Taj Mahal ticket price hiked fivefold for Indians

Indians make up the majority of the Taj Mahal’s 10,000-15,000 average daily visitors. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Taj Mahal ticket price hiked fivefold for Indians

  • An all-inclusive ticket for Indian citizens was raised from 50 rupees ($0.70) to 250 rupees
  • The latest move comes only months after Indian authorities restricted the number of tourists to 40,000 per day

NEW DELHI: Authorities have hiked fivefold ticket prices for Indian visitors to the Taj Mahal, in the latest attempt to lower tourist numbers and reduce damage at the country’s top tourist site.
Indians make up the majority of the Taj Mahal’s 10,000-15,000 average daily visitors. Nearly 6.5 million people marvelled at the white marble 17th-century masterpiece in 2016.
An all-inclusive ticket for Indian citizens including entry into the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, was raised from 50 rupees ($0.70) to 250 rupees.
International tourists will pay roughly $19 to enter the UNESCO World Heritage complex in northern India, up from $16.
“We want people to pay more to limit the footfall,” an official from the Archaeological Survey of India, the government body responsible for upkeep, told AFP.
“This will cut down the number of visitors to the mausoleum by at least 15-20 percent and generate revenue for its conservation,” the official said.
The latest move comes only months after Indian authorities restricted the number of tourists to 40,000 per day. Previously up to 70,000 people would throng the site at weekends.
Experts say the huge flow of people is causing irreversible damage to the marble floor, walls and foundations.
Officials have also struggled to stop the white marble from turning yellow as pollution levels rise in the northern city of Agra.
Further damage is being caused by excrement by insects from the noxious adjacent Yamuna river, one of India’s most polluted waterways.
In July, India’s Supreme Court threatened to either shut or tear down the monument over the failure of the authorities to protect it from degradation.
The court asked the Indian authorities to consult international experts to speed up the conservation efforts.


No politics please for Baghdad bikers aiming to unite Iraq

Updated 20 January 2019
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No politics please for Baghdad bikers aiming to unite Iraq

  • That is why the first rule of his bikers club is: you do not talk about politics
  • The Iraq Bikers — who now number 380 — are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths

BAGHDAD: Roaring along Baghdad’s highways, the “Iraq Bikers” are doing more than showing off their love of outsized motorcycles and black leather: they want their shared enthusiasm to help heal Iraq’s deep sectarian rifts.
Weaving in and out of traffic, only the lucky few ride Harley Davidsons — a rare and expensive brand in Iraq — while others make do with bikes pimped-up to look something like the “Easy Rider” dream machines.
“Our goal is to build a brotherhood,” said Bilal Al-Bayati, 42, a government employee who founded the club in 2012 with the aim of improving the image of biker gangs and to promote unity after years of sectarian conflict.
That is why the first rule of his bikers club is: you do not talk about politics.
“It is absolutely prohibited to talk politics among members,” Bayati told Reuters as he sat with fellow bikers in a shisha cafe, a regular hangout for members.
“Whenever politics is mentioned, the members are warned once or twice and then expelled. We no longer have the strength to endure these tragedies or to repeat them,” he said, referring to sectarian violence.
With his black bandana and goatee, the leader of the Baghdad pack, known as “Captain,” looks the epitome of the American biker-outlaw.
But while their style is unmistakably US-inspired — at least one of Bayati’s cohorts wears a helmet emblazoned with the stars and stripes — these bikers fly the Iraqi flag from the panniers of their machines.
The Iraq Bikers — who now number 380 — are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths. One of their most recent events was taking party in Army Day celebrations.
Some are in the military, the police and even the Popular Mobilization Forces, a grouping of mostly Shiite militias which have taken part in the fight to oust Islamic State from Iraq in the last three years.
“It is a miniature Iraq,” said member Ahmed Haidar, 36, who works with an international relief agency.
But riding a chopper through Baghdad is quite different from Route 101. The bikers have to slow down at the many military checkpoints set up around the city to deter suicide and car bomb attacks.
And very few can afford a top bike.
“We don’t have a Harley Davidson franchise here,” said Kadhim Naji, a mechanic who specializes in turning ordinary motorbikes into something special.
“So what we do is we alter the motorbike, so it looks similar ... and it is cheaper.”