ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “mosque

BOSPHORUS STRAIT, Istanbul, Turkey

2006.05.03

Our last day in Istanbul was spent for a leisure boat cruise on the Bosphorus Strait.  For 1.5 hour’s time, boat took us from the pier of Eminonu to the village of Anadolu Kavagi where the Bosphorus Strait met the Black Sea.  For the entire 31km journey, the boat sailed along the European side of Bosphorus.  Our boat left Eminonu at 10:30 sharp.  The first half was an exciting journey through the city of Istanbul, sailing under gigantic bridges, passing by luxury palaces and historical mosques.  The boat made a few stops at different neighbourhoods in the city, until fishing villages and small suburban communities gradually took over.  The entire journey was like going through a collection of postcards unfolding into an hour of motion picture.  The experience reminded us of the last scene in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Distant, where the protagonist sits by the Bosphorus watching the busy boat traffic passing by.

“To be traveling through the middle of a city as great, historic, and forlorn as Istanbul, and yet to feel the freedom of the open sea – that is the thrill of a trip along the Bosphorus. Pushed along by its strong currents, invigorated by the sea air that bears no trace of the dirt, smoke, and noise of the crowded city that surrounds it, the traveler begins to feel that, in spite of everything, this is still a place in which he can enjoy solitude and find freedom.” Orhan Pamuk

1Our boat left the pier at Eminonu as we bid farewell to Suleymaniye Mosque and Yeni Cami (New Mosque) in Fatih.

2At the opposite side, the Galata Tower dominates the skyline of Karakoy.

3We soon left the Galata Bridge behind to embark on our journey of the Bosphorus.

8Built in 1820’s, Nusretiye Mosque in Tophane was designed in Baroque style.

9Dolmabahçe Mosque (1855) and the modern skyscraper Süzer Plaza form a contrasting picture.

4Dolmabahçe Palace was the main palace of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1887 and from 1909 to 1922.

5The former Ottoman palace Çırağan Palace has been converted into a 5-star hotel, and hosts one of the most expensive hotel suite in the world.

7Locals taking causal breaks at Barbaros Park in Besiktas, with Sinan Pasha Mosque at the background.

6Ortaköy Mosque (Büyük Mecidiye Camii) and the 15 July Martyrs Bridge forms one of the most iconic scene along the Bosphorus.

10Histoical building Zeki Paşa Yalısı stands silently below the shadow of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.

12Built in 1452, the Rumeli Hisari Fortress near Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge was built by the Ottoman during their planned siege of Constantinople.

11Apart from historical palaces and mosques, the waterfront of Bosphorus is also dotted with luxury apartments and villas.

13There are all kinds of styles for villas along the Bosphorus.

14Some villas have been converted into hotels or high end restaurants.

15New villas in contemporary style have been constructed along with the traditional ones.

16Some traditional timber villas still await for their chance of renovation.

17The waterfront of Bosphorus has been popular among the wealthy class of Istanbul for centuries.

19Some of the historical buildings were in really bad shape after years of negligence.

20Further away from the city, some waterfront areas are occupied by less privilege communities.

18Other than tourist boats, the Bosphorus is busy with all kinds of boats.


COMPLEX OF SULTAN BAYEZID II, Edirne, Turkey

2006.05.02

After the mosques, we found ourselves arriving at a Roman fortress tower.  The security guard was kind enough to show us around.  When we were done, he suggested we should take a short walk to visit the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II.  We followed his instructions to exit the old city and walk for a kilometer or two, before seeing our destination beyond Tundzha River.  The Tundzha River was lovely and the surrounding was peaceful.  The Complex of Sultan Bayezid II was a unique compound consisted of a mosque, a medical university, and a hospital during the Ottoman era.  Nowadays, part of the hospital complex is turned into a museum where visitors can get learn about Ottoman medicine, their medical treatment and long-term health facilities.  This hospital complex once treated a wide range of sicknesses, from eye disease to mental illness.  It was one of the first mental hospitals that treated patients with music, sound of water, and scents.  After the visit, we hopped on a minibus returning to the otogar for our return trip to Istanbul.  In Istanbul, we discovered a local eatery at Aksaray called Nederi Urfa. We ordered lentil soup, meat kebabs, pizzas, and dessert, a hearty meal to end the day.

06ME07-07On our way to the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II we passed by a produce vending truck.

kid selling fruitsThe youngest vendors appeared to be the most enthusiastic.

construction workersThe complex of Sultan Bayezid II stood beyond Tundzha River.  Two men sitting at the back of tractor waved at us as they drove by.

quiet streetscape At Tundzha River, a shepherd dog appeared from below the bridge, looked at us at a distance, and ran away.

dad and son fishingA kid and probably his father were fishing by the Tundzha River.

woman in front of Beyazit KulliyesiNear the entrance, we had a brief encounter with a talkative lady.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 2The scenery of the complex and Tundzha River is quite picturesque.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 3Built in 1488, the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II contained a medical centre that was in operation for almost 400 years.

06ME07-22Centered of the külliye stands the mosque with a 20.55m dome.  The complex is now a museum of the history of medicine, and a tentative World Heritage site.

06ME07-23The courtyard in the museum is a lovely garden.  It was here where patients with mental illness were treated with various methods including music, water sound and scents.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 4The complex offered holistic treatment including medicine and water and music therapy.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 5Similar to other Ottoman complexes, courtyard and lovely colonnades are essential component of the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 6Continuous maintenance in the last few centuries ensure the complex is still standing today.

 


SELIMIYE MOSQUE, Edirne, Turkey

2006.05.02

Often compared to his contemporary Michelangelo in the west, Mimar Sinan was the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire.  Out of the 370+ projects in his 50-year career, the famous chief architect of the Ottoman Empire considered Selimiye Mosque his true masterpiece.  The UNESCO seems to agree on this and granted Selimiye Mosque the status of a world heritage.  The huge complex is organized as a külliye, with a wide range of functions managed by the mosque.  At Selimiye, Sinan experimented with various configuration of domes, semi-domes and galleries to form an impressive and unified interior bathed with natural light.  The famous mosque was even depicted on the Turkish 10,000 lira banknote from 1982 – 1995.

06ME06-08A statue of Mimar Sinan was erected in front of the Mosque to commemorate his architectural achievement.

06ME06-10Instead of a series of small domes, Sinan built a large central dome instead.  The size of the dome is similar to the one at Hagia Sophia.

06ME06-16As a külliye, the mosque complex also includes schools, covered market, clock house, outer courtyard and library, all being managed under one single institution.

Selimiye Camii 2Four identical minarets were erected by Sinan instead of a series of distinctive minarets like many of its predecessors.

Selimiye Camii 3At the four corners, minarets point up to the sky.

06ME06-23The interior is dominated by a series of semi domes and the central dome.  Lines are symmetrical, simple and elegant.

06ME06-28Just like the Hagia Sophia, celestial windows are provided at the dome base to lighten up the interior.

Selimiye Camii 6Supported by eight pillars, the dome is a stunning spectacle from below.

Selimiye Camii 8A drinking fountain is housed under a richly decorated structure.

Selimiye Camii 9Considered as one of the finest in Turkey, the mihrab is visible from any location in the mosque.

Selimiye Camii 10Several circles of lights are suspended over the vivid carpet to provide a warm ambience in the evening.


