Agra, a city in India, is located on the banks of the River Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. With a population of over one and half million, it only ranks 19th among the cities in India that are most populated. It can be referred to as the administrative capital and is a major tourist destination thanks to its many splendid Mughal-era buildings.
The climate here is semi-arid bordering on humid sub-tropical. There are mild winters, summers are hot and dry (bringing heat surges beyond 46 degrees Celsius with night time dipping to a comfortable 30 degrees and intense humidity) and there is also a monsoon season, the majority of which falls during the months of June to September. Agra has a reputation of being one of the ‘hottest’ cities in India, both literally and tourist-wise. During winter (the best season to visit Agra) temperatures hover around 6 to 8 degrees Celsius but are known to drop to as low as -2 to -4 degrees. During winter the days are warm and sunny, making it ideal for site-seers.
Tourists flock to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal – one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahan’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal (his favourite). It is one of the New Seven Wonders and one of three World Heritage Sites in Agra. It is the resting place of his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Agra Fort was commissioned by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565. It is also one of Agra’s World Heritage Sites It is a stone tablet at the gate of the Fort states, built before 1000 and later renovated by Akbar. The red sandstone fort was converted into a palace during Jahan’s time and changed extensively.
Fatehpur Sikri is about 35 kms from Agra. It was built by Emperor Akbar where his capital was moved to and then later abandoned. This is another World Heritage Site. It came about after the Emperor Babar defeated Rana Sanga in a battle at a place called Sikri.
I’imad-Ud-Daulah is the tomb built by Empress Nur Jahan and it is sometimes referred to as ‘Baby Taj’. She built it for her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the Chief Minister of the Emperor Jahangir. It is located on the left bank of the Yamuna river, in a large cruciform garden criss-crossed by water courses and walkways.
The Muslim empire left indelible imprints on Agra’s cuisine as well as their architecture. The tone of the cuisine in these parts is creamy, boldly flavoured curries, lots of whole and ground spices, fruits that are dried, nuts and roasted meats. The cuisine here is described as rich and fit for a king.
Etiquette is complicated as religion often plays an important role in shaping what’s accepted in everyday exchanges. Greeting is usually in the form of ‘namaste’ whilst holding palms together in the ‘prayer’ position but handshakes are becoming more and more widely used, however, they are only between men and don’t occur amongst females greeting each other or females greeting men.