We have come the end of our three month long journey starting from Qatar, completing two major ancient trade routes the Silk Road where we started at Iran (Persia) and ended up in Western China, and the trans-Himalayan trade route continuing in China and heading south to India.
We have learnt a lot about the Persian empire and experienced the great extent of it along the Silk Road, with influences all the way in India. The trans-Himalayan route elevated us to the highest we had been with glimpses of Mount Everest.
Click on the markers below to find links to blog posts with further details of the amazing journey.
It was ironic that the last mosque we would see, would be our most unfortunate encounter, not because of its architecture – the simple red sandstone facade with contrasting white onion-style domes was quite beautiful, but due to the disappointing etiquette in which we were treated.
Having visited a number of mosques throughout our travels in the middle east and more recently the Silk Road, we had learnt a lot about Islam and always ensured we respected and abided by the general rules and etiquette of a mosque when visiting.
It started when we were charged three-hundred rupees to enter the mosque, masked as a camera charge. This was a first as mosques we had visited had never asked for a financial contribution from visitors. They wouldn’t even let us in if we agreed to not take photographs.
After payment, Sonya was forced to wear a chodor (an open cloak), even though she was modestly dressed there, with long sleeved blouse, ankle length skirt and even a scarf to cover her hair. We were confused seeing so many women wearing short sleeved sleeves and uncovered hair when we stepped inside.
Inside wasn’t much better either, with children and women playing with the water of the ablution pond and people using their mobile phones near the qibla.
From Amritsar we caught a final train to our last Indian city Delhi. Whilst we spent a lot of the time buying clothes (four under one-hundred dollars a whole formal outfit including suit, shirt and shoes can be purchased) and souvenirs, we did explore some of the main tourist attractions in Delhi.
Our hostel was in the touristy area of New Delhi, Paharganj; a very short walk from New Delhi train station. The location made it a very comfortable and enjoyable final few days, there was plenty to eat and buy only walking distance from the hostel.
As normal in any new city we visit, first exploration was by foot to nearby Chandni Chowk located in the Old Delhi area. We reached the Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque), the largest mosque in India. Having now visited a huge number of mosques, we were quite shocked at how poorly it followed Islamic etiquette, so shocked that I thought I would write about it in a separate post.
Around the mosque were huge bazaars selling Islamic clothing, food and general knick-knacks, plus the occasional chicken and goat.
A beautiful red sandstone tomb designed by a Persian architect. The tomb was set in a standard Charbagh (literally meaning four gardens) style garden with water dividing the grounds into four separate quadrants, similar to the Taj Mahal.
Our final site in Delhi was the Red Fort (or also named Lal Qila), named from the red sandstone used during construction. The Red Fort had a grand entrance gate and high walls; inside featured the usual traits of Mughal palace complexes.
The following morning we visited the temple again, before heading to Jallianwala Bagh, a memorial garden for the 1919 massacre. There were many families and tourists strolling through the gardens, visiting the museum explains the tragic occurrences of that day.
We had lunch and then headed back to the hotel where we had arranged a trip to the Wagah border, the road that separates India and Pakistan. Each day, a border closing ceremony is held at sunset where the Indian and Pakistani security forces perform an aggressive but comical military ‘routine’ whilst the gates are closed. When we arrived on our bus, there were many people there already. Street vendors were selling drinks, food, Indian flags and all sorts of souvenirs. It was far more popular an event that I recall during my last visit. The gates were closed and it was sweltering. We lined up, packed amongst what seemed like zillions of Indians and tourists. A fair bit of pushing and shoving took place as everyone was anxious to get into the stands over looking the ceremony. Eventually, they opened the gates to let everyone in. Fortunately, there is a tourist entrance – we were security checked and allowed in. The tourist section was one of the better positions giving us great views of the ceremony.
The Wagah border ceremony started with children passing flags to one another, followed by an entertaining display of military might. The crowd support (in both size and noise) from the India side far exceeded the Pakistani side, which also seemed to be gender segregated (from what we could see).
It was an enjoyable event and by the time we reached our hotel it was nightfall.