India’s cleaning quandary: How to scale the Taj Mahal dome?

The Taj Mahal, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan 369 years ago in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, typically attracts between 7 and 8 million visitors a year. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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India’s cleaning quandary: How to scale the Taj Mahal dome?

AGRA, India: Authorities in India are trying to figure out how workers will scale the Taj Mahal’s majestic but delicate dome as they complete the first thorough cleaning of the World Heritage site since it was built 369 years ago.
Work on the mausoleum’s minarets and walls is almost finished, after workers began the makeover in mid-2015.
They’ve been using a natural mud paste to remove yellow discoloration and return the marble to its original brilliant white. Called fuller’s earth, it’s the same clay that some people smother on their skin as a beauty treatment.
But the metal scaffolding used so far is too heavy and rigid for the dome, said Bhuvan Vikrama, the superintending archaeologist from the Archaeological Survey of India. He said they’re considering other options, including designing and constructing special bamboo scaffolding.
He said there’s a precedent, after bamboo scaffolding was used on the dome in the early 1940s when some conservation work was carried out.
Vikrama said rain was enough to clean most of the Taj Mahal in the past but air pollution over the last 25 years had taken its toll.
“It became visibly clear it was all yellow,” he said. “It even started becoming black in the shaded areas not washed by rains.”
He said work on the dome would likely take 10 months, starting next year and finishing in 2019. The makeover was costing a total of about $500,000.
The work has prompted Fodor’s Travel guide to include the Taj Mahal on its list of places not to visit next year.
“Unless your dream Taj Mahal visit involves being photographed standing in front of a mud-caked and be-scaffolded dome, maybe give it until 2019 at the earliest,” the guide recommends.
Vikrama disagrees, saying photographs from the 1940s with scaffolding on the dome are interesting and historically important.
“If the tourism even fluctuates, we should not bother about that,” he said. “Tourists should also appreciate they are witnessing the work going on, the right kind of efforts for the preservation of monuments.”
The Taj Mahal typically attracts between 7 and 8 million visitors a year. Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, people are attracted as much by the love story as the spectacular architecture.
“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” said Kent Scheibel, a tourist from Los Angeles who was visiting the site this week. “It’s a living, breathing thing that emanates the absolute beauty of the human spirit.”


Pregnant Meghan takes break from Australia royal tour

Updated 21 October 2018
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Pregnant Meghan takes break from Australia royal tour

  • The trip officially ends in New Zealand on October 31

SYDNEY: Meghan, the pregnant wife of Britain’s Prince Harry, is scaling back her engagements during the royal couple’s 16-day Pacific tour, Kensington Palace said Sunday, ahead of their visit to Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.
The royal couple have had a gruelling schedule since arriving in Australia on Monday, visiting Sydney, Melbourne and the regional town of Dubbo, as well as opening the Olympic-style Invictus Games for disabled and wounded soldiers.
“After a busy program, The Duke and Duchess have decided to cut back The Duchess’s schedule slightly for the next couple of days, ahead of the final week and a half of the tour,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
The opening ceremony for the Games at Sydney’s Opera House on Saturday night was delayed after an intense thunderstorm, and the Duchess of Sussex did not attend a cycling medal presentation with Harry on Sunday.
At the event, held in The Domain gardens, the prince was asked by someone in a crowd of onlookers where his wife was.
“She’s resting at home,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported him as saying. “Being pregnant takes its toll.”
Meghan rejoined her husband for lunch with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, before watching a Games sailing event from a boat on Sydney Harbor.
They are due to attend a private reception for the Invictus Games Foundation at Government House late Sunday before heading off to Fraser Island in Queensland state.
But Meghan is not expected to take part in official engagements at the World Heritage-listed site on Monday, with Kensington Palace adding that “The Duke will continue with the engagements on Fraser Island as planned.”
The pair are due to visit Fiji and Tonga after Fraser Island.
The news came as Harry received an unusual request from some members of the Australian cycling team at Sunday’s presentation — if he could sign an Invictus pair of budgie smugglers.
“Budgie smugglers” is the colloquial term Australians use for Speedo-style swimwear.
The Duke of Sussex declined the offer.
“He told us he’d love to sign them but he wasn’t allowed to,” athlete Damien Irish told the ABC Sunday.
The trip officially ends in New Zealand on October 31.