Our day began with an early departure from the Agra hotel at 5:30 a.m. After two weeks of early morning wildlife drives on our India safari, it wasn’t much of a challenge. We all climbed into the bus for a quick hop to the Taj Mahal, where we boarded an open electric cart to take us to the front gate. It was still dark and we were the first in line. There were four of us ladies and our fabulous local guide, Prashant. They divided genders into lines to go through security. As other visitors began to arrive, dawn began to break and the line grew, eventually reaching farther than I could see. We waited for about 45 minutes for the gate to open. While we waited, Prashant explained the plan: take a few initial photos from a distance, but then we wanted to get to the Taj Mahal as quickly as possible to take it all in and experience something special about the main entry.
I happened to be the first through the security line. Prashant met me at the other side, he looked at me and said, “Run, don’t worry about the group, I have them, just run!” And so I ran. There are three gates to the park and I could see others being let in. I felt a bit funny running through the grounds, but I kept trucking along. Finally, I walked through the main door, and there in all its splendor was the stunning Taj Mahal. The guard greeted me and said, “You are very lucky, you are first.” As I looked around, I realized that he was right.
Standing alone inside the Taj Mahal was a silent, peaceful, and moving experience. It took a second before it hit me—I could take a photo without another person in it—and so I did. But only a quick couple of photos—it was a truly special moment and I stood there relishing in the peace while taking in the beautiful building designed and built by a man as an expression of his love.
It was only a brief moment, but time seemed to stand still. As Prashant arrived with the group, he had a huge grin on his face, maybe as big as mine. He knew what a magical experience I had just encountered and he was ecstatic that I was able to experience it.
We took photos as a group and individually, then we were off again. We moved quickly to enter the Taj Mahal before the crowds, to allow us the rare opportunity to hear the wind and echo of its whistle. It was our small group and only two other travelers. Normally, the building is full with visitors and they hurry you through, and because of the number of people, the roar of the crowd doesn’t allow you to hear the beauty of the building.
I felt very lucky to have such an experienced guide with the passion and excitement of someone on their first visit. He didn’t mind our taking a million photos and even took many of them for us. He took us to all the special places you wouldn’t know about if you were there on your own. I couldn’t imagine a better guide to assist and explain the magic and work of art that is the Taj Mahal.
This guest post was written by Nat Hab Adventure Specialist Amanda Jamieson.