Delhi, India (Day 1)

When I was in grad school, someone in my class introduced me to my first experience with Indian food at a restaurant called Taz.   The place was maybe a mile from the apartment I’d lived in for two years, and was full of beautiful, vivid photographs of the country (my favorite was one of colored powder in a market). The dish I had was called chicken tikka masala, and on that day it replaced my longtime favorite food, chicken fettuccine alfredo.  I frequented the place throughout the rest of grad school with my roommate Hajar, and always loved sitting in the restaurant and admiring the gorgeous pictures of the country.  Somewhere in that time, those pictures made me yearn for a visit.  Several years later… after two eight-hour flights and about 22 hours in transit, I woke up this morning in Delhi, India (after landing at 1:40 am and getting to the hotel at 3:40!).
Hajar recently left the states for Paris but we met here.  We started off our morning by having a quick breakfast in the hotel and then joining our driver, Gajraj, to drive into south Delhi to see our first sights inside of Qutb Complex and meet our guide for the day, DP.  The first sight, Alai Minar is a minaret that was begun by Alauddin Khalji who intended to build something that would be double the height of the Qutb-Minar.  It had only reached one story when he passed away and construction stopped.
The side of Alai Minar with Qutb-Minar in the distance

From there we went on to see Iltutmish’s tomb, a mausoleum built out of sandstone and marble with Arabic characters etched into the stone.  Really amazing!  I always say this, but I just can’t imagine carving anything into stone.

Iltutmish’s tomb

From there, we ventured into the ruins of Quwwat-ul-Islam, the first mosque to be built in India.

Qutub Minar through ruins of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque

Ruins in the complex
Detail of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque
Ruins of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque
Hajar in the Alai Darwaza gatehouse 
Qtub-Minar in the background
The Rashtrapati Bhavan

After we finished touring the Qutb complex, we got back in the car and drove to see the president’s house and India Gate (All India War Memorial) in New Delhi.   On the drive there we saw the most BEAUTIFUL flowers! We asked our guide what they were called but unfortunately, he didn’t know.  We ended up seeing the flowers again, mixed with many others, at the base of India Gate.  All around the gate there were vendors selling balls and other toys for children, jewelry, pani puri, and many other foods.

One of the food vendors selling to a couple
Food vendors
Food vendor
Flowers at India Gate
India Gate
Auto rickshaw

Our final sightseeing of the day took us to Humayun’s Tomb, a red sandstone tomb for the emperor of the Mughal Emperor Humayun.  The Tomb is said to have inspired the Taj Mahal, which we’ll tour in Agra tomorrow.

Walking toward Humayun’s Tomb
Humayun’s Tomb
Me in Humayun’s Tomb
Hajar in Humayun’s Tomb

Isa Khan Niyazi‘s Tomb
Our guide DP, Hajar and me at Humayun’s Tomb

For dinner we went to a restaurant one of our coworkers recommended, Rajdhani.  When we walked in, a man touched just below the center of our foreheads with what looked like a matchstick, leaving a small dot of yellow paste behind.  I texted our friend asking what it meant, and he said it’s called a tilak and means good luck and thanks.  Soon after sitting down at the table, a server brought a bronze bowl and pitcher for us to wash our hands while sitting.  We each had a tray with several small empty metal bowls.  The servers quickly started coming and filling up each bowl and covering the tray.  If you got close to finishing a bowl, they’d give you more.  We ate ’til we were ready to pop!  It was soooo good!

Hand washing at the table
All the Indian food we could eat

Earlier in the day, our guide had told us that people would leave us alone for the most part since we were with him.  On our way back to the car after dinner, we were walking behind our driver and walked up to a would-be opening in a corner that was mostly blocked by plywood, with two men standing in the gap between the wood and the building.  I turned to Hajar to comment on how sketchy it looked after passing it and as I did, saw one of the men start walking behind us.  As I quietly commented on it, our driver turned around to ask what I said.  As soon as he spoke to us, the man stopped.  Yeesh!  We also saw terrorist wanted posters at the stand where he paid for parking before heading back to our hotel for the night.

“India’s capital and a major gateway to the country, contemporary Delhi is a bustling metropolis, which successfully combines in its folds – the ancient with the modern. Amidst the fast spiraling skyscrapers the remnants of a bygone time in the form of its many monuments stand as silent reminders to the region’s ancient legacy. The first impressions for any visitor traveling in from the airport are of a specious, garden city, tree-lined with a number of beautiful parks.
Enjoy your breakfast at the hotel & Drive towards the sightseeing. 

Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi : Taj Mahal is known have been inspired by Humayun’s Tomb, and in many ways this magnificent red and while building is as spectacular as the famous Taj Mahal in Agra. Tomb is memorial by a grieving wife and was built by his widow Haji Begum in 1565-66, nine years after his death.
The splendor of this grand monument becomes overpowering on entering through the lofty double storied gateway. It is set in the center of a large square garden enclosed by high walls on three sides, while the river would have been the forth boundary. The Chahar Bagh is divided into smaller squares by pathways as in a typical Mughal garden. The fountains were worked with simple yet highly developed engineering skills quite common in India during that period.
India Gate, Delhi: the 42 metre high, free standing arch, popularly known as India Gate, was designed by Luytens and built in 19111. It was originally called All India War Memorial in memory of the 90,000 Soldiers of the Indian Army who died in World War I. The names of the soldiers are inscribed all along the walls of the arch. In1971, an eternal flame was lit here to honour the Amar Jawan (immortal soldiers).

Qutub Minar – The Qutub Minar is located in Mehrauli in South Delhi. It was built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak of the Slave Dynasty, who took possession of Delhi in 1206. The Qutub Minar is also significant for what it represents in the history of Indian culture. In many ways, the Qutub Minar, the first monument built by a Muslim ruler in India, heralded the beginning of a new style of art and architecture that came to be known as the Indo-Islamic style. Other monuments around the Qutub complex, are Jamaali Kamaali mosque and tombs, Balban’s tomb and Adham Khan’s Tomb.”