Today was our tour of the city of Delhi, the political capital of India. The day started with a bit of a culture shock, having come from such an advanced and modern city in Dubai. The streets here are covered in garbage and wild dogs and cats are abundant. At the tourist destinations it is near impossible to avoid the begging children and hecklers hawking useless merchandise. What makes Delhi so fascinating however, is the convergence of modern and ancient India. We started our tour of the city in Old Delhi, at Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. Jama Masjid was truly beautiful, made of the same red stone that the famous Red Fort of Delhi is made from.  The size of the mosque was unbelievable compared to the more practical mosques we saw in Dubai. According to our guide, the mosque can have anywhere from 20,000-25,000 people in it on any given weekend.

After seeing the Jama Masjid, we got off our bus and onto “rickshaws”, which took us through the winding streets and markets of Old Delhi that our bus simply could not get us to. We saw some incredible stuff in there, including the wedding, book, paper, and silver markets to name a few. One of the things that were most interesting was the shear chaos of the scene.   The narrow, dirt streets were packed with cyclists, motorcyclists, cars, walkers, stray animals, and carts being pulled by oxen – all going in every direction possible it seemed.

After the rickshaw experience, we visited Raj Ghat, the memorial and cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi.  The memorial had a powerful impact on the group because of how influential a figure Gandhi was, not just in India, but throughout the entire world.  After the visit to the Raj Ghat, we stopped for lunch in a local market, where the group had the opportunity to break out into smaller groups and taste the local food and pick up a variety of souvenirs.

We then traveled to Qutub Minar, a large tower built to represent victory. It is notable because it is one of the earliest and most prominent examples of Indo-Islamic architecture in India.  The tower is surrounded many other sets of ruins, none however standing nearly as tall as Qutub Minar. At the site is the “Iron Pillar”, dated back to the Gupta period that has supposedly never rusted.

We finished our city tour of Delhi with Humayun’s tomb, the burial place of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. Supposedly, Humayun’s tomb served as inspiration for the Taj Mahal, which we will be visiting later in our trip. The tomb was built in 1562 AD, making it 550 years old. It was a beautiful site, and one I don’t think anyone in our group will forget.

We ended the day with a nice “welcome dinner” at the Royal Plaza.  It was a great opportunity for all of us to mingle and reflect on what a truly incredible day we had had as our first in India.