Delhi, a city people love to hate for its traffic, lack of civic services, civility and now its inability to appear trussed and ready for the Commonwealth Games, has found a place of honour in the National Geographic Traveler magazine’s `50 Places of a Lifetime.’
The Capital and Fatehpur Sikri are the only two Indian destinations to make it to the prestigious list that is part of the travel magazine’s compilation that comes after a decade-long gap. In fact, the first list published in 1999 featured the Taj Mahal and put Kerala on the international map after it was described as `Paradise Found’.
Interestingly, the piece on Delhi has been written by minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor who describes the city as a “symbol of a country on the move, the urban flagship of a better tomorrow”. Calling it the “fast-forward capital”, Tharoor writes, “New Delhi is India’s contemporary equivalent – kinetic, heterodox, anti-ritual, prosperous. For all its inadequacies, it is a symbol of a country on the move, the urban flagship of a better tomorrow. It is leading India into the 21st century, even at the price of forgetting all that happened in the other 20.”
He adds, “Today’s New Delhi – not the musty bureaucratic edifices of government, but the throbbing thriving agglomeration of factories and TV studios, industrial fairgrounds and software consultancies, night clubs and restaurants – is a city that reflects the vigour and vitality of those who have made it. It is far and away India’s richest city.”
Just as historians feared that the elegance of Fatehpur Sikri would forever live under the shadow of the Taj, the monument has found its place as a World Wonder in the Traveler list. Author of `Branding India, An Incredible Story’ and former joint secretary with the tourism ministry Amitabh Kant says of the monument, “In this glowing sandstone city, elegant lattices, umbrella style pavilions, and Hindu imagery meet elegant onion domes and Islamic arches. The great archway leading to the Friday mosque reflects this religious diversity, its surface inscribed with a saying attributed to Christ… Attracting throngs of visitors each year, its latticed walls have grown heavy with the red threads of their wishes as they weave their own stories into history.”
Elaborating on the 50 hot picks as destinations with “character”, the magazine’s editor-in-chief Keith Bellows says, “Ten years ago, we could see the merging signs of a new kind of journeying – one that puts a premium on sense of place, authenticity, culture, sustainability and experience rather than mere sightseeing.”
The 25th anniversary special October issue also includes cities like Berlin, St Petersburg and Mexico City while shortlisting Aleutian Islands in Alaska in its section on wild places and the Hawaiian island of Molokai as paradise found.