THE THIRD OTTOMAN CAPITAL, Edirne, Turkey

2006.05.02

Close to the border between Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, about 240km northwest of Istanbul stands a small city with a big history.  Founded by Roman Emperor Hadrian upon an earlier Thracian settlement, Edirne was known as Hadrianopolis in the Antiquity era.  After conquered by the Ottomans, the city was renamed to Edirne, and served as the capital city of the Ottoman Empire from 1369 to 1453, before the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.  With Selimiye Mosque, the UNESCO World Heritage site that has been widely considered as the best work of architect Mimar Sinan, and several other impressive mosques and historical complexes, Edirne is one of the most popular excursion destinations for tourists in Istanbul.  Taking an early morning bus (2.5 hour) from Istanbul Bus Station, spending a full day at Edirne and returning to Istanbul by a late afternoon bus was exactly how we spent our day.

In the morning, we took the tram and then metro to the main otogar, the main bus terminal of Istanbul where one can catch a bus to any destination in Turkey, and even to neighboring countries.  We picked one company (worth the time and effort to check out the options) for Edirne.  Bus companies in Turkey come in various prices, comfort and service levels.  In general, the buses are clean and pleasant.  Our first impression of Edirne, the main gateway city between Europe and Turkey, was pretty laid-back and peaceful.  It felt like a completely different world from bustling Istanbul.

06ME05-37Built in 1447, the Üç Şerefeli Mosque is one of the most well known mosque in Central Edirne.  With a 24m diameter dome, the Üç Şerefeli Mosque had the largest dome in the Ottoman Empire before the conquest of Constantinople.

06ME05-36Üç Şerefeli Mosque literally means the “Mosque with Three Balconies”, referring to its unique minaret.

Across from Ucserefeli CamiOpposite to Üç Şerefeli Mosque, Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Bath was a public bath designed by Mimar Sinan and completed in 1569.  Part of the building was demolished to make way for road construction in the 1960’s.  The demolition was ultimately stopped but its damage remains visible today, epitomizing the careless urban planning back in the 20th century.

06ME06-05Completed in 1414, the Eski Camii (Old Mosque) is the oldest mosque in Central Edirne.

06ME06-07 Eski CamiThe most notable features in Eski Camii are the large calligraphy on the walls.

06ME06-02The calligraphy were created at various times by artists from all over the Ottoman Empire.

Eski Cami 1Most of the interior decorations dated back to the 19th century.

06ME06-03The Eski Camii is covered with nine small domes instead of one large one.

gerrardWe managed to walk around the city and explored different streets in the heart of Edirne.

robinho and ronaldinhoOn the streets of Edirne, we bumped into several groups of kids wearing football jerseys.


COVERED BAZAARS, Istanbul, Turkey

2006.05.01

On our way downhill from Suleymaniye Mosque, we passed by an area full of hardware and toy shops. Then we found ourselves arrived at the famous Grand Bazaar of Istanbul.  Since establishment in 1455, the Grand Bazaar has been the most popular shopping venue in Ottoman Constantinople.  With 91 million annual visitors in 2014, the Grand Bazaar remains as one of the most visited tourist attractions in Istanbul.  We spent over an hour in this gigantic covered market (over 50 covered shopping streets).  Most shops were selling tourist souvenirs, t-shirts, pottery, jewelries, etc.  It was interesting to wander around the maze-like bazaar, a shopping arcade that predates modern shopping centres for several centuries.  Similar to all tourist shopping areas in the world, it was impossible to find one-of-a-kind merchandise there. We left the bazaar empty handed.

Several blocks north the Grand Bazaar stands the equally vibrant Spice Bazaar.  Also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar was established in 1660 and has served as the main spice market of Istanbul ever since.  Today, the Spice Bazaar has become quite touristy, with souvenir shops mingled with shops selling spices, nuts, sweets and Turkish delights.

06ME04-17The Grand Bazaar is a huge maze of shopping arcade network where tourists may find joy to get lost in.

06ME04-19Today, most shops in the Grand Bazaar are catered for tourists.

06ME04-16Signage in the Grand Bazaar may help tourists to orient themselves if they are familiar with the street names of the neighborhood.

grand bazaar 3The warm lighting from the shops and the indirect sunlight from the celestial windows make visitors to easily lose track of time in the Grand Bazaar.

06ME02-16In the area near the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, all sort of street vendors and small shops can be found.  Gözleme flatbread is a common street food in Istanbul.  It is a traditional food made with Turkish yufka dough cooked over a round metal hot dome.

06ME02-17Gözleme is somewhat crispy outside and soft inside.  It is simple and delicious.

06ME02-24At the crossroads between Asia and Europe, Turkey has long been a trading hub in the midst of caravan routes.  In the past, spices were among the most important commodities in international trading.

Spices MarketSpices have played an important role in Turkish cuisine.

06ME03-26Built in 1660, the Spice Bazaar is one one of the most popular covered market in Istanbul.

06ME03-23Perhaps because of the aroma, colours, and vibrant interactions between vendors and customers, we found the Spice Bazaar much more interesting than the Grand Bazaar.

06ME03-24It is full of surprises in the Spice Bazaar.

06ME03-25Smoking shisha with a traditional hookah water pipe has become a must do activity for tourists in Istanbul.  In the Spice Bazaar or Grand Bazaar, it is easy to find a water pipe.

marketIn the area around the Spice Bazaar, streets are lined with shops selling different merchandises from hardware to toys.

Rüstem Paşa CamiiThere are several famous mosques worth noting near the Spice Bazaar.  Built in 1564 by the famous imperial architect Mimar Sinan, Rüstem Pasha Mosque is well known for its Iznik tiles in the interior.

06ME03-28Outside Rüstem Pasha Mosque, street vendors lined along the small lane.

06ME03-29We were attracted by the busy street scenes near Rüstem Pasha Mosque.

Yeni Camii 1Situated near Galata Bridge, the Yeni Camii, or New Mosque, is another iconic building in Fatih.

Yeni Camii 2Completed in 1665, the Yeni Camii is another great place to admire traditional Iznik tiles.


SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE, Istanbul, Turkey

2006.05.01

Like Rome, Constantinople was founded as the city of seven hills.  The First Hill was the heart of the ancient capital where the Greeks found the city of Byzantium.  For today’s tourists, the First Hill is equivalent to Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, while the Second Hill is dominated by the Great Bazaar.  Upon the top of the Third Hill stands Suleymaniye Mosque, one of the most famous mosques in Istanbul.  Commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent and designed by Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, Suleymaniye Mosque was completed in 1557 as the fourth imperial mosque.  For Sultan Suleiman, erecting the Suleymaniye Mosque was like building his version of Hagia Sophia of Temple of Solomon.  For architect Mimar Sinan, the most prominent architect in Ottoman history who was responsible for at least 374 structures and worked as the chief imperial architect for nearly 50 years, the Suleymaniye Mosque was considered as a fine example of work from his mid-career.

06ME03-35The four minarets of Süleymaniye Mosque are some of the most visible features of historic Istanbul from the Golden Horn.

06ME03-36The ablution facilities for wudu line along the exterior wall of the mosque.

06ME03-34To the right of the main entrance is the mosque cemetery, containing historical tombstones and the octagonal mausoleum of Suleyman and his wife Haseki Hurrem Sultan.

