Although the sun is setting and it is too late to visit the Taj Mahal, we are excited to reach our hotel in Agra, India, where every room faces this Wonder of the World. The Oberoi Amarvilas is designed to give every guest the same view whether they are in their guest room, the dining room or another public space.
Stepping out onto the balcony, I see the monument built by Shah Jahan and dedicated to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to the couple’s 14th child. I remind myself to be in the moment; this is a once in a lifetime event.
But, until we can visit this monument of love, Norma and I settle in to enjoy this beautiful hotel. Each Oberoi hotel blends itself into its surroundings. Here, rolling lawns and water elements frame the view of the Taj Mahal.
The hotel chef prepares us an Indian feast and we enjoy the music of a local musician before retiring for the evening.
The next morning we meet our tour guide and are taken by hotel golf cart a short distance where we stand in line for just under a half hour to gain admittance. Once through security, we walk through a grand gate where we pause to take photographs of the Taj Mahal reflected in a still pool of water before our guide explains more of the monument’s history.
“It took 20,000 artisans nearly 22 years — 1632 to 1653 — to build the monument,” he says. “The setting is based on the palace gardens of the great nobles that lined both sides of the Yamuna River in Agra.”
Then we are on our own to explore the domed marble mausoleum where the Shah and his bride are buried. For me, in addition to looking at the whole, admiring the intricate inlaid designs made of semi-precious stones is one of my most memorable experiences.
Visiting the Taj Mahal is a surreal experience and a lifetime memory of opulence, beauty, love and sorrow.
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