If you ever want to feel like a celebrity, visit Delhi’s Red Fort. The entire experience reminded me of coming off the main stage during the 2010 Olympics where I was accosted by hundreds of people all wanting to take pictures.
This experience at Red Fort was particularly similar. First, you purchase your ticket to enter; 25 rupees for locals and 250 rupees for foreigners (of course). You then arrive in a circular open-aired gathering space built with richly coloured red bricks.
From there, you enter a small market area where travellers can purchase trinkets and other items. The day was stiflingly hot so we ended up wandering into a wood carving shop… the only little store with an air conditioner. The shop owner was extremely gracious, seating us down on two little couches at the very back of the store. I must say, the 25 minutes we spent with him were wonderful – at first for the air conditioning, but then for the delightful smell of sandalwood. Apparently this fragrance lasts for decades. It is bright and refreshing, most of it grown in Kunanurra Australia. Sandalwood is so expensive, it is often traded illegally – a small elephant carving (trunk up of course :P) is 3000 Rupees ($60).
The carvings of Krisha and Ganesh were my favourite, each hundreds of dollars as Mr. Rangha explained all of the Hindu Gods and their significance.
As we left the market my friend and I were constantly approached for photos – and even worse were the multiple times people would hold their camera phones less than a foot from our faces and take video! After a while we just had to let it go… I pretended it was because of my uncanny likeness to Angelina Jolie. Obviously.
So now I’ll go a little wikipedia on Red Fort for you: Lal Qil’ah is a 17th-century fort from the Mughal times. It was made by emperor, Shah Jahan in Old Delhi. It was supposed to be the capital, Shahjahanabad, as the Shah moved it from Agra. Security is pretty tight when you’re entering – especially around Indian Independence Day… which is self explanatory.
Red Fort is along Yamuna River and the architects of the palace were Ustad Ahmad and Ustad Hamid. The space stretches a great distance and is a gorgeous spot to go and sit, eat lunch, or just spend time. Considering it’s pretty much the same price for locals to visit there as enter Dilli Haat Market, it’s a perfect location.
Across the street, however, is where things get really exciting. The first challenge is crossing the street. When it comes to India, all the things you learned as a child must be re-learned – ‘Indian Style’. Things like driving, crossing the street, eating, and getting dressed all come with their own new sets of lessons.
Fortunately my friend Sid is a Delhi native who managed to get me the 2 meters across the street to Chandni Chowk Market. While sporting my kameez we were absolutely dripping so made a necessary pit stop. Mangos. Fresh mango juice for 25 rupees (fifty cents CAD) on the side of the street. Heavenly.
From there we dodged motorcycles, rick shaws, and other constructions that you might call vehicles as we wove our way through Chandni Chowk. Shop owners called after me and everyone had something to sell.