06ME03-37The design of Süleymaniye Mosque was strongly influenced by the Hagia Sophia.

blue mosqueThe dome of Süleymaniye Mosque is 53m high and has a diameter of 26.5m, smaller than the one of Hagia Sophia.

0ME04-02A fountain stands in the centre of the first courtyard of the mosque.

0ME04-05The interior space is square in plan.  Although simple in design, the white mihrab is undoubtedly the focal point inside the mosque.

borphorus behind suleymaniye camiiLooking north, the skyline of Karakoy across the Golden Horn lies right in front of us.

university students at suleymaniye camiiSuleymaniye Mosque is surrounded by the campus of Istanbul University.  We met two university students who were more than eager to chat with us about their beloved city.

dome workerSeveral restoration staff of Suleymaniye Mosque reminded us that maintaining such a huge amount of historical buildings in Istanbul required continuous efforts and techniques of many generations.

 


BLUE MOSQUE, Istanbul, Turkey

2006.04.30.

It was only a short walk from Hagia Sophia to the Blue Mosque.  During our stay in Istanbul, we passed by Sultan Ahmet Park between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque numerous times.  The Hagia Sophia represents the engineering marvel of the Byzantine Empire.  1000 years after the completion of Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque was erected to showcase the poetic beauty and the architectural genius of the Ottoman Empire.  Unlike Hagia Sophia where the building has turned into a museum, the Blue Mosque remains as an active religious venue frequented by worshipers.  Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, it took 7 years, 5 months and 6 days for Sultan Ahmet I and his architect Sedefkar Mehmed Agha to complete the project.  Being an apprentice of Mimar Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect that was responsible for 300+ projects across the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, Sedefkar Mehmed Agha epitomized the high Ottoman architecture with the Blue Mosque.  With its 6 minarets, five main domes and eight secondary domes, the Blue Mosque has become a prominent icon of Istanbul’s skyline.  Staying in Sultanahmet allowed us to pass by the Blue Mosque at various times of the day, and witness the beauty of the architecture under different sunlight.

S-blue mosque 1Early morning is the best time to photograph the Blue Mosque from Sultan Ahmet Park when there is still a tint of violet in the sky.

06ME07-37Before the arrival of tourist groups, we could still have a moment of peace to photograph the mosque.

S-blue mosque night 1At dusk, atmospheric lighting lit up the Blue Mosque in front of the purple sky.

blue mosque 2In early morning, we could freely move around and photograph the mosque without tourists.

blue mosque 6While some mosques have only one dome, the Blue Mosque has a series of main and secondary domes.

S-blue mosque 2Beautiful sunlight casts an orange tone onto the marble facade of the Blue Mosque.

S-blue mosque 3Wudu is the ritual purification for the Muslims.  The process involves cleansing of hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, head and feet.  This process is usually done before formal prayers and handling of the Quran.  A designated wudu area is provided at the entrance courtyard.

S-blue mosque 6After the wudu area, worshipers enter the forecourt through the raised gateway.

06ME01-37The raised archway bring visitors into the forecourt.

0ME04-37The forecourt is consisted of a fountain in the middle and vaulted arcade around the perimeter.

06ME02-03The vaulted arcade is decorated by a series of domes.

06ME02-13Details of the wood work and metal ornament reveal the marvelous craftsmanship of the Ottoman Empire.

Blue Mosque 3_01The Blue Mosque is one of the two mosques in Turkey that contains six minarets.


HAGIA SOPHIA, Istanbul, Turkey

2006.04.30.

It was nice to take an early morning walk in the Sultanahmet area.  To visit Hagia Sophia, one of the country’s most popular attraction, an early morning start allowed us to beat the crowds to walk around the marvelous structure and enter the museum at 9am.  Hagia Sophia to Istanbul is like Colosseum to Rome, Parthenon to Athens or the Great Pyramid of Giza to Cairo.  These architecture represent the architectural and engineering marvel that has defined an era in world history.  The current building was built in 537 AD during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian.  Back then, Hagia Sophia was the largest building in the world.  Its great dome has a diameter of 107 feet, and remained as the largest in the world until the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was completed in the late 16th century.  In fact, one of the biggest achievements for architects Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus was to create the gigantic dome without resting on any solid wall support, but instead, constructed triangular pendentives to transfer the force of the circular structure to a square base.

Throughout history, Hagia Sophia has gone through times of destruction and alterations due to earthquakes and regime change.  From 537 to 1453 AD, Hagia Sophia served as an Eastern Orthodox church and housed the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.  After the Ottoman Conquest of Constantinople, four minarets were added, Christian figures and decorations were destroyed while mosaic art were plastered over, and the building was converted into the city’s primary mosque, until the Blue Mosque was completed in 1616.  In 1935, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, converted the famous structure into a museum.

S-Hagia Sophia 3Hagia Sophia is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Turkey.  We came early in the morning to avoid the tourist groups.

S-Hagia SophiaThe 1500-year-old structure has been altered several times in history.

06ME05-22After almost a thousand years as an Eastern Orthodox church, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque in 1453.  Then in 1935 the building was converted into a museum.

S-Hagia Sophia 2The 40 windows at the dome allow plenty of natural light to enter the interior, and reduce the overall weight of the dome structure.

Hagia Sophia 1The interior of Hagia Sophia contains artifacts from the Byzantine and Ottoman era.

06ME01-22The windows in the dome allow natural light to enter the interior.

06ME01-21Richly decorated with mosaics and marble pillars, Hagia Sophia is the most important example of Byzantine architecture in the world.  One of the highlights for a visit to check out the mosaic work on the upper level.

06ME01-27Outside the building, the splendid fountain built in 1740 is an Ottoman addition after the conversion into a mosque.

fountain behind sophiaServed as a social gathering pavilion outside of the Hagia Sophia, the Fountain of Ahmed III was built in 1728 during the Ottoman era.  The rococo-style fountain stands right outside the gate of Topkapi Palace, the royal palace of the Ottoman Empire.

 

 


FROM BYZANTIUM TO ISTANBUL, Turkey

2006.04.29.

Our Middle East journey began from Istanbul on 29th of April, 2006.

Formerly known as Constantinople, the capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empire for over 1500 years, Istanbul is a city full of layers, where kingdoms came and go, and new buildings being built upon ruined ones.  Occupying both sides of Bosporus Strait that separates Europe and Asia, Istanbul has always been a venue of cultural exchange between the east and west.  The Sultanahmet area in Fatih District was the historical centre of Constantinople, where the emperors of the Roman Empire (330-395), Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395-1453) and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1923) chose to establish their splendid capital.  Bounded three sides by water, the Historic Area of Istanbul is an UNESCO World Heritage site with a concentration of iconic cultural heritage that are precious to human civilization, including Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, etc.  Like many tourists, we specifically chose our hostel in Sultanahmet, just a stone throw away from the Blue Mosque.  In Sultanahmet, we never needed to walk far to encounter the former glory of the empires.

06ME05-27Legends has it that in 667 BC, the Greeks came to the intersection of Golden Horn, Bosphorus Strait and Marmara Sea and found the city of Byzantium at the peninsula where the current Sultanahmet area is situated.

06ME05-31Because of its strategic location at the sole access point of the Black Sea, Byzantium was soon developed into a trading city.  After Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire moved the capital from Rome to Byzantium in the 4th century, Byzantium became Constantinople, and its glorious time as Europe’s largest and wealthiest city officially kicked off.

