The city of Agra, located a few hours outside of Dehli, is most known for its main attraction — the opulent, glittering Taj Mahal. But when we arrived in Agra, the first thing we did was set out for a fortress called Agra Fort — or more commonly, the Red Fort. I was originally nonplussed at this plan. What could possibly be exciting about an old military installation?
I was so wrong.
The Red Fort is like an oyster. A tough, crusty exterior (in this case, red walls) encases a delicate pearl.
Once you walk past the rust-colored walls, you step into a marble castle straight out of a dream.
The white marble castle was constructed by Emperor Akbar, but I was most interested in Shah Jahan’s time at the palace. The Shah was a total romantic (he was the one who commissioned the construction of the Taj Mahal for a dead wife), and his empresses bathed in rose petals in the fountains in the elaborate courtyards, which once produced grapes for wine.
Even the end of his life got the royal treatment: Shah Jahan he was eventually imprisoned and spent the last few years of his life here in a luxurious two-story marble cell with a killer view of the Yamuna River. (Not a bad place to spend a life sentence.)
A word about the outfit: Sometimes when I am traveling to a big tourist attraction, I like to wear outfits in bright colors, so I am easy to find if I get separated from my companion. This outfit is not something I’d recommend for standing out — blue, especially denim, tends to blend, blend, blend.
That said, I’ve had no trouble sticking out. My husband says I look as subtle as Carrie in Homeland, which loosely translates to, “Honey, I could see you from outer space.”
That’s because the vast majority of tourists here are not Westerners at all. In most cases, I am one of a handful, and I’m usually the only blond. (Okay, okay, dirty blond by way of highlights — let’s not get too technical here.)
Unlike Morocco, which was filled with zillions of Western tourists, India feels much more insular. The tourists have come from other cities/states within India, each speaking their own local languages and wearing fantastic, inspirational, totally non-Western clothes.
My husband believes that there are so few Western tourists because India is seen as a “challenging” vacation spot. It’s a pity — the architecture, scenery and rich history are certainly worth traversing an ocean or two.
I have some big posts coming up, including my visit to the Taj Mahal (wait till you see the outfit), and my pilgrimage to Tirupati. With that, below, you’ll find some of the things I loved most about the Red Fort. Tune in later this week for more adventures! (Or follow along on Instagram here.)