Musings from a Virtuoso Travel Advisor …
6:15 am. The stillness in the mausoleum is barely disturbed by the methodical swishing sound of a worker swinging a broom. The lone light bulb, hanging from an iron chain strung from the ceiling 240 feet above, barely illuminates the 400-year-old chamber. Flashlights aid us in examining the semi-precious gemstones that are inlaid throughout the vast white marble walls – small flowers taking up to three weeks to carve and assemble by master artisans, and inlaid Arabic lettering running from floor to ceiling set with perfect perspective, making it appear the same size despite its varying distance from the viewer.
Air vents incorporated into the brilliant architecture of the gleaming white structure allow the wind to move throughout the room. Our private guide, Aakash Jaine, hums the “Ohm” word; its sound lingers in the air for several seconds before being carried away by the wind. Then silence. The spiritual essence of this experience is palpable and is immediately etched into my memory.
History. Over the course of twenty years, 20,000 workers from throughout India, Persia and Europe, along with 1,000 elephants, painstakingly and meticulously built the architectural masterpiece known throughout the world as the Taj Mahal. Today, over 40,000 people visit the Taj each day. A continuous line of tourists snakes through the grounds of the complex, taking in the beautiful gardens, pools, red sandstone mosque, decorative minarets, and famous bench that Princess Diana sat upon during her visit. The culmination of a visit to the Taj is a visit through the mausoleum itself, where the remains lie of Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who died after giving birth to their 14th child. The emperor built the Taj Mahal to honor her.
6:23 am. Several other tourists finally enter the Taj Mahal after spending time visiting the famous bench and strolling through the gardens. Thus begins the trickle that will become a stream, and then a river, of tourists who will visit this famous Wonder of the World that day.
Time. Eight minutes isn’t a long time in and of itself. However, eight minutes spent with your family in one of the most famous places in the world, without anyone else around but your crafty private guide and a lonely sweeper, feels like a stolen treasure. None of the 40,000 other tourists who visited the Taj that day had the singular experience that we did. They couldn’t hear the wind blowing through the chamber or stop while winding through the line to study the intricate gem-laden mosaics – not with hundreds of other people beside them. They couldn’t possibly know what it felt like to have the place to ourselves – alone with history.
These eight minutes are what being with a wonderful private guide is all about. Access. Preparedness. Unlocking a world of unforgettable memories. Our guide, Aakash, made all the difference in how we experienced our visit to a place that millions of people around the world have visited. Our bond with him was instant; in fact, we still keep in touch with him, several months later. Aakash took the pictures on this blog. My goal as a travel advisor is to connect you with the people and places that can provide you with memories you will cherish for years to come, just like Aakash did for us. Call or email me. I’d love to help. I can even connect you to Aakash on your next visit to the Taj!