06ME05-32Defensive walls had been erected to protect Constantinople since Constantine’s time.  Walls were also constructed along the waterfront to protect the city from sea attacks.  After the partitioning of the Roman Empire, Constantinople remained as the capital of Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire).

06ME02-14In Istanbul, hundreds of underground cisterns were constructed during the Byzantine era.  Measured 138m x 65m, Basilica Cistern was constructed by thousands of slaves in the 6th century under the orders of Emperor Justinian.

06ME02-15Probably taken from earlier Roman buildings, two stone heads of Medusa were used as  column bases in Basilica Cistern.  This mysterious cistern was forgotten briefly in the Middle Ages.  After the Ottoman Conquest of Constantinople, local residents knew nothing about the cistern, but soon discovered that they were able to obtain water and even fish below their home basement by just lowering a bucket through a hole in the floor.  The cistern was rediscovered by scholar Petrus Gyllius in 1545.

06ME10-10The most prominent Byzantine icon is undoubtedly Hagia Sophia.  Built in 537, Hagia Sophia was the largest building in the world, and housed the patriarch seat of Eastern Orthodox Church until the the 15th century.

blue mosque 3Standing opposite to Hagia Sophia is another cultural icon of Istanbul, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque.  Inspired by the Byzantine icon Hagia Sophia, the Ottomans left their mark in Constantinople more than 1000 years by constructing the Blue Mosque over the former palace complex of the Byzantine emperors.

Sultanahmet 1Smaller in scale than the iconic monuments, Sultanahmet also host many lesser known historical buildings in the residential neighborhoods.

06ME03-08Walking in Sultanahmet was like going back in time, as if every other street bend was marked by splendid timber houses and pavilions from the Ottoman era.

wooden house 3Turkish author Orhan Pamuk’s autobiographical Istanbul: Memories and the Cities introduces readers his childhood Istanbul with a melancholic depiction of the Ottoman houses.

wooden house 5Pamuk’s writing and black and white photos showed me an unique Istanbul beyond the historical palaces, churches and mosques.

wooden house 1Searching for the Ottoman houses in Istanbul was not as easy as I thought, since many had been torn down in recent years.

wooden house 8Due to continuous urban renewal in the historical centre, many Ottoman houses were at risk for redevelopment.

0ME04-34Today, Sultanahmet has become a tourist hub, where many buildings have been converted into hotels and restaurants.  In the time of commercialization, even the ruins of a 550-year bathhouse, the Ishak Pasa Hamam, is up for sale.

0ME04-32In Istanbul, we stayed at the friendly Sultan Hostel just two blocks behind the Blue Mosque.

whirl danceAt night, tourists would gather at restaurants in Sultanahmet to enjoy dinner and nargile or Turkish water pipe, along with live performance of the Sufi whirling dance.

 


LEGACY OF A 400-YEAR COLONIAL FORT, Galle, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.16

Day 12 (1 of 3).

Known as Asia’s largest remaining colonial fortress and an UNESCO World Heritage site, Galle is a popular tourist destination in southwest Sri Lanka.  Galle has long been an important trading port of the island since ancient times.  Cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC, and Galle was likely the main port of export.  Throughout history, Galle traded with the Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, Arabs, Malays, and Indians.  Sri Lanka’s colonial history began when the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century and built a fortified city in Galle.  Galle continued to serve as the main port for spices export.  In 1640, the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch East India Company.  After the takeover, the Dutch built the fort that we saw today with bastions and a solid granite wall.  In 1796, Galle and Sri Lanka changed hands again when the island became a British Crown colony named Ceylon.  The 400-year colonial rule came to an end in 1948 when independence was granted to establish Dominion of Ceylon in the Commonwealth.  Then 28 years later in 1972, Sri Lanka finally became a republic.  From four centuries as a colonial port of export for spices and coffee (then replaced by tea) to a tourist town based on commercialization of its colonial past, Galle’s fortune has always been tied with the outside world.

01We dropped off our backpacks at the baggage storage in Galle Railway Station, then found our way into the old fortified city.

02The first thing we saw inside the fortress was Galle Services Club (est. 1947) and the 1883 clock tower.

03Located on the highest point in the fortress, the Dutch Reformed Church (Groote Kerk) was built by the Dutch in 1755. It was the third Dutch Reformed church in Galle and signified the rise of the Dutch after the Portuguese.

04Further down the road from the Dutch Reformed Church stands All Saints’ Church, Galle’s first Anglican Church (consecrated in 1871) and a powerful statement by the British.

06The former Dutch warehouse from the 17th century has become the National Maritime Archaeology Museum.

05In 1796, the British relocated the emblem of the Dutch East India Company from the outer gate to the inner, and put up the British Royal Emblem at the outer gate.

07The interior of the old gate is used for motorcycle parking.

08First built by the Portuguese, then renamed to Zwart Fort (Black Fort) by the Dutch.  We accessed the Black Fort via a police compound.  At Zwart Fort, a staff came out to show us around and told us about the history of the place.

09The Old Dutch Hospital was established by the Dutch to look after the staff of the Dutch East India Company. Then the British extended the building and converted it into a barracks. After independence, the building was used as the town hall. In 2014, the building was once again converted into a shopping and dining complex.

10Meeran Jumma Masjid looks more like a church than a mosque, but this Islamic prayer hall has been around for 300 years already.  More than half of the population inside the fort are Moor.  They are believed to be descendants of the Arab traders who settled in Sri Lanka at around the 9th century.

11Galle Fort is built on a rock peninsula and there are a few small beaches near the lighthouse.

12The Galle Lighthouse is the oldest light station in the nation. The original was built by the British in 1848 but was destroyed by fire in 1936. The current 26.5m tall lighthouse was constructed in 1939.

19Strolling or cycling aimlessly within Galle Fort is a nice way to explore the town.

13In Galle Fort, Dairy King icecream has been recommended by a number of guidebooks and blogs.

14Dairy King is a great place to take a short break during a visit to Galle Fort.

15Many houses in Galle Fort have been converted into guesthouses, restaurants, or shops catered for tourists.

17The ambience of the colonial times is the top selling point for the tourist industry in Galle.

18Some old mansions are transformed into high end retail shops for fabrics, furniture, housewares, and other design items with a twist of Sri Lankan style.

16Established in 1892, Al Bahajathul Ibraheemiyyah Arabic College is one of the oldest Islamic Arabic institutions in Sri Lanka.

20On our way out of the fort, we passed by Sri Sudharmalaya Buddhist Temple, a Buddhist temple with a unique appearance.  The temple dated back to 1889.  The belfry of the building suggests that temple might be converted from an earlier church.

 


DAY 10 (3/3): NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi, India, 2018.12.03

Before dinner, the last activity of our Indian journey 2018 was a guided tour in Nizamuddin Basti, a 14th century community centered around the shrine of the Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.  Despite located just ten minutes of walk from the UNESCO World Heritage site Humayun’s Tomb, the Muslim neighborhood is relatively under visited.  From online research, we learnt about the local charity organization, the Hope Project, offers tour of the community for anyone who is interested in the Nizamuddin Basti neighborhood.  Found by Sufi teacher, Pir Vilayat Inyat Khan, the Hope Project runs a community health centre, a school, vocational training classes, credit program, etc in Nizamuddin Basti.  Through email, we arranged a guided tour of the basti with them.  Unfortunately, we were running late by the time we left Humayun’s Tomb.  We weren’t sure if our arranged tour was still available.  After entering the neighborhood, it took us quite some time to locate the office in the midst of busy lanes.  Gratefully, the staff there were willing to take us for a walk, despite the mosques had closed.  After the walk in Nizamuddin Basti, we took the metro to United Coffee House at Connaught Place for dinner.  We had also dined there on the last day of our trip back in 2016.

