Region:
India
Category:
Tourism

Taj Mahal reopens after 6 months of coronavirus lockdown

  • Taj Mahal reopens after 6 months of coronavirus lockdown
    Only 5,000 visitors are allowed daily Taj Mahal reopens after 6 months of coronavirus lockdown
  • Taj Mahal reopens after 6 months of coronavirus lockdown
    Only 5,000 visitors are allowed daily Taj Mahal reopens after 6 months of coronavirus lockdown
Region:
India
Category:
Tourism
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Only 5,000 visitors are allowed daily – a quarter of usual capacity – and all have their temperature taken by staff wearing face shields, masks and gloves.

 

The Taj Mahal, India’s “monument to love”, has reopened after a six-month hiatus with special rules introduced – including no touching the white marble walls of the mausoleum built for a Mughal emperor’s favourite wife.

Only 5,000 visitors are allowed daily – a quarter of usual capacity – and all have their temperature taken by staff wearing face shields, masks and gloves.

Visitors can whip off their masks for a photo, but security personnel are quick to remind them to put them back on once the shutter has been pressed.

And the famous bench where people usually sit to have their picture taken has been laminated in plastic, to help cleaning between every photo op.

“We have all the safety measures in place,” said Vasant Swarnkar from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which oversees the Unesco world heritage site in Agra, south of Delhi.

“We want to send out the message that things are not so bad and you will be safe if you follow the instructions.”

Neither the new rules nor the dangers of catching the coronavirus put off a steady stream of visitors to the breathtaking 17th-century monument on Monday morning.

“The moment I heard the Taj is reopening I decided to visit. I had been planning it for so many years,” said 25-year-old Debargha Sengupta, an engineer who took a train from Allahabad 500km (300 miles) away.

“It’s amazing, it’s incredible. I had read about the Taj in books and seen the pictures but to see it [for] real is so amazing,” he told AFP.

“I am not worried about the coronavirus. It’s been six months and I am totally fed up now. We cannot sit at home forever.”

The return of visitors is a huge relief to the many people of Agra who depend on Taj Mahal tourists for their livelihoods.

“It was so frustrating to sit idle at home for six months,” said an elated Zahid Baig, a rickshaw driver.

“Agra looked like a ghost city without the Taj tourists,” he said.

The reopening comes as the Indian government seeks to get Asia’s third-largest economy moving again even as virus cases rise.

So far it has recorded more than 5.4 million coronavirus cases – second only to the US, which it could overtake in the coming weeks.

A lockdown imposed in March left tens of millions out of work almost overnight, while the economy shrank by almost a quarter between April and June.

“People have suffered a lot and it is time the country opens up fully,” said 35-year-old Ayub Sheikh, a bank official visiting with his wife and baby daughter.

“We are not afraid of the virus. If it has to infect us, it will,” he told AFP.

“Not many people are dying now. I don’t think it is going to go away soon. We have to get used to it now.”