The Best Way to Explore Delhi’s Old Quarter

 A Muslim prays on one of the many mats in Delhi's Jama Masjid mosque

A Muslim prays on one of the many mats in Delhi's Jama Masjid mosque

Grab a bicycle rickshaw and know the best time to get to the Jama Masjid mosque.

 

We enjoyed breakfast at the Amici Cafe, adjacent to the Bloomrooms Hotel. This is where I discovered the Amul Dairy Girl on a single-serve packet of butter and where my mild obsession began. She’s the offspring of a ’60s Fisher-Price Little People toy and a rosy-cheeked, cherub-faced Campbell Kid.

After breakfast, we asked the concierge about transportation to the Old Quarter. The hotel has its own travel service conveniently located above the café, which in affiliation with the Delhi Tourism & Transportation Initiative, offers fixed rates. We were able to get a car and driver for the day for about $28.

We were able to get a car and driver for the day for about $28.

 

Heading to Old Delhi

Arriving at the parking lot behind the Red Fort, our driver called a cycle rickshaw over, explaining to us that this was the best method to get to the Jama Masjid mosque and see the Old Quarter.

Initially we were hesitant to accept, believing we could walk, but once we caught a glimpse of the dense, chaotic Sunday market surrounding the outer perimeter of the walled city, we agreed that this was the most practical/least stressful way to traverse the congested interior.

Our driver introduced himself. He was a friendly man named Mohammed. Clearly it's not easy to pedal with two men as passengers. Wally apologized by telling him that we both had big breakfasts.

Mohammed asked if we were married. For the sake of avoiding offense and to reduce any confusion in such a conservative country, I answered yes. When asked if I had any children, my reply was no, which was met with a look of puzzlement, so I recovered by saying “two jobs,” which wasn't exactly a lie, as both Wally and I work. He paused for a moment, after which he told us that he has three children — two boys and one girl.

En route to the Jama Masjid, we passed a restaurant named Sunny Lala Chicken Wallah, possibly named after local entrepreneur Lala Chunna Mal. That made me chuckle.

We arrived, dismounted the rickshaw and were approached by two scrappy little boys who tugged at our shirtsleeves and attempted to sell us stickers.

 

Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque)

Built in 1650, India’s largest mosque takes its name from the congregation that gathers to worship in its great courtyard on Fridays, the Muslim day of prayer.

We arrived shortly before 10 a.m., as the mosque is closed to non-Muslims between 12 to 2 p.m. We ascended the steps to the main entrance and removed our shoes prior to entering.

The mosque is constructed upon a natural elevation and rises high above the narrow streets. It is spectacular, if only in its sense of scale, and served as a soldier’s camp during British rule. –Duke