IMG_3610The first thing we encountered was the outer wall of Kalan Masjid, also known as Kali Mosque or Large Mosque.  The mosque was built in 1370.

IMG_3613We passed by the entrance of the Kalan Masjid, but were unable to enter the complex.

DSC_3122All the lanes in Nizamuddin Basti were busy with people and motorcycles.

DSC_3127Basti residents can find everything they need in their historical neighborhood.

IMG_3616Many locals smiled to us while we toured around the 600-year old neighborhood.

IMG_3633Through the historical gateway, we entered to the forecourt of Chausath Khamba, the tomb complex built by Mughal noble Mirza Aziz Koka in 1623 at the time of Emperor Jahangir.

IMG_3618The forecourt of Chausath Khamba was recently landscaped by the Aga Khan Trust.

DSC_3131The forecourt of Chausath Khamba is frequented by children coming to meet friends and play cricket.

IMG_3620The actual Chausath Khamba is a square shape marble building supported by 64 columns.

IMG_3621The marble hall is divided into 25 bays and covered by 25 domes concealed in the roof structure.

IMG_3624Chausath Khamba houses the tomb of Mirza Aziz Koka, his father Ataga Khan, and other unidentified people.

DSC_3139Adjacent to Chausath Khamba stand the Ghalib Academy and Mazar-e-Ghalib, the tomb of Ghalib, a famous 19th century Persian poet.  Our tour with the Hope Project ended at Mazar-e-Ghalib.

IMG_3635On our way out of the neighborhood, the street eateries reminded us that it was almost dinner time.

IMG_3641The monumental and modernist Nizamuddin Markaz Mosque is the centre for the Tablighi network.  It was busy with evening prayers as we left the basti.

IMG_3646Due to the Sufi request for divine love, rose is popular among locals.

IMG_3649We followed the main road out towards Mathura Road, where we could walk back to the metro.

IMG_3665We then took the metro to Connaught Place for dinner.

IMG_3662Just like two years ago, we sat down at United Coffee House for their local Indian cuisine.

IMG_3654We sat down at a table on the ground floor and took our time to enjoy the meal and ambience of the restaurant.

IMG_3666Another night flight to return home, another wonderful Indian journey completed.  We returned back to the Airport Express Station to pick up our backpacks and hopped on an airport bounded train.  This concluded the record of our India 2018 trip.

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 9 (3/4): RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018.12.02

After visiting Agra Fort, we returned to our hotel and waited for the tour guide from Agra Walks.  Recommended by guidebooks, the Heritage Tour of Agra Walks gave us a good opportunity to visit one of Agra’s local market.  For about two and a half hours, we followed our guide Gautam Pratap by car, cycle rickshaw, and on foot into the bustling Rawatpara Spice Market.  Labelled as the “unseen” part of Agra for foreign tourists, the vibrant market scenes left a distinctive impression for us compared to the historical sites, one that was full of colours, fragrant, noises, and life.

IMG_2612On our way to Rawatpara Market, our rickshaw passed by the red sandstone walls of Agra Fort once again.

IMG_2645Near Agra Fort Train Station, our rickshaw entered into the lively streets of Rawatpara.

IMG_2648We found our way towards Jama Masjid, a famous mosque built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s daughter in 1648.

DSC_2906Jama Masjid took 6 years and 5000 workers to finish.

IMG_2679Betel leaves are sold in the Rawatpara Market.

IMG_2682The 185 year old Chimman Lal Puri Wale was one of the highlights of our market walk.  We actually sat down with the guide and sampled some of the tasty puri snacks with three different dipping.

DSC_2911After visiting the local eatery, we continued our walk into the market.

DSC_2917We passed different areas of the market beginning from the textile area.  Many of these busy textile shops store their stocks in the attic above the main area.

IMG_2705As expected, there are many shops selling all kinds of personal adornments.

DSC_2924Local craftsmen could be seen everywhere in the market.

DSC_2928From jewellery making to embroidery, handicraft is still popular in India.

DSC_2940Next we came to a shop selling different ritual items, including garlands made with real money bills for wedding ceremonies.  Despite being a popular local tradition, the Reserve Bank of India actually urged people to stop the custom.

DSC_2947Colourful shops in the market.

IMG_2718Everything were either vivid or golden in colour.

IMG_2723Decoration is such a huge part of the Indian culture.

IMG_2716We stopped by the historic Hindu temple Shri Mankameshwar Mandir.  Unfortunately the temple was closed when we were there.

IMG_2729Then we moved on to the spice section of the market.  Anyone who has experience with Indian cuisine would acknowledge the importance of spices in their culinary traditions.  We did pick up some saffron from one of the shops.

DSC_2959Sweet is, of course, hugely popular for the Indians as well.

IMG_2744After a fruitful walk it was about time for sunset watching.

IMG_2745We followed our guide back to the entrance of the market where a 4×4 was waiting to take us to our next stop.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 9 (2/4): AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018.12.02

Similar to the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri, the Agra Fort has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List since the 1980s, making it one of the three must-see attractions in Agra.  Known as the Red Fort of Agra, the Agra Fort served as the royal residence of the early Mughal emperors until 1638 when the capital was moved to Delhi.  It was constructed during the golden age of the Mughal Empire under two prolific builders: Emperor Akbar the Great and his grandson Shah Jahan.  While Akbar is well known for founding the short lived capital Fatehpur Sikri, Shah Jahan is perhaps best known for erecting the most perfect Mughal architecture ever, the Taj Mahal.  On the ruins of an earlier fort, Akbar rebuilt the Agra Fort with red sandstone.  Akbar’s Agra Fort was completed in 1573 but was later transformed by Shah Jahan into its current mix of red sandstone and white marble buildings.

After visiting the Taj, we dropped by Joney’s Place, the local eatery where we had dinner the night before for breakfast.  We had a few hours to spare before our walking tour at 2:30pm.  Agra Fort was the obvious choice for us.  An auto rickshaw brought us to the busy fort entrance in no time.  Just like the Red Fort in Delhi, Agra Fort was very popular with local tourists.

IMG_2458Despite served as the royal residence, the Agra Fort appeared like a heavily fortified complex from its exterior.

IMG_2472Inside Agra Fort, Diwan-i-am was the main audience hall in the complex.

IMG_2478Built between 1631 to 1640, the 201′ by 67′ Diwan-i-am was the hall where Emperor Shah Jehan addressed the general public and his guests.

DSC_2780Constructed by Shah Jahan in 1637, the Anguri Bagh (Grape Garden) was used as a vineyard to make wine for the emperor.

DSC_2787Stone colonnade flanked three sides of the Anguri Bagh.

DSC_2852Khas Mahal was built by Shah Jahan for his daughter Jahanara and Roshanara.

