Delhi is not a city that should be tackled in a rush; the city’s streets are among the world’s most congested and the real soul of Old Delhi only betrays itself to those who take time to entangle themselves in its web. It has been said that if you stand long enough on one of the busy corners in the exotic labyrinth of Chandni Chowk bazaar the entire world will eventually pass before your eyes.

While this may be an exaggeration the Indian capital is certainly one of the most enthralling places in the world for people watching: through the crowd come old sadhu holy men, begging for alms; statuesque Sikh mountain-men, who look half-dressed without guns on their shoulders and knives in their belts; dusky Rajastani beauties who flash kohl-darkened eyes from under semi-transparent shawls; fair skinned Kashmiri girls walking with tall elegance; and scrawny Brahmin cows, abusing their prerogative for right-of-way through the entire crowd.

At the eastern end of Chandni Chowk lies the mighty Red Fort. This is one of the great sights of India and its lawns and fountains are greatly appreciated by Delhi-ites as a refuge from the bustle and clamour of the streets. Likewise the gardens outside the nearby Friday Mosque (India’s biggest) are perpetually commandeered for that other great Indian religion: cricket.

The great sprawl of Delhi defies the imagination and frequently thwarts all attempts at navigation. For the purposes of the average visitor Delhi can be divided into three quarters: New Delhi, Old Delhi and Pahar Ganj. Positioned between the two main parts of the city, Pahar Ganj has become the main backpacker hangout. While the impressive (but limited) Delhi underground system is an experience in its own right the best way to get around Old Delhi is still by bicycle rickshaw. Allow twice as much time as you really think you need…and then just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The geometric network of the new city can be explored fairly well in a single day (unless the traffic is particularly congested) but Old Delhi is the place to stay for anyone who really wants to get to grips with what has been called ‘the Happy Ant-heap.’




By Mark Eveleigh