Sep 30, 2010

Street Scenes: Money Changer, Nicaragua

The moneychangers in Granada, Nicaragua populate the street leading up to the municipal market. They hold large wads of US dollars and some sit on stools like the one pictured below. He is also operating as a makeshift drive through ATM. His customer sits on a motorcycle counting his cash.
But unlike most countries Granada’s moneychangers are not part of the black market. They are bank employees. Have you ever exchanged currency using black market moneychangers when traveling?

Sep 18, 2010

Bollywood India

There is nowhere else on earth where the cinema is infused with a culture more than in India. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, the capital of the Hindi language film industry releases more movies per year than Hollywood. Approximately 900 films are produced annually.
Bollywood movies are typically epic musicals, lasting 2 1/2 to three hours on average, with elaborately choreographed dance scenes. The music of Bollywood films accounts for the majority of modern Indian music. Some Bollywood films are remembered more for the music than the plot.

The photograph above shows the Metro Cinema in Mumbai featuring the King of Bollywood with actor Om Puri. The Metro was built in the 1930s and is the grand dame of Bollywood’s red carpet theaters. It was turned into a multiplex in recent years but the facade still retains it Art Deco roots.

Sep 12, 2010

Jama Masjid Old Delhi

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s greatest contribution to Islamic architecture may be the Taj Mahal, but the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi isn’t too shabby either. Commissioned by the ruler and completed in the 1650s it can house more than 25,000 worshippers and is India’s largest mosque.
To enter one of its three gates you must first climb steep red sandstone steps, navigating a handful of snake charmers, post card sellers and trinket vendors. Once inside it’s easy to see how Jama Masjid’s vast courtyard can accommodate the population of a small city. On the edges of the courtyard are verandahs with gorgeous views of the Red Fort and Old Delhi. I like to stand here in the shade and listen to the sounds of the bustling markets and chaotic traffic below.

Like all mosques you are required to take your shoes off before entering. A caretaker will watch them. Bring a pair of socks if you don’t like walking barefoot outdoors (the mosque has a healthy pigeon population) or if you want to protect your feet from being scorched by sun-baked marble.

Appropriate dress is also required. Men should not wear shorts. Women should wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees.

Jama Masjid is open to non-Muslims seven days a week in the mornings, 8:30 a.m. (earlier in the summer) until 12:15 p.m. It reopens at 1:45 p.m. and closes 30 minutes before sunset. If you plan to take photographs be prepared to pay a fee, about 100-150 rupees.

Sep 6, 2010

Jaigarh Fort Rajasthan India

Just outside of Jaipur is one of India’s most well preserved forts. Jaigarh Fort is also home to the world’s largest cannon on wheels. Legend has it that due to the devastation of its mighty blast the cannon has only been fired once in the 300 years since it was built.
Jaigarh, also known as Victory Fort, was built in the 1700s by Sawai Jai Singh. Perched high on a cliff its watchtowers provide a bird’s eye view of Amber Fort Palace below it and stunning vistas of the surrounding hills and valleys.

Within the walls of the sprawling fort are an armory, museum, gardens and residential structures. An army of cheeky chattering monkeys also populates the fort.
 It is easy to spend a few hours wandering the grounds. Jaigarh Fort is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is approximately 20 rupees for foreigners, more if you have a video or still camera. Admission is free if you have visited the City Palace in Jaipur the same day and present the ticket.