Photo of the Week – Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal – Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

The Taj Mahal in India was built by the emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth for their 14th child. It is a complex of buildings, gardens, water fountains and water bodies all organized into a perfect rectangular symmetry. Apart from being an iconic symbol of love, The Taj Mahal has maintained its original integrity and authenticity, making it one of the most inspirational pieces of architecture to this day.

Mehtab Bagh, or the Moonlit Garden just opposite the Taj Mahal is a four garden complex and the last of 11 gardens by the Mughal Empire. It is the ultimate vantage point for the Taj, with magnificent views and open from sunrise to sunset.

Although the Taj pretty much steals the spotlight of Agra, Agra fort, just 2.5 km away, is another must see. Built in 1573, after 8 years and a staggering 4000 workers, wars have been started among dynasties to conquer the fort, thus changing many hands throughout its existence until 1638 when the Mughal dynasty moved from Agra to Delhi.

At Kinari Bazaar, a wholesale market, little colorful shops spill over, children run around, and shoppers haggle. This is where you get some of the finest ornaments and accessories in Agra – fancy gifts, holiday decorations, gold embroideries and many other bits and pieces. On top of that, it’s extremely photogenic.

 

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Photo of the week – Zebras & Elephants in harmony at Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Amboseli National Park
Zebras & Elephants in harmony at Amboseli National Park, Kenya

 

Amboseli is one of the most popular parks in Kenya.

The name “Amboseli” means “salty dust” in the local Maasai language. It was declared a UNESCO site in 1991 due to its interesting ecosystem and being one of the best wildlife sites in the world. Due to its sparse vegetation owing to long months between rain, it is easy to view wildlife ranging from lions, cheetahs, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests and of course elephants.

Amboseli is the best place in the world to mingle freely with big tusked elephants. It was even home to Echo, the elephant who died at 65 in 2009 and was the most studied elephant in the world, and a subject of many books and documentaries.

At Amboseli, Africa’s highest point and also the world’s highest freestanding mountain – Mt. Kilimanjaro, looms over the southern boundary. At dawn or dusk when the weather is clear, the mountain stands tall in all its magnificence.

Because of the low-level swamps, Amboseli is popular with birds. You’re guaranteed sightings of both small and massive birds, including the Marabou Stork (apparently the “world’s ugliest-looking bird”), the Kori Bustard and the grey Crownd Crane, all which are large and striking.

The best time to visit Amboseli is January, February and June through September as the other months are rainy and the roads are impassable.

 

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Photo of the Week – A reflection of the Rejkmuseum in the canals of Amsterdam

A reflection of the Rejkmuseum in the canals of Amsterdam
A reflection of the Rejkmuseum in the canals of Amsterdam

 

It’s now six years after the museum was re-launched after a staggering 10 years restoration – to international acclaim. Inside, the architecture is simply riveting – paying tribute to history yet oozing modernity. It has an evocative collection of relics from sculptures to artefacts, to clothing, and evidence of the trouble Dutch seafarers got themselves into. The gardens are ideal to stroll and kick back as you relish the artwork and greenery – totally free of charge.

Amsterdam is a breathtaking city, but nothing’s more magical than floating across in a boat. Historical houses and elegant trees line the canals at the Canal District. Drifting along the waters as you take in the city, whether you take a one hour ride or a hop in/off option is a must do.

The best acoustics the world over might just be those at Concertgebouw, literally meaning “concert hall.” The hall itself is so glamorous, with ornate decorations on the walls, towering at 56’ high and red, posh seats. The incredible renditions of old and contemporary classics remain with you.

But there’s more to Amsterdam than fascinating insights into the past, dreamy water rides or perfect orchestras. At the Anne Frank House are memories of the girl who hid here with her family before falling into the hands of the Nazi during World War II. It does evoke sad memories, but it’s also a testimony to the endurance of the human spirit.