DSC_2807Adjacent to the Khas Mahal, covered verandahs and the marble terraces offered visitors a fantastic view of the Yamuna River.

DSC_2870The Musamman Burj is one of the most splendidly crafted buildings in the complex.

DSC_2902 While Akbar built his buildings with sandstone, his grandson Shah Jahan preferred white marble just like another of his other project, the Taj Mahal.

IMG_2556Musamman Burj, an octagonal tower with great views of the Yamuna River, was built by Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

IMG_2533Together with his daughter Jahanara Begum, It was here that Shah Jahan spent his last few years as a captive of his son Aurangzeb.

IMG_2507From here, Shah Jahan spent his final moments on his death bed facing the Taj Mahal, the tomb of his beloved wife.

IMG_2546Tourists love to take pictures against the beautiful marble lattice work.  This woman didn’t even notice the approach monkey as she posed for photo.

IMG_2563Known as the Gem Mosque, the Nagina Masjid is a small marble mosque built by Shah Jahan.

DSC_2820Built by Emperor Akbar, the Jahangiri Mahal Palace was the primary zenana to house his Rajput wives.  Compared to his grandson Shah Jahan’s buildings, Akbar’s buildings were mainly built with red sandstone.

DSC_2822Jahangiri Mahal Palace is one of the oldest surviving building in Agra Fort and also the largest part in the compound.

DSC_2836A beautiful dome ceiling at the Jahangiri Mahal Palace.

DSC_2904Only 30 out of 500 buildings of the Jahangir Mahal Palace survive to the present.  Many had been destroyed by Shah Jahan and later the British.

IMG_2590After the visit, we returned to the main entrance and hopped on an auto rickshaw to return our hotel.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi

 


DAY 9 (1/4): CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018.12.02

On the banks of Yamuna River stands one of the world’s most recognizable man-made wonders that has captivated the imagination of people for generations.  Its perfectly proportioned domes, minarets, white marble facades with spectacular stone inlays, represent the utmost architectural beauty and splendid craftsmanship of the Mughal civilization.  The complex immortalizes the eternal love of Emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628 – 1658) towards Mumtaz Mahal, whose marvelous tomb complex has become the most famous national icon of India.  This tomb complex is of course the magnificent Taj Mahal, which literally translates as Crown of the Palaces.  The Taj Mahal stands out as the single most important monument that draws travelers from all over the world to India.  Not a mosque or a palace, the Taj Mahal is indeed the final resting place for Queen Mumtaz Mahal and Emperor Shah Jahan.

It would be absurd if we made two visits to India without seeing the Taj Mahal even once.  Fitting Agra into our Rajasthan itinerary and completing the Golden Triangle was easy with the frequent train services between Agra, Jaipur and Delhi.  In Agra, we purposely picked a guesthouse at Taj Ganj, the district right next to the Taj Mahal.  Though not many good hotel options were available in the area, staying at Taj Ganj placed us just a few minutes of walk away from one of the gates of Taj Mahal.  Hoping to experience the golden sunrise at the Taj, queuing at the gate about half an hour before sunrise is a common practice for both foreign and local visitors.

Before the trip, we were a little worry about the restoration work and scaffolding conditions of the Taj.  Since 2016, scaffolding were up at different parts of the Taj for a major cleaning work to restore the original white colour of the marble.  The process had been painstakingly slow.  By October 2018, the cleaning was almost over except the main dome.  It would be a woeful view if the central dome was covered in scaffolding.  Luckily, the authority had decided to delay the cleaning process until the end of the tourist high season, meaning that the Taj would be scaffolding free from November 2018 to April 2019.

DSC_2485After purchasing the tickets at the gate, we queued in the foreign visitor line for about 20 minutes before going through the security check and arriving at the Jilaukhana Forecourt in front of the Great Gate.

DSC_2603Beyond the Great Gate, we arrived at the starting point of the Water Channel.  The channels symbolize the four rivers in the Paradise mentioned in the Koran.  A tint of orange gradually lighted up the east side of the minarets and domes.

DSC_2609We slowly walked to the central pool and platform at the centre of the Charbagh Garden.

DSC_2624From the Central Pool, the majestic Taj Mahal looked beautiful and poetic under the early morning sun.  No tourist brochure or travel literature could do justice on conveying the true beauty of the marble architecture.  We were grateful for not seeing any scaffolding on the Taj, and could see clearly all the major components of the iconic building: four minarets, five domes and an octagonal central structure.

DSC_2648_01It was a little hazy looking back to the Great Gate.

DSC_2655It was a huge relief to see the Taj scaffolding free.  We slowly walked towards the main tomb structure to pay a brief visit of the interior.

DSC_2681No photography was allowed inside the tomb, where the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan were on display.  Their actual resting place is off limit to the public below the main deck.

DSC_2682After touring the interior, we stayed on the marble platform to check out the minarets and marble facades.

IMG_2336To the west of the Taj stands a beautiful mosque.

DSC_2713To the east, an identical building was used as a guesthouse.

IMG_2339To the north, Yamuna River provides a peaceful backdrop to the Taj.

IMG_2367From the marble platform, we could admire the details of marble carving on the Taj.

DSC_2684Standing face to face to the exterior marble walls, we were overwhelmed by the marble relief and stone inlay.

DSC_2724From the grandeur of the minarets to the splendid carvings and stone inlay of the marble walls, Taj Mahal is truly an amazing man-made wonder.

DSC_2689The sun get higher as time passed, and so as the number of visitors.

IMG_2393We circled the Taj to examine its beautiful marble walls before heading back down to the Charbagh Garden.

DSC_2744Back in the Charbagh garden, we could once again admire the overview of the Taj Mahal,

IMG_2432Back at the Central Pool, we took a few more shots of the classic view of the Taj once again.

IMG_2444Visitors continued to pour in from the Great Gate as we were about to leave the Taj Mahal complex.

DSC_2752We passed by the Khawasspuras (tomb attendant living quarter) one last time before exiting the Great Gate.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi

 


DAY 8 (5/5): FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018.12.01

Out of all structures in Fatehpur Sikri, the most imposing building is undoubtedly Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque).  Completed in 1571, Akbar’s impressive grand mosque houses the white marble tomb of Sufi saint Shaikh Salim Chishti, and the spectacular 54m tall Buland Darwaza (Victory Gate).  One of the biggest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid of Fatehpur Sikri features a series of chhatris, elevated dome shaped pavilions purely for decoration.  We came just in time to make a brief visit at the mosque before sunset.

IMG_2085From the former royal palaces, we entered the mosque via the Shahi Darwaza (King’s Gate).  At the gate, we took off our shoes and left them with the shoe keeper along with a small fee.

DSC_2438Beyond the Shahi Darwaza, we arrived at a huge open courtyard.

DSC_2466The gigantic Buland Darwaza (Victoria Gate) was built as a victory arch to commemorate Akbar’s conquest of Gujarat.

DSC_2445At 55m from the outside, the Buland Darwaza (Victoria Gate) is considered the tallest gate in the world.

IMG_2111At the back, the Buland Darwaza stepped down to a more human scale towards the  main courtyard.

IMG_2087Opposite to Buland Darwaza stands the elegant white marble tomb of Shaikh Salim Chisti and the red sandstone assembly hall Jamat Khana.

IMG_2092 The Tomb of Shaikh Salim Chisti is considered one of the finest example of Mughal architecture.

