New Delhi (cont'd)

Also visited the Qutab Minar, literally Tall Tower, the tallest in India, about 280 plus feet high--not impressive, I suppose, except it had been built some eight hundred years ago, out of fitted stone. Up close, it's impossibly high and unbelievably beautiful, adorned with carved inscriptions from the Quoran. Beside the tower is Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, the Might of Islam Mosque, the first mosque ever established in India--it had been built by Muslim conquerors from Hindi temples, and you can see the difference in Hindi and Muslim architecture--the Hindi built in a series of interlocking stones, which is actually safer during an earthquake, while the Muslims knew the secret of the arch, complete with keystone.

I had followed advice and not hired a guide at the Red Fort, which made it cheaper (entry into the Fort was almost eight dollars), but there was one disadvantage--every picture I took didn't have me in it; I couldn't trust anyone with my camera. So at the Qutab Minar, I hired a guide for four dollars (looked at his badge to make sure he was official) and he took my pictures for me (still a risk, but a better one, I think. Well, I still have my camera...).

Actually, the guide was a good buy--he had this dotty theory that the Qutab Minar had actually been built by Hindus, not Muslims, who he said were better engineers; the Muslims took the tower and merely dressed it in red sandstone, geometric designs, and holy inscriptions. I didn't point out to him that the tower was supposed to have been built in stages by several Muslim rulers, though he did make the compelling case that the Minar wasn't a minaret--meant to call the faithful to prayer--but an astronomical device. As proof he pointed out the twenty-four sides (hours of the day) the position (outside of the mosque, not connected to it), and the entrance (which faced north, not east towards Mecca).

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