City Guide

Four hours in Delhi 2007

30 Apr 2007 by Ciprian Hirlea

1 - Dilli Haat

Dilli Haat, Sri Aurobindo Marg, Laxmi Bai Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi, India

There’s no country like India for handicrafts, and there’s no place like Delhi for buying them. Head to Dilli Haat (Sri Aurobindo Marg, opposite INA Market, open daily from 1100 to 0900), where in a well laid-out spacious esplanade are all the treasures of interior India. Haat means bazaar, and master craftsmen sell high-quality tooled and stained leather, engraved brassware, carved wood and an amazing range of fabrics and embroidery. The goods are sold directly by craftsmen and their families with no middlemen involved, as part of the government’s efforts to support these artisans. There are also stalls selling hygienically prepared regional food from the different states of India. What a great way to spend a day or an evening.

2 - Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin

Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Delhi, India

Free on a Thursday evening? Spend it with the Sufis in the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Sufism is a mystic cult of Islam that uses music to achieve divine ecstacy. The Nizami brothers, who continue a 400-year unbroken family tradition, sing devotional qawwalis at the shrine of the gentle Sufi saint. Stepping into Nizamuddin is like stepping into a time-warp that sends you plummeting into an Arabian night’s world of veiled women, Urdu bookstores and glittering icons of the Ka’aba. Dress soberly. Afterwards, you may eat safely and cheaply at any of the roadside restaurants and follow the local tradition of feeding urchins and earning Allah’s approval. For a mere Rs10 (24 US cents) per head, the restaurant proprietor will serve delighted children steaming hot mutton stew with naan. Or dine at the famous Karim’s, whose Mughlai delights are recommended by every prestigious travel guide.

3 - Amatrra spa

Ashoka Hotel, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, Delhi, India

Experience the pleasures of an Ayurvedic massage at Amatrra spa located in the Ashoka Hotel. The abhyangam is a one-hour full-body massage (Rp5,000/US$118.66) using warm, medicated herbal oils, which promises to detox, de-stress and generally de-light! Follow with 30 minutes of dry-floatation, which will have you floating in a room-sized tank filled with saline water, while soft music and optic lights take you to Nirvana. www.amatrraspa.com

4 - Habitat Centre

India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, Delhi, India

Delhi is a pile of cities built one over the other through the centuries. Empires and dynasties have crumbled and passed into shadows, and everywhere you look, you’ll see their remains – decaying mansions, old fortifications, imperial edifices, mosques and bazaars. Set aside some time and slip into comfortable shoes for a heritage walk organised by INTACH, costing Rp30/71 US cents (Saturdays and Sundays with prior registration at intachdelhi@rediffmail.com, tel 91 1 2463 2269 ext 105). Or opt for a habitat walk for Rp50 (US$1.20) organised by the Habitat Centre, led by impassioned historians and scholars who will have you breathlessly hooked (habitatprogrammes@gmail.com, tel 91 1 4122 0000 ext 3080 for the Programme Desk).

5 - Khan Market

Khan Market, New Delhi, Delhi, India

Foreign visitors to Delhi who are in the know, always head home with a suitcase full of books. English-language books are a great bargain, including lower-priced Indian editions. Khan Market has several cosy old-fashioned bookstores stuffed floor-to-ceiling with an enormous range. Visit The Book Shop, Faqir Chand, Bahri Sons and Full Circle. Two flights up inside Full Circle is Café Turtle, where you can read as you nibble on light bistro food.

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