IMG_2098The marble cenotaph is popular with Islam worshipers.  Shaikh Salim Chisti was a Sufi saint who blessed Emperor Akbar with his son before he was born.

IMG_2103Worshipers studied religious text at the outer corridor of the cenotaph.  Photography was not allowed inside the cenotaph.

DSC_2456The tomb building is covered all four sides with beautiful lattice.

DSC_2462Showing the direction of Mecca, the central mihrab is covered by a dome.

DSC_2465We paid a brief visit to the interior of the main mosque building.

IMG_2121Splendid marble inlay in geometric patterns cover most of the interior walls.

DSC_2467The principal mihrab situates beneath the great dome of the mosque.

DSC_2477Worshipers gathered at the front porch of the assembly hall Jamat Khana.

IMG_2127There are a number of tombs in the courtyard.

IMG_2086As the sun set below the magnificent sandstone chhatris, it was time for us to return to the parking lot and finished our day’s journey to Agra.

IMG_2156At around 8pm, we finally arrived at Taj Ganj, the district immediately south of majestic Taj Mahal in Agra.  After checking in at our simple guesthouse near the West Gate, we headed out for a quick bite.  We would need to rest for the night and get up early the next day to line up for the sunrise entry into the Taj Mahal before 6am.

 

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Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China

As the eastern terminus of the former Silk Road, Changan (now Xian) of the Tang Dynasty was a melting pot of different cultures and religions.  A number of Middle Eastern and Central Asian religions entered China during that time, some of which had survived and remained strong even today.  Dated back to many centuries, Xian’s Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque revealed an interesting cultural fusion that is not commonly seen in other parts of China.  Xian’s Great Mosque is the largest mosque in China.  The buildings in the traditional courtyard complex were mainly constructed in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644).  Earlier religious complexes, Tanmingsi and Huihui Wanshansi, were established on the same site dated as far back as the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).  

Our taxi dropped us off at one end of the Muslim Quarter, where we began our brief meandering through the crowded Muslim market streets and alleyways before reaching the Great Mosque.  From the first glance, the mosque looked very similar to a traditional Chinese courtyard complex, consisting of houses, pavilions, pagodas, gardens, and courtyards.  We took our time to wander around the courtyards.  As we looked closely at the building decorations, we could find Islam functions and design elements incorporated in the traditional Chinese architecture, with the most obvious being the Arabic inscriptions on walls.  The entire complex faces west towards Mecca.  Artefacts related to Chinese Islam were on displayed in some of the buildings that were open to visitors.  However, the largest prayer hall at the far end of the complex was restricted for Muslims only.  We could only peek through the doors to have a glimpse of the colourful carpets and delicate wooden screens in the hall, where worshipers would have prayers sessions.  It was interesting to see the fusion of Islam and Chinese design elements combined into one single complex. Before sunset, we left the Great Mosque behind for our last designation in Xian, the Ming city walls.

dsc_8016We entered the Muslim Quarter from the main market street.

dsc_8023There is still a significant population of Muslims in Xian.

dsc_8039Cars, motorcycles, and people packed the main market street.

dsc_8042 The market street of Xian’s Muslim Quarter is a good place for people watching.

dsc_8050An awfully tall steamer in front of a local eatery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA street vendor put different topping on a local dessert called “jing gao” which is a steamed glutinous rice cake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA wonton vendor managing her charcoal stove.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALamb skewers vendors could be seen everywhere.

dsc_8138The entrance gate of Xian’s Great Mosque.

dsc_8069The interior of an old study room looks very much like a traditional Chinese house, but all the paintings and calligraphy on displayed were Islam related.

dsc_8074Islamic components were incorporated in the Chinese architecture.

dsc_8089The mosque complex is made up of a series of courtyards.

dsc_8098“Examining the Heart Tower” in the third courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main prayer hall at the far end of the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARichly decorated pendant lamps at the veranda of the main prayer hall.

dsc_8117Peeking inside the main prayer hall.

dsc_8121Wooden clock and timber screens of the main prayer hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeaving the Great Mosque behind, we exited the Muslim Quarter from another end of the market street.

DSC_8143.JPGIt was approaching supper time when we left the Muslim Quarter, and the food vendors were all geared up for their night of business.

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Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 7: JAMA MASJID, Delhi, India

After having a quick  lunch, we hopped on a tuk-tuk to reach our next destination, Jama Masjid.  The driver dropped us off on Esplanade Road at the east entrance, one of three gateways into the complex.  We climbed up a long flight of stair to reach the level of the main courtyard and east gate.  At the entrance gate, we took off our shoes and paid a “camera fee”.  It was late afternoon and the sun was behind the mosque and its 40m minarets, casting long shadows onto the ground of the main courtyard.  It was not the best time of the day for photo shooting but we still found this red sandstone & marble building magnificent despite signs of deterioration.

Built between 1644 to 1658, Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India.  The Mughal architecture was built out of marble and red sandstone, with two minarets, three domes, a prayer hall, three sides of covered colonnade, and an open courtyard that can accommodate 25,000 worshipers for prayers.  Because of the afternoon heat, there were not many people staying in the vast open ground in front of the prayer hall.  Most people took shelter under the covered colonnade surrounding the courtyard.  There was a large rectangular fountain in the courtyard outside of the prayer hall for ablution.  Without our shoes on, we could feel the burning heat from the stones under our feet.  We followed the path made out of a fabric to reach the semi-opened prayer hall.  Without interrupting other people, we picked a quiet corner and sat down on one of the 899 bordered marble slabs (marked for worshipers) to absorb the atmosphere.  Sitting by an open bay facing the courtyard, we saw a group of enthusiastic young children helping a senior staff to wash the courtyard floor.  Under the scorching sun, the children seemed to be the most energetic people in the courtyard.  They ran around the courtyard, chasing each other and the pigeons.  It was their laughter and giggling that made us feel more at ease in this unbearable heat.

dsc_6743The magnificent architecture of the east gate, flanked by the covered colonnades.

dsc_6745The south gate and one of the two 40m minarets.

dsc_6750The prayer hall with its three domes and two minarets.

dsc_6757There are 899 marble floor slabs inside the prayer hall defined for worshipers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the worshipers at the prayer hall with the courtyard beyond.

dsc_6764The east gate, fountain and the main courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeople sat around the fountain for ablution.

dsc_6770Worshipers inside the semi-opened prayer hall.

dsc_6775The ground was constantly washed with water by staff.

dsc_6795Visitors with shorts and sleeveless tops had to cover up their bodies with fabrics provided at the entrance gate.

dsc_6783The path paved with cloths leads to the east gate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPigeons gathered at the main courtyard where a large patch of yellow grains were scattered.  The birds were constantly scared away by children.

dsc_6807We could hear the kids’ laughter as they successfully chased off the pigeons.

dsc_6829A boy running across the courtyard in front of the prayer hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClose up of the running boy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother boy running in the main courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe defensive wall and watch towers of the Red Fort didn’t seem to be far away from Jama Masjid.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were many people gathered around the east gate where we entered the building. When we entered the mosque, there were people offered to safe guard our shoes for a little money.

dsc_6840View of the payer hall from the cover colonnade.

dsc_6863We exited the mosque through the west gate.  The grandeur of the steps with the domes and minarets beyond was breathtaking.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

 


DAY 1:WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh, India

At the hotel driveway, we were welcomed by the host of Hotel Ladakh Greens with white khata scarfs.  After many hours of traveling, we were more than happy to check in our hotel room, our temporary home for the next six consecutive nights.  After a cup of refreshment tea, we decided to take some rest at the hotel.  At about 10:30, the sky cleared up and the sun had long been up.  WiFi Internet wasn’t working at the hotel.  We put on our shoes and couldn’t wait any longer but to go out and explore Leh.  Heading out the hotel’s poplar-lined driveway, our aim was to walk to the town centre to visit its main bazaar.  At the high altitude, the sun was bright and strong.  The temperature was warmer than we thought.  We walked slowly along Fort Road towards town centre.  Under the brutal late morning sun, we felt dry and tired, partly because of the red-eye flight, partly because of a slight reaction from the high altitude, and partly because of the arid and dusty environment of Leh.

