It's the perfect melding of Cairo and China—you can feel the geography inherent in the culture. We are here where the East slowly turns to the Far East.
It has the chaos of Cairo, the street stalls and smells. Yesterday evening we walked to the Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in Delhi. During the call for prayer, as the sun was settling behind the 2-story buildings ringing the mosque, Dan and I walked through the traffic, by eateries selling kebabs and bookstores specializing in Arabic. It reminded me of Egypt, of Turkey, even Morocco.
But that's not the whole city. Also, there's a bustle in the air, a sense of commerce and focus on the future that reminds me of China. The traffic and street sellers have more in common with their eastern neighbors, I feel.
Yesterday, on our walk, we passed a group of restaurants that could have been in any city in China—except for the features of the people running them and the lack of chopsticks. They were that garage-style restaurant where the door opens, a long low table is built all the way around the edge, the food is cooked on a movable propane stove at the front of the store and customers perch on small plastic chairs while they eat.
New Delhi's residents seem proud of their home; on the train we sat next to a man who told us that we could see Delhi in two days. Then, however, he started to explain all the things we could do. The two days would stretch to two weeks, it seemed, if we followed all his recommendations. Then, there was the couple we shared a table with at a busy kebab restaurant in upmarket Connaught Place. They saw us searching our Lonely Planet for cafes graced with wifi. They suggested a few more spots, making sure we knew if they were "in" or not.
So far, we haven't done much official sight-seeing. The city is overwhelming enough just looking at things from the streets. We're staying in what seems to be backpacker central, a less commercialized version of Bangkok's Khao San Road or Yangshuo's West Street. Amid the shops selling wry T-shirts and hookahs, past the cafes touting Italian, Mexican and Israeli foods, there's still a lot of local action here. Cows wander slowly through the impatient pedi-cab and motorcycle traffic, tiny temples waft incense to the streets, and local women in saris and delicate gold nose-rings do their shopping next to young European tourists with dreadlocks, tattoos and a different kind of nose-ring altogether.
We did spend an afternoon at the Indian National Museum, a four-story walk through time, from the Harappan Civilization to present day. Most fascinating were the exhibits on miniature paintings and ancient armor. The museum entrance fee for foreigners included an audio guide, which was interesting. All tourist attractions we've been to in India have different prices for locals and for foreigners.
Today or tomorrow we hope to check out the massive Red Fort and the city's famous bazaars.
**Click here to see our photos of Delhi!**