We started our tour of Delhi by buying 3 day metro cards for 500 rupees £6 which gives us unlimited travel. It’s pretty straightforward the metro, part underground and part above the city. It’s way better than sitting for hours in traffic. We set off for the Red Fort and stopped at the large mosque which was teeming with people. It was a mass of vehicles and people buying, selling and wandering. We went to the market just below the mosque and bought nuts and fruits from the market. We walked from there to the Fort.
It is huge with a big square in front of it and hundreds of mostly Indian people going in.
When we walked back through Connaught Place Park there was a youth festival and we sat and watched some traditional dance with traditional music it was lovely.
The following day we went to a huge Sikh Temple. I have never been to a Sikh temple before. We walked in and a man approached us with perfect English and said he was a volunteer and would show us what to do and give us a tour. He gave us all headscarves, we removed our shoes and walked towards the main temple.
We washed our hands and feet and entered the temple. There was musicians playing and hundreds of people sat or praying, it was a very emotional experience.
He explained how he was a professor of music at Delhi university and volunteered like all Sikhs are expected to do. Everyone is equal, rich and poor, men and women. He took us to a big hall where they fed 30,000 people on a daily basis in the week and 50,000 on the weekends.
Hindus, Christians, Muslims, anyone all welcome. Lots of poor people went to eat it was very humbling. Chris and his uncle David sat down and had chipati, daal and pickle. I stood chatting to a woman from Mexico, both blown away by the scale of the operation and how brilliant it was, both of us in tears. We then had a tour of the kitchen all run by volunteers, it was like a factory. We were all very impressed by the visit and I now have a deep respect for what they achieve and do in the community.
We had booked a cycle tour which had been recommended. It was an early start, up at 5 to get into Old Delhi for 6.30. We met outside the only large old fashioned big screen cinema left in Delhi called the Delite. It’s supposed to be wonderful for watching Bollywood films.
Cycling through the old city dodging donkeys, bullock carts, dogs and everyone else who was up. The shops and businesses stay open late so a lot of them don’t open til 10 so it’s the only time you can do it. We looked at the spice market, old mansions called havellis, flower markets and learned all about the history of the city old and new.
We went through the administrative section of Delhi, this lovely building turned into an Oberoi hotel
In the centre of old Delhi is the Jama Masjid mosque, the largest in India, which can fit 20,000 people in for prayers. A lot of people go there instead of Mecca for the Haj.
This also means that there are hundreds of desperately poor people with their kids living on the street below the mosque and getting by with money and food from the tourists and pilgrims, it’s heart rending.
You needed nerves of steel with 9 of us crossing 4 lanes of traffic as it got later in the morning, crossing from the old city to the new, but it all worked well. We got lots of info from a Hungarian girl who was our guide. It was good fun and can highly recommend it. We stopped for chai and matis (savoury biscuits) and towards the end of the tour had breakfast at a very famous restaurant called Karims (opened in the 30’s) and had goat curry and a big crispy Nan bread. Yum. We saw one of the biggest goats I have ever seen it was like a small pony and very very frisky… this picture wasn’t the goat in question as I was trying to dodge it on the street on my bike but just to show you how big they get!!
Our guide Naomi also explained about the red light district, one of the biggest in the world. It’s in one area not in sight and it’s rooms above hundreds of plumbing and tile shops. The woman are from poor families, they are forced to marry the pimps have children and then are totally trapped. If they have daughters, when they get to 12 or 13 they also forced into prostitution. Naomi visits the younger children of these women and takes them pens, paper, books etc and tries to help them as much as she can. She is a brave woman. It’s a very sad situation.
A friend Rachel who works for an airline flew in and we were invited that afternoon to the posh hotel she stays in. Such a difference to where we had been that morning, a little oasis. Rachel brought us some M+S fruit tea cakes which we had with our tea by the pool, such luxury. It was lovely to see her.
Tomorrow we are off to the Taj Mahal, followed by the Holi festival, can’t wait.