Showing posts from June, 2015

Morocco: A Day Trip to Essaouira

I’m not really a history buff or interested in visiting a military architecture, but our travel guide mentioning the fact that the fortified town of Essaouira was once called Mogador and known for a long time as the Port of Timbuktu piqued my curiosity.  I imagined a remote place, untouched by time. Indeed, Essaouira has retained its old world charm, but as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also widely visited by tourists.  The Fortified Town We first visited the port, which became one of the major Atlantic commercial centers between Africa and Europe in the 18th century. Although it is still a busy fishing and trade center today, it has retained its small village charm with small old boats all painted in blue and a few big fishing boats made of wood.  We then visited inside the well-preserved mid-18th-century fortified seaport. The streets were so narrow, so we walked alongside the fortified walls on one side and the medina on the other side until we reached the lookout

Taj Mahal: A Monument to Love

I have come to India mainly because I wanted to see the Taj Mahal, the most photogenic architecture in the world.  However, it’s not easy visiting Agra where the Taj Mahal is situated. Never mind the long flight to India, but the trip to Agra had been one of the most uncomfortable trips I had ever experienced.  The city simply lacked the infrastructure to receive tourists or visitors. But the beauty of the Taj Mahal was worth all that discomfort from the trip. Our guide warned us about the do's and dont's inside the complex. For example, video cameras are not allowed, but phone and still cameras are okay. He also told us that the Taj Mahal is the most protected monument in India. No polluting vehicles are allowed within the 500-meter radius of the Taj Mahal. So it was a long walk from the main gate to reach the security check and ticket entrance.  Then from the ticket entrance, it was a short walk to a very large courtyard, bounded by four gates (yes, it sounds ridicul

India: The Road to Agra

The Highway Motorcyclists zoomed past our tour bus. It was interesting to see the same pattern of riders where a woman in brightly colored clothes rides on the back of a motorcycle driven by a man. We passed small towns with crowded open markets. Cows scoured for food in the middle of the road. A few hours later, we left the crowded towns and the agricultural landscape took over. Cattle-drawn carts and car with the exposed motors (the original car manufactured and assembled in India, according to our guide) tied down with twine, bulging with agricultural products struggled on the highway while women balancing colorful pots on their heads tried to cross the highway. I saw men and women in colorful garb congregating under a tree. I could only assume that they're farm workers and were taking respite from the heat. The Village We left the busy highway and drove through a very tiny road lined with shacks and dwellings. Our bus was literally inches away from the dwell