For about 15 minutes we passed by many souvenir shops and hotels along Fort Road, until reaching a crowded restaurant near town centre then we realized that we were a little hungry.  We stepped in the popular Gesmo Restaurant and decided to grab a bite before continuing our walk to the bazaar.  The restaurant was fully packed.  Fortunately at the first table by the entrance sat Sophia, a Spanish tourist who invited us to share the table  by the window with her.  A young lawyer from Spain, Sophia came to India for volunteer work at Dharamsala.  She had already volunteering and traveling alone in the country for two months.  While she was almost done with Leh and almost ready to move on to somewhere else, we two newcomers were delighted to gain some travel tips from Sophia.  We had a good time chatting about traveling in India and Spain.  At the same time, we had our first thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup).

After lunch, we came across Dzomsa, an interesting shop near the main bazaar.  Right by the entrance stood two water containers for tourists to refill their water bottles.  Local treats like apricot and seabuck berry juices were particularly popular.  Other than drinks, dried fruits, tea leaves, spices, nuts, apricot kernel oil, and other handcrafts were also on the shelves.  From Dzomsa it was only a short walk to the main bazaar, the lively commercial centre of Leh.  Popular with locals and tourists alike, the main bazaar offers everything from souvenirs to local produce.  Unfortunately much of the market street was under extensive road paving work when we were there.  At some spots, walking in the main bazaar was like wandering in a dusty construction site.  It was just our first day in Leh.  We were in no rush to check out every single shop in the bazaar.  We took our time wandering in the town centre, absorbing the atmosphere of the busy market scene.

DSC_3382Outside of our hotel gate, Lower Tukcha Road was a sleepy lane with local homes and hotel complexes.

DSC_3384Intersection at Lower Tukcha Road and Fort Road which connects to the town centre of Leh. There is no proper street sign so the little grocery store with a distinguishable wooden storefront became the landmark for us for direction.

DSC_3387From our hotel to the town centre, it was about 15-minute walk. Under the bright afternoon sun, the unpaved road turned golden. It was soft and pleasant to walk on until a cloud of swirling dust rose from the dirt road when motorcycles and cars drove by. Under the harsh sun, every pedestrian preferred to walk under the shade.

DSC_3388As approaching the town centre, we had a better view of the earth-tone Leh Palace and the red and white Namgyal Tsemo Gompa prominently standing on the rocky hill.

DSC_3393Before arriving at the main bazaar, we stopped by Gesmo Restaurant for lunch.  According to the guidebooks, Gesmo Restaurant had always been a local favorite. When we arrived there, the restaurant was fully packed with locals and travelers. We met a Spanish traveler, Sophia, who invited us to share a table by the window with her. Sophia had been traveling in this country for over a month. She shared stories of the travel and we shared our upcoming travel plan. We were happy to start off the day with a pleasant chat with like-mind people sharing the same passion and curiosity for traveling the world.

DSC_6398Near the main bazaar, small food and drink shop Dzomsa is a delightful stop for  juices of local fruits, organic snacks and spices, and souvenirs. Right by the entrance of the store were two larger water urns filled with portable water. With less than 8 rupees, visitors could refill their water bottle. It was a great environmental alternative to bottled water. There were also two large buckets collecting plastic bottles and used batteries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was hot and dry outside. We took a little rest in the store and tried the most popular juice in town, apricot juice (left) and seabuck berry juice (right). For unknown reasons, we always presumed that the orange, thicker one would be the apricot juice and the one with the grape juice colour would be the seabuck berries juice. When we asked the storekeeper, we were told that it was actually the other way around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe store was simple with wooden shelves along the wall displaying the store staples such as mint tea, home-made jam, dried fruits, crunchy roasted apricot kernels, the precious saffron spice etc. We were happy to have found this store.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main bazaar were getting a facelift. Paving work and renovation of different scale were underway everywhere, especially the area near the main mosque Jama Masjid. Winter in Leh is extremely cold with heavy snow, so construction work can only be done in the short summer months.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATourists and locals walking by one of the buildings along the main bazaar.

DSC_3398Colourful prayer flags could be seen all over the market area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking at Jama Masjid’s end of the main bazaar with Leh Palace at the background.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal shopkeeper under the shade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal farmers took various kinds of seasonal vegetables for sell in the bazaar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA passerby in the main bazaar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main bazaar was a great place for people watching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany buildings around the bazaar were under construction or renovation.

DSC_3418The young street performer walked by and caught many people’s attention.

DSC_3436The Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels around a stupa near the bazaar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATibetan Buddhist prayer wheels around a stupa near the bazaar.

DSC_3444Leh is like an oasis in a desert. Looking beyond cars and houses are bare mountains surrounding the city, reminding us of the harsh climate of this arid region.

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Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


TEMPLE, CHURCH, MOSQUE – Houses of God on the Mid Levels, Hong Kong

Since the completion of the Central-Mid-Levels Escalators and Walkway System in 1993, the Mid Levels in Central and Sheung Wan have undergone series of urban redevelopment. Several architectural gems dated back to the era of Victoria City survive to the present days. The co-existence of these religious buildings reflects a diverse demography that once resided in the neighborhoods on the Mid Levels over a century ago.

Man Mo Temple
Among all religious buildings on Mid Levels, the most well known is Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan. Just like any other man mo temples in a Chinese city, Man Mo Temple is dedicated for the God of Literature and Martial, to whom people pray for success in their academic studies. Built in 1847, Sheung Wan’s Man Mo Temple is still popular with worshipers, especially among parents who pray for their kids to thrive in the competitive environment of Hong Kong.
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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Opened in 1888, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the main Roman Catholic Church in the city. It replaced the first catholic cathedral of Hong Kong that once stood at Wellington Street and Pottinger Street. In the embrace of residential towers and the Caritas Compound (a community centre operated by the Catholics), the cathedral and its surrounding grounds are always shielded off from traffic and daily business, like a spiritual oasis welcoming anyone who thirsts for a moment of serenity.
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Jamia Masjid Mosque
Known as the first mosque in Hong Kong, the original Jamia Masjid Mosque was built at around 1849 to serve the Indian Muslims who worked for the colonial government and other British establishments in Central.  The current building was built in 1890.  Embraced by tall apartment buildings, the mosque maintains its modest presence with its entrance right by the Mid Levels Escalator. Although not opened to the public, the building occasionally hosts open day events for visitors who are interested in the mosque’s history and Islamic beliefs.
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