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

Kashgar (Kashi), China

Kashgar (or Kashi as we learnt when booking the airline tickets) is an important Silk Road city as it was the first major hub after travellers from China heading west had passed the hazardous Taklamakan Desert. Kashgar contains a mix of cultures, predominantly the Islamic Central Asian Uyghur people and more recently with new development in the Western China region, Han Chinese. Kashgar boasts one of the largest and liveliest livestock markets in the world.

We visited Id Kah Mosque, the largest mosque in China, a yellow exterior facade, the design was distinctly different to the mosques we had only recently seen in Iran and Central Asia. From the mosque we visited the Afaq Khoja Mausoleum, the holiest Muslim site in Xinjiang. The mausoleum featured colourful mosaics on the minarets and dome.

One of the interesting things was the time zone, in Kyrgyzstan the sun was setting around 8pm local time. Now even though Kashgar is a few hundred kilometres from Kyrgyzstan, all of China uses Beijing time, which is a further two hours ahead. This meant that the sun would be setting around 10pm, not something that we were used to.

The highlight though was the Uighur food.

Minaret of Id Kah Mosque
Id Kah Mosque, the largest mosque in China
Inside Id Kah Mosque
The old mud brick buildings of silk road city Kashgar
The old mud brick buildings of silk road city Kashi
Afaq Khoja Mausoleum, the holiest Muslim site in Xinjiang
Afaq Khoja Mausoleum, the holiest Muslim site in Xinjiang
Statues reflecting travellers on the old Silk Road

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

We arrived in Samarkand from Khiva at 6:30am on the overnight sleeper train. While not as comfortable as the Turkmenistan train (due to lack of a cooling system), it was still a good way to travel between cities as it meant avoiding having to squeeze into a shared taxi and a bumpy ride on the pothole ridden roads of Central Asia.

We headed straight to the Bohadir B&B which was in the LP, as well as being recommended to us by other travellers in Bukhara.  They gave us a double with bathroom for US$9 each including breakfast, which we were happy with. We had some brekkie and headed out to explore. The B&B is located right next to Samarkand’s Registran so as we walked out we saw the breathtaking view of the Registran’s medrassas. It was noticeably cooler than it had been in Bukhara and Khiva.

We started off at the Registran but realised we need to exchange some money so headed to Siob Bazaar. It was not hard to find a money exchanger on the black market – almost every shopkeeper exchanges or knows someone who does!

Bibi Khanym Mosque

We then headed to the grandiose Bibi Khanym Mosque. It is massive at forty-one metres high. This mosque was built for Bibi Khanym, the Great Timur’s Chinese wife. Apparently the architect fell in love with Bibi and Timur had him executed. We crossed the road over to the Bibi Khanym Mausoleum which has brilliantly restored interior. The lady there offered us to climb the ‘minaret’ for 5000 Som which turned out to be the tin roof of the mausoleum, but it had great views of the Bibi Khanym Mosque and nearby Shah I Zinda.

Turquoise fluted dome of Bibi-Khanym MosqueBibi-Khanym MosqueInner courtyard of Bibi-Khanym Mosque
Blue mosaics of Bibi-Khanym MosqueSide entrance of the Bibi-Khanym MosqueHard carved and painted wooden being sold at the Bibi-Khanym Mosque
Intricate wooden carving at the Bibi-Khanym mausoleumTiles of the Bibi-Khanym mausoleumTiles of the Bibi-Khanym mausoleum
Stalactites of the Bibi-Khanym mausoleumBibi-Khanym mausoleumBibi-Khanym mausoleum

Hazrat Hizr Mosque

Next was a visit to the 8th century Hazrat Hizr Mosque, beautifully decorated in pastel colours with wooden columns.

