HOME TO over 18 million people, capital city for 1,400,000,000, the present “New Delhi” is the eigth city in the city, dating back over 1000 years.
From the city of Mehrauli, through the magnificent Shahjahanabad, conquerors and emperors have built, abandoned and destroyed. Some of the worst damage was done by the enlightened civilization of Great Britain, who exiled the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah II to Burma in 1857. Remains from those empires can be seen across the city, and the living remnants of those histories experienced with every twist and turn in the bazaar.
From Agra, Delhi is barely three hours by train. Just enough time for some samosas and six cups of chai.
I wasn't sure what to expect. I had read some Dalrymple, and knew the British had destroyed much of its grandeur.
Masses of people. Chaos, like this electric wiring, possibly once seen by Prince Phillip.
Bazaars like Chandni Chowk, rickshaws squeezed tight between shops with goods spilling into the street.
And food. I had heard Delhi did good street food. (It does)
I knew some fine Moghul buildings had escaped the British revenge of 1857, cultural destruction which today would be a war crime.
A metro, I knew about, but did not expect it to be so darn good. Getting around Delhi turned out to be pretty easy, most of the time. (And pretty bad some of the time.)
So every day would begin with this gent making us fried bread omelette outside our hotel, with chai from across the street.
From there, we would walk through Panjar Ganj to the subway, and seek out some of Delhi's seven cities.
Mehrauli was the first seat of the Delhi Sultanate, from around 1192 to 1290, and some fine monuments from this era stand strong 800 years later.
The Qutan Minar complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. "The Victory Tower" is at 72.5m, the world's tallest brick minaret.
With a 14.3m diameter base, tapered to 2.7m at the top, this shaft has some serious girth.
The sheer size is balanced with ornate brickwork calligraphy.
The Qutab Minaret is part of Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, sponsored by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, founder of the Mamluk dynasty. Construction and expansion continued for several generations.
Columns plundered from destroyed Jain and Hindu temples were used in the mosque's construction, differentiating it from most other mosques.
Stonework on the columns display their pre-Islamic origins.
A short walk from Qutab Minar, the Mehrauli Archaelogical Park is a spacious, forested stroll through early Delhi history.
As well as tombs, there are mosques and madrasah on the grounds are still in use. Other ruins date from the 8th to 12th century Tomar Rajput rulers.
After strolling past tree-bound houses and tombs, at the rear of the complex is Rajon ki Baoli, one of the best preserved step-wells in India.
All this walking and history and Rajput and Sultans might make you hungry. Thankfully something fried and unhealthy is never far away.
Tughlaqabad was Delhi's third historical city, abandoned in 1327 after being founded in 1321. The ruins ofTughlaqabad Fort built by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, occupy a spacious, green site, surrounded by important wildlife corridors (I didn't know that!).
Delhi's 5th city, Ferozabad, sits on the west banl of the Yamuna, and it's most prominent feature is Feroz Shah Kotla. The mosque pictured is still in use.
Beside a cricket stadium of the same name, Feroz Shah Kotla also houses the simple but elegant Raj Ghat. The parkland is where MK Gandhi and other Indian luminaries were created, and his memorial is here.
Just north of this oasis of peace groans the hustle and bustle of the modern Indian metropolis, where opulent monuments clash with grinding working poverty.
We had seen tigers, leopard, bear, the Golden Temple, the Taj Mahal, unbelievable birdlife. There was not much left of my tiny, tiny mind to blow.
Shahjahanabad would gives those remaining fragments a good shake, with its size and opulence, grace and elegance.
Palace after palace, garden upon garden. The Rang Mahal (palace) is arguably the pinnacle in the Red Fort.
Two gates lead past a covered bazaar, through to splendid gardens, and around a dozen halls and residences, and a step well.
A sliced orange sprinkled with a mix of spices will refresh you for the rest of the journey.
Commonly known as the Jama Masjid, the Masjid-i Jehan Numa ("World-reflecting Mosque"), accommodates 25,000 people. It sists just outside the fort of its builder, Shah Jahan, and places hims among the greatest builders ever.
In the immediate area of these grand Moghul monuments, the mayhem of Chandni Chowk bazaar is the perfect antidote to all the symmetry and beauty.
Delhi residents have come to this tightly packed maze of alleys for their daily needs for over 400 years.
The frangrant smell of spices waft intensely, overpowering the senses.
From foodstuffs, to spices and fabric and household goods, it's all on display.
Warehouses small and large jam into alleyways, where sacks of spices come and go.
These huge sacks don't appear by magic, but on the backs of overworked and underpaid porters. Get out of their way!
Small corner shops sell snacks.
Sweets roll down the lanes on motorcycles.
Deep fried and unhealthy bites are plied from the middle of the road.
And don't miss this! Shrikhand(?). Curd, with almond and pistachio!
Away from Chandni Chowk, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah, is a Sufi tomb and centre of worship.
Devotees enter trances, speak in tongues, and seem to be entered by spirits. Remarkable stuff to see.
This small but fascinating shrine of a 13th century saint was one of the most eye-opening places in a city and country full of surprises.