extent that we lost our appetites just stepping onto the street. That day, we stuck to one bread-curry stand that was immensely popular with the locals and fruit that could be peeled. We were terrified to eat anything else.

The two tourist sites in Agra are Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. Between the two is a surprisingly quiet and pristine (relatively speaking) park where green parrots and other wild birds find refuge. Neither site had much impact on us. Our expectation of the Taj Mahal was especially high. Though the exterior symmetrical architecture is impressive from afar, the detail of the carved marble pales in comparison to that of the Alhambra (in Granada, Spain) and the inlaid stonework is much less precise, detailed, or beautiful than that at Cappelle Medicee (in Florence, Italy). Had we known, we may have kept the US$15 admission fee and viewed the Taj Mahal for free from across the Yamuna River.

We quickly pose when a gap in the crowd of tourists provides an unobstructed view of the Taj Mahal. Due to the symmetry of design, the exterior appears the same from each of the four sides. From afar, this tomb is gorgeous. Up close, the lack of detail renders it quite uninteresting.

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