Hazrat-Hizr MosquePascal minaret at Hazrat-Hizr MosquePascal coloured Hazrat-Hizr Mosque
Colourful mosaics at Hazrat-Hizr MosqueIntricate tile work at Hazrat-Hizr MosqueInner dome of Hazrat-Hizr Mosque
Stalactites of the Hazrat-Hizr MosqueThe outer kiblah of the Hazrat-Hizr MosqueInner dome pattern at Hazrat-Hizr Mosque

Shah I Zinda

We headed to the spectacular Shah I Zinda, avenue of mausoleums, a truly brilliant array of mausoleums (including that of Qusam ibn Abbas, cousin of Prophet Mohammed) with beautiful tile work, mosaics – a feast for the eyes! It is a pilgrimage site and many of the tombs were covered in Som (Uzbek currency) notes.

One of the many highly mosaiced tombs at Shahi-ZindaInner dome of one of the tombs at Shahi-ZindaInterior of one of the more lavish tombs at Shahi-Zinda
Intricate blue and white mosaics at Shahi-ZindaTurquoise domes of two tombs at Shahi-ZindaAvenue of mausoleums at Shahi-Zinda
Avenue of mausoleums at Shahi-ZindaAvenue of mausoleums at Shahi-ZindaThe entrance of Shahi-Zinda (avenue of mausoleums)


An ancient Samarkand site of Afrosiab is located near to Shah I Zinda, so we decided to visit this next. While the site itself is mostly in ruins, the museum houses a 7th century fresco of KKing Vokhaouman (Sodgian period) and some Afrosiab history.

In the evening we headed back to the B&B and it started raining heavily. Thunder bellowed and lightening struck.

The Registran

The following morning we headed to the Registran, one of the most spectacular sights in Samarkand. Our B&B was just a stone throw away, so we’d walked past it a number of times but decided to explore the interior medressas on our second day. There are three magnificent medressas – the Ulugbek Medressa, named after Timur’s grandson Ulugbek, famed for his passion for astronomy and mathematics, the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa which depict liger-like creatures (in order to align with Islamic regulations around depicting animals) which are frequently used in Uzbekistan artwork and handicrafts, and the Tilla Kari Medressa which insides contains extremely well restored mosque with its elaborately gold-decorated dome.

After we went in search of a bank (Asaka Bank) and an internet cafe, taking a walk along the streets of old Samarkand.  There seemed to be a lot of restoration going on in the streets of the old town.  We had lunch at a restaurant – plov, two salads and green tea.

East wall of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the RegistanFluted turquoise dome of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the RegistanFluted turquoise dome of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the Registan
Sculpture of Kazizoda Rumi, Mirzo Ulughbek, Ghiyasiddin Jamshed, Muhammad Khavofi and Ali Kushchi at scientific discussionThe inner court of Ulugbek Medressa part of the RegistanThe inner court of Ulugbek Medressa part of the Registan
Turquoise dome of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) MedressaTurquoise dome of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) MedressaTilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa part of the Registan
The gold-leaf of the Tilla-Kari Medressa part of the RegistanThe inner dome painted blue and gold in the Tilla-Kari Medressa part of the RegistanThe gold-leaf of the Tilla-Kari Medressa part of the Registan
The inner court of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa still under restorationPainters restoring the interior walls of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa,The entrance portal of Ulugbek Medressa part of the Registan
Ulugbek Medressa part of the RegistanThe entrance portal of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the RegistanSher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the Registan
Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the RegistanThe entrance portal of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa part of the RegistanThe three Medressas making up the Registan
Sonya and Travis at the Registan, SamarkandThe entrance portal of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa part of the RegistanTilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa part of the Registan

Guri Amir Mausoleum

We then headed to the Guri Amir Mausoleum which contains the tombs of Timur, his sons and grandsons (including Ulugbek). We also popped into the Ak-Saray Mausoleum hidden in a back alley behind the Guri Amir.

Blue fluted azure dome at Guri Amir MausoleumGuri Amir Mausoleum with blue fluted azure domeGuri Amir Mausoleum with blue fluted azure dome
Inside the Guri Amir Mausoleum hallwayGold and blue mosaics at the Guri Amir MausoleumGold and blue mosaics at the Guri Amir Mausoleum
Gold and blue mosaics at the Guri Amir MausoleumEntrance of Guri Amir Mausoleum with blue fluted azure domeGuri Amir Mausoleum

The following morning we caught a shared taxi to Tashkent, 55,000som per person for the three hour journey.