From Wikipedia...."Old Delhi, the walled city of Delhi, India was founded as Shahjahanabad by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639. It remained the capital of the Mughals until the end of the Mughal dynasty. It was once filled with mansions of noble and members of the the royal court, along with elegant mosques and gardens. Today, despite having become extremely crowded and dilapidated, it still serves as the symbolic heart of metropolitan Delhi."
Visiting Old Delhi is a real adventure for everyone, and the only real way to see it is by bicycle rickshaw. You travel slow enough that you can take in all the sights. There are no windows to roll up so you are able to hear all the sounds and hustle bustle of daily life. It is open air so you are experiencing (and sometime being uncomfortably accosted by) the smells, feels, and heat of the city. On a different note, you are up off the street so feel a little safer from the traffic, trash, and uneven pavement that can be quite tricky to maneuver. It is the only way I have found to leave Old Delhi feeling as if I have truly experienced what are the charms of Old Delhi.
Through the help of friends, I found Kalu and his guided tours. He is a petite Nepali man with a group of drivers who give excellent tours ranging from two hours to all day depending on what you would like to see. Our driver calls Kalu and arranges a meeting place where he is always waiting with however many rickshaws are needed for the size of our group. We start out on a main street near the Red Fort.
Then he takes us down Chandni Chowk which is the main street in the walled city of Old Delhi.
He takes us past the shops and markets, and points out all the different points of interest.
After that, things get interesting as we turn down one of the many small alleys that make up Old Delhi. The one below is actually very wide. On many of the other alleys, you can reach out and almost touch the shops on both sides of the rickshaw.
The alleys are known for what is sold there. Shoe street, bead street, wedding street, etc. Fall is the big wedding season in India as the weather is just about perfect. The bride-to-be, her mother, and the "aunties" spend days and hours finding the best and finest sari/saris for the many different wedding celebrations.
I have been told there is a whole tradition and order of events when choosing the wedding sari. The women go into the shop, are offered a seat and a cup of tea, and fabric upon fabric is brought out. It is looked at, touched, held up to the bride, and the negotiations begin.
Up and down the alleys we traveled to find the spice market of Old Delhi. Our guide tells us that this is the largest spice market in all of Asia and spices are exported to the world from this point. The smells and dust were overwhelming. A scarf to cover your mouth and nose along with a bottle of water is an absolute necessity when visiting the spice market.
We wandered up and down among the stalls of spices and down a dark, dirty hallway to a set of narrow, steep steps behind our guide. Yes, he could have been taking us anywhere, but we trusted him and climbed flight after flight past bags of spices.
About halfway up we could see where the spices are stored and how the people are living among the essence o' spice.
At the top we went out onto the roof and looked down on Old Delhi.
Back out onto the street, past the sights, sounds, and smells.
Past the laundry drying on the side of the generator and over the piles of trash.
Past a local vegetable stand and down another alley.
Down the side alley to the Jain Temple and past some beautiful doorways. I could have taken hours of pictures of the colors and painted doors.
And finally a quick stop at Jama Masjid. (from Wikipedia) It is "the principle mosque of Old Delhi. Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, in the year 1644 and completed in 1658, it is the largest and best-known mosque in India. It lies at the origin of a very busy central street in Old Delhi."
We arrived too late to see the inside and were greeted by the beginning of Friday call to prayer.
Thus ends our tour of Old Delhi back at the Red Fort.