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Red Hair at the Red Fort: Our Introduction to Sightseeing in India.

February 1st, 2011 · No Comments · Destinations, Experience

Our second day in Delhi, we tried sightseeing in Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad) with the Red Fort (Lal Qil’ah) as our first stop. One of the most popular and important tourist sights for Indians, it was packed with visitors who were on Diwali vacation. I admit now, I had little idea what to expect visiting India, and our first day visit to the mall was not that foreign.  Visiting the Red Fort opened my eyes a little to what India is about.

What did I discover?

Naqqar Khana at the Red Fort, Delhi

Most tourists in India are Indian.

November is the peak tourist season in the golden triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.  I guess, I assumed a lot of those tourists would be western, but our visit to the Red Fort quickly dispelled that notion. Most visitors were Indian tourists visiting family for Diwali or taking advantage of the holiday for trip to the capital.

Tourists checking out the Nahr-i-Behisht at the Red Fort in Old Delhi.

Tourists checking out the Nahr-i-Behisht at the Red Fort in Old Delhi.

There are lines, long lines in India.

A whole lot of people trying to get into a place requiring tickets, means a long line. Add the necessary security screening before entering, and we were faced with a very discouraging, very long line in direct sun. While considering skipping the Red Fort, we divided forces, and Jack and Mirielle waited in line while I went off in search of tickets.

Back of the entrance line at the Red Fort, Delhi

Back of the entrance line at the Red Fort, Delhi

The ticket line was long and more of a scrum than a line. It was also all men. Watching people walk away, tickets in hand, I ignored the gender difference and joined the fray.  Immediately, someone told me I should be in another line and kindly walked me to the east side of the underground kiosk.  There, I found ticket windows for women, with about 8 waiting in line, and a foreigners window with no line. At most sights in India, there are separate prices for Indians and foreigners and separate kiosks to go with the different tickets.

The entrance line, where I rejoined Jack and Mirielle, moved fairly quickly.  The crazy line you see above (which snaked even more than you see in the picture, the entrance was on the right side in the back!), was probably only 30-45 minutes, inclusive of the time it took for me to buy tickets.  The bottleneck was security where bodies are scanned with handheld metal detectors, patted down, and bags are searched.  There are separate lines for men and women with women’s scans & pat-downs behind a screen.

The English left their mark on India and it looks ridiculous.

British administrative buildings behind the gardens at the Red Fort.

British administrative buildings behind the gardens at the Red Fort. (Photo by *_*)

While Anglophiles will disagree with me, I find a lot of the mark England left on its colonies quite distasteful. The Red Fort has an obnoxious example of hegemony gone bad.  Behind the delicate Mughal-Islamic structures is a multi-story, Victorian government building that not only looked a few thousand miles out of place, it also reminded me of a 19th century sanitarium.  I figured the bureaucrats & military personnel it was build for paid the price when the temperature went above 75 degrees.

Our first request for a group photo at the Red Fort snack bar. We had no idea how many requests were in front of us.

Our first request for a group photo at the Red Fort snack bar. We had no idea how many requests were in front of us

Everyone in India has a camera – in their cell phone.

You might have heard that countries where economic development accelerated in the late 20th century skipped the whole land line telephone infrastructure and investment and when straight to cell phones.  India is definitely one of those countries where today there are over 700 million cell phone subscribers.  Just about every one of those phones has a camera.  That means any cell-phone toting Indian can easily take a picture anytime.

Posing near the Mosque.

Posing near the Mosque.

At a tourist destination like the Red Fort, most visitors were actively taking pictures of the sights, their friends, their family, and Mirielle.  Our introduction to sightseeing in India included experiencing the celebrity-like popularity of a red-headed, white-skinned, doll faced, brightly dressed, American preschooler.  The stealth photos taken as we waited in line and moved through the crowds became requests for pictures with Mirielle every time we paused.  If anyone spotted Mirielle’s picture being taken with other visitors, she was subjected to never ending requests.

Forget the Diwan-i-Khas, look at the redhead. Once we stopped, the requests for photos didn't stop.

Forget the Diwan-i-Khas, look at the redhead. Once we stopped, the requests for photos didn't stop.

As guests in India, we were pretty happy to share our daughter with our “hosts,” but she was quickly overwhelmed by the paparazzi.  Seriously, we couldn’t walk more than 30 feet without being stopped once we were in the palace area of the fort.

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