Red Fort in Agra, India | India Travel Blog

Agra Red Fort Tour

Agra Fort or Red Fort is located on the bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India, which used to be part of the Mughal Empire in the 17th century. It is a massive red sandstone fort that stretches 2.5 km in circumference and had more than 500 buildings inside and lots of underground chambers. It’s like a city within the boundaries of a fort. Today, only 30 building survive inside the fort.

Agra Red Fort was built by Mughal emperor Akbar and then his grandson Shah Jahan added extensions using marble. The fort has 4 gates and one of them leads to the river. 40,000 workers worked 8 years to build this fort.

Some of the famous places inside the fort:

- A glass palace that has a dressing room with lots of tiny mirrors on the wall.

- The pearl mosque. Entry is prohibited.

- A white marble palace.

- An open arena where emperors used to give visitations to the kings and guests.

- An octagonal tower where empire Shah Jahan was held as a prisoner by his son. The Taj Mahal is visible in the distance from this tower and Shah Jahan wanted to spend the rest of his life looking at the Taj Mahal.

- A black stone bowl that was used as a bathtub by the emperors.

Agra Red Fort is one of the many sites I visited during my India trip and you can watch my travel vlog on Agra Red Fort here.

Cebu, Jewel of the Philippines

Travel Cebu

Although tourism as an industry suffered from a significant drop in the twelve months from June 2008 to June 2009, it should be noted that there were countries and cities which actually increased the number of visitors during that time – no small achievement in a period when belt-tightening was the order of the day in many people’s estimation. One of the areas to increase its visitor numbers was the Philippine city and larger metropolitan area of Cebu. The Philippines is one of Asia’s largest and most diverse countries, and this makes it attractive to tourists. It hosted the ASEAN Tourism Forum in 1998 and the East Asian Tourism Forum four years later.

Tourists to Cebu can be guaranteed of seeing a city and larger province that has a varied landscape – one moment you can be in the excellent shopping district and the next you are out among leafy parks and public gardens. It is this type of easy, natural variety that makes the city and the province so attractive to so many people. This is not a place that will only appeal to a certain kind of visitor. Shopping is definitely an option for visitors to Cebu, with some wonderful malls neighbouring smaller more specialised stores and providing everything the visitor could wish for. Unlike  many other cities, Cebu does this without looking or being terribly congested or built-up. At the same time it is historic without being anachronistic.

Strange though it may seem Cebu has something in common with Los Angeles – an area going by the name Beverley Hills. While the LA version is home to a great many of the world’s most famous people, Cebu’s version is known more for its Taoist Temple. Set 300 meters above sea level and built as recently as 1972, the Cebu Taoist Temple is an attraction which really should be seen. It is a towering center of worship that is accessible by any one of three meandering routes that take the visitor through trees and other greenery. It is visited by every school student in the area as part of their education, and is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. It is the centerpiece of the city’s tourist industry, but by no means the full extent of it.

There is always plenty to see and do in Cebu city and neighbouring cities and towns and although the journey to get there can take some time from a Western starting point – over a day by air from New York, for example – it is worth it for some of the finest buildings, best shopping and finest dining in Asia. There are numerous five star hotels and resorts to stay in, and beyond the Taoist Temple there are a few national parks as well as excellent beaches. The Basilica Minore del Santo Nino is also worth seeing, as it is home to the oldest religious relic in all of the Philippines. Frankly, there are so many reasons to go to Cebu for a break, it is no wonder the tourist numbers visiting have increased.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the Travelnowsimply.com website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to Ahmed Dawn Dot Com site. This article originally published on the above website on July 24, 2009.

Dubai - The World Most Dividing City

Dubai – City of Choice

The city of Dubai has become one of the world’s favourite topics of conversation, in a way that no-one could possibly have foreseen a decade or two ago. This remarkable part of the world has surely caught the attention of us all at one time or another, for reasons that may be considered good or bad, but which nonetheless provoke debate. It has to be asked – is Dubai the world’s most dividing city in terms of opinion?

To begin with, it is worth looking at a reason why people love Dubai. There are many reasons, and among them is the blatant ostentation of the city. Although liable to turn off as many people as it attracts, the immediacy of Dubai as an attention-grabbing city cannot be denied. Huge towers like the Burj al-Arab and the soon to be completed Burj Dubai are not, to put a fine point on it, necessary. But then, the same could be said of a lot of smaller, less opulent buildings. These towers astound, and captivate, a great number of people. They make us talk about Dubai, so they serve a hugely important purpose.

However, there are many who complain about the processes that get buildings like these built. Dubai was not a busy, glittering metropolis in the middle of the 20th century. This has happened at very short notice, and the way it has been done is always going to raise a question or two. A lot of people who visit Dubai for a holiday come back and say “well, the room was comfortable, the food was great and the entertainment was marvellous – but that construction noise spoiled the whole thing!”. Dubai is still building – and that is not without its problems for those who enjoy the quiet life. Murmurs about the working conditions on these sites also abound.

However, if working practices in a construction industry are now reason enough to hate a city, you might say that London, New York and other major destinations should be boycotted. There are very few places in the world that were built using altruistic processes by benevolent construction companies. That there are questions about Dubai even today is not encouraging, without question, but there is also justification in the claims of the people of Dubai who consider much of the criticism to be due to envy.

At the heels of the hunt, you are either going to love Dubai or hate it. There are clear reasons for both conclusions, including the fact that ostentation is something that draws strong reactions. If you like glitter, a buzz and an experience that will astound you, Dubai is a place to go. If you want peace and quiet in a centre of cultured gentility, then it may be best avoided. Either way, people are not going to stop talking about this fascinating city any time soon. Any city, after all, which makes it snow inside when the temperatures outdoors are shooting to uncomfortable levels, as seen at Ski Dubai, is worth taking notice of.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the Travelnowsimply.com website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to ahmeddawn.com. This article originally published on the above website on June 13, 2009.

Humayun’s Tomb - An Awesome Display of Architectural Splendour

What to Visit in New Delhi

During my trip to India I have visited a few historic sites and Humayun's Tomb is one of them. Today I will write a piece about this historic site, which is a must-visit if you are visiting New Delhi.

I will be making a video on this as well and will provide a link here once it’s done. Humayun’s Tomb Tour |  New Delhi, India

Humayun's Tomb - The tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in Delhi, India is an awesome display of architectural splendour. It was commissioned by Empress Bega Begum, his first wife and chief consort, in 1569-70 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993.

After the Emperor Humayun's death in 1556, his wife Bega Begum was so grieved that she dedicated her life to building the most magnificent mausoleum in the Empire.

Humayun's son, Mughal Emperor Akbar, regularly visited the tomb during its construction.

Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan was mesmerized by the architecture of Humayun’s tomb and he used many aspects of its design, including the double dome of the Taj Mahal.

This is the first structure to use red sandstone with white marble border linings at such a grand scale. It is a rectangular mausoleum crowned by an onion-shaped doom that looks like similar to the Taj Mahal, but instead of white marble, red sandstone was used.

The tomb is surrounded by a huge garden. This type of traditional garden was popular in the Mughal dynasty and known as char-bagh. The rectangular garden was divided into four squares by a central fountain.