Throwback Thursday: State Visit to India
State visits by heads of state are the highest expression of friendly bilateral relations and include all the pomp and protocol. The official arrival ceremony consists of the inspection of the guard of honor, national anthems, introductions of the delegations lined up on the red carpet, and may include a 21-gun salute for the head of state (as it did in India). This is followed by official meetings, exchange of gifts and sometimes exchange of national decorations, a wreath-laying ceremony, cultural presentations and tours, and there is always a state dinner held in honor of the visiting head of state.
The State Banquet, hosted by the President of India, was held at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi and invitees included members of the Government of India, prominent political figures, business leaders and cultural figures.
The guests were offered a sumptuous meal of Indian delicacies that included vegetarian dishes, chutney, fish, chicken, lamb. The dishes kept coming - a total of 16 items on the menu.
After the dinner we walked down the beautifully lit gardens where we were offered some spices on a tray, to cleanse the palate. The flavors were a bit unusual for some members of our delegation and the spices ended up hidden in the beautiful flower pots!
THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE: NEW DELHI, AGRA, JAIPUR
Besides all the official ceremonies, we got to see the sights of New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur - India's Golden Triangle - protected by the bodyguards and driven around in a motorcade.
We were privileged to see Taj Mahal, reserved just for our delegation. But the highlight, and the most exotic part of the visit, was the bus drive from Agra to Jaipur when the president flew by plane and we had the freedom to drive through Indian countryside.
HUMAYUN'S TOMB, NEW DELHI
Humayun's tomb is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and regarded as the prototype of Taj Mahal.
QUTUB MINAR, NEW DELHI
A UNESCO World heritage site, this minaret was built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak for the use of the mu'azzin (crier) to give calls for prayer.
TAJ MAHAL, AGRA
The majestic Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, was built in 1653 as an expression of an emperor's love for his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal. An estimated 20,000 people worked to complete this enchanting mausoleum over the course of 22 years.
Agra Fort, situated on the banks of the Yamuna river, is a powerful fortress of red sandstone and a fine example of Mughal craftsmanship and offers a beautiful view over Taj Mahal.
DRIVE TO JAIPUR
The bus trip to Jaipur was pretty wild. We had been in a motorcade all this time and had not seen this chaos before. Besides, the bus did not seem to have any shock absorbers and it was a bumpy ride on a road full of pot holes. The driver, sitting behind a giant steering wheel, stuck his right hand out of the window when he needed to take a right turn. His helper, sitting on his left, was sticking out his left hand when we were turning left. At times, the road was very narrow and we could barely get by the trucks approaching from the opposite direction. I've never seen such fearless and wild drivers or this constant honking!
Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of Rajasthan. It is known as the