Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, April 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
If you have been to Mumbai (Bombay) and you think that is a typical Indian city, Delhi is a complete contrast, European in many respects. In fact it is two cities, Old Delhi and New Delhi, the first one dating from the 11th century, and the second, a British initiative, from 1911.
Following a decision to move the capital of Imperial India from Calcutta to Delhi it was formally inaugurated in 1931 and is in the main the work of two English architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, in essence an imperial statement with its wide thoroughfares, sweeping vistas and imposing edifices. But the architects of New Delhi took pains to blend their architectural styles with those that had gone before.
Flying in on Jet Airways (excellent) and frequent service from Mumbai, Indira Gandhi International is only 14 miles from the centre with proper dual carriageway access. There is also a military airfield even closer in which would make for a great city centre airport.
The star of a city full of stars is the massive Red Fort ”Lal Qila” (left) dating back to 1638, the site of the last Mughal Emperor”s abdication in 1857 when the British took over, a sovereignty which lasted just 90 years. The halls and palaces tell the story of the dynasty and there is a fine museum. At night a light show is a popular attraction but be warned, the commentary does not reflect the generally good perception of British rule. It needs updating.
Close by the Red Fort, within the alleys, bazaars and smells of the old city, and in fact a bicycle rickshaw ride away, is the JamaMajid mosque, dating from 1656, with its three majestic black and white domes covering the prayer hall, accommodating up to 25,000 worshippers. Much older, it dates back to 1193, is the Quatab Minar tower with its five distinct storeys soaring up 239 ft. You cannot climb the internal stairs but what you can do is stare at the impressive structure and admire the long time gone engineers who made it possible and Emperor Aikab who started the work. They were true engineers in any sense of the word. Next door is an even more massive base, the work of a later and less respected monarch, whose efforts were quickly abandoned on his death (below).
Mahatma Gandhi ”The Father of the Nation” was assassinated in Delhi near the Lakshminarayan Temple where he often prayed. This Hindu place of worship is in itself well worth a visit but it is the Raj Ghat, the site of his cremation, and set in large well kept undulating gardens, that is the place of pilgrimage for Indians. The national flag must be the only one in the world that includes the symbol of the country”s founder, a black spinning wheel on a white background. Nehru, the first prime minister, was cremated here too. Unlike Gandhi, noted for his frugal ways, Nehru liked the grandeur of the Empire, his stately mansion, Teen Murti Bhavan, preserved and open to the public.
Not everything is perfect. The railway museum, which should be the world”s greatest, is poor, potentially superb and does not compare with the British version at York. It needs much money spent on it. Indian Railways cover 67,000 miles of track and employs 1.6m staff. In contrast Safdarjungs” Tomb is a mini Taj Mahal, just as beautiful, smaller, but in a less unpleasant setting. Another memorial, the India Gate, was originally built to honour the 90,000 nationals who lost their lives in World War I. Today, with its eternal flame, it is a monument to all Indian soldiers lost abroad.
Delhi is well served by hotels of high quality. ABTN stayed at the Oberoi situated on the Dr Zakar Hussain Road overlooking the exclusive Delhi Golf Club. The company also has the flight catering contract with Jet Airways, which it is very proud of and pleased to publicise. Brand new is a Shangri-La, right up to the very finest standards that the Hong Kong based company offers. Set amidst beautiful landscaped gardens its location is ideal, within walking distance (providing it is not too hot ” or wet) of the Connaught Place shopping and business area. It has the latest Shangri-La innovation, a Chi spa. Not far away is the State Emporia complex on Baba Kharak Singh Marg where shops devoted to arts and artifacts of various states are available and run by the regional governments. The Dilli Haat run by Delhi Tourism is similar. And there are street traders. After all this is the East.
In recent years Delhi has transformed itself from a staid political capital into the social and cultural centre of India. Western ideas have percolated with fashion shows, movie making, celebrity culture, book launches and the latest in rock. There are shopping malls complete with eateries, bars and multiplex cinemas. A huge variety of restaurants provide everything from South East Asian and Mediterranean to arguably the best Indian food in the world.
The beggars in Delhi are not on the same scale as Mumbai. Use the hotel laundry facilities. With some it is offered as a courtesy but in any event it is very cheap. Allow for a minimum of four days for your visit. Agra and the Taj Mahal, could be a day trip. Organise your tour with a local operator. Rather like in China it is not expensive and the guides really know their way around. Jetair Tours, a division of the airline, can do it all for you.