Silk Road and trans-Himalayan – the end of an epic journey

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.


Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque), Delhi, India

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.

Travis on the main steps leading to Jama MasjidThe eastern gate of the mosque was the rural entranceNorthern entrance of the mosque viewed through the southern entrance
Minaret of the Jama Masjid, notice the call to prayer speakersThe bazaar leading up to the eastern entranceBazaars surrounding the Jama Masjid
The Jama Masjid (mosque) eastern entrance gateEastern entrance gate, the domes of the mosque can be seen in the backgroundEastern entrance gate of the Jama Masjid
The entrance to the Jama Masjid prayer roomCorner minaret of the Jama MasjidEastern entrances viewed from the inner courtyard of Jama Masjid
Jama Masjid with two onion shaped domesJama Masjid with minaret and dome on either sideView of Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque)
Close up of Jama Masjid onion shaped domesThe ablution pond inside Jama MasjidView of Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque)


Delhi, India – Humayun’s Tomb and Red Fort

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.

Humayun’s Tomb

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.

The main gate leading to the entrance of Humayun's TombThe main gate of Humayun's TombHumayun's Tomb seen from the Western gate
Humayun's Tomb viewed from the Western gateHumayun's Tomb and the Charbagh style gardensStalactite minor arch of Humayun's Tomb
Row of exterior arches of Humayun's TombStairs leading up to the main tombOne of the main exterior arches of Humayun's Tomb
View of the west gate and Charbagh style gardens from Humayun's TombHumayun's TombCarved stone screen typical of Mughal architecture
One of the main exterior arches of Humayun's TombEastern main exterior arch of Humayun's TombView of the Eastern side of Humayun's Tomb
View to the north from Humayun's TombView of the western arch of Humayun's TombView of the north-western corner of Humayun's Tomb


Red Fort

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.

Delhi Red Fort (Lal Qila) signRed Fort West Lahore GateDog-leg entrance through Lahore Gate
Domed arcade containing shops called the Chatta Chowk (covered bazaar)Diwan-i-Aam of the Red FortMarble Throne and Bungalow in Diwan-I-Am
The splendid Rang Mahal in the Red Fort complexMarble inlay flower found on the columns of the Diwan-i-KhasMarble inlay flower found inside the Diwan-i-Khas in the Red Fort
Diwan-i-Aam with marble inlay of flowersSteps leading to the door of the Moti Masjid (mosque) in the Red FortSouthern small marble pavilion known as Hira-mahal
Zafar Mahal at the Red FortRed Fort Complex mapNaqqar Khana a drum house at the Red Fort
Intricate carved flowers in the red sandstoneThe Naqqar Khana viewed from the westLahori Gate inside the red fort
Western fortification walls of the Red FortPre entry gate leading to Lahori GateThe western entrance of the Red Fort


Wagah border ceremony, Indian-Pakistan border

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.

The Indian welcome gate seen after crossing the Pakistan-India border
The Pakistan welcome gate seen after crossing the India-Pakistan border
The mens section of the grandstands waiting for the show
Patriotic Indian boy waving a large Indian flag
The India-Pakistan Wagah border
Two girls running with a large Indian flag
Elderly Indian women running with an Indian flag
Indian guard at the Indian-Pakistan border
Indian guards performing a show at the Indian-Pakistan border
About to open the Indian-Pakistan border
Two Indian guards waiting for the lowering of the flags
A display of carefully choreographed contempt by Pakistan and India
Lowering of the Pakistan and Indian flags
Indian guard wearing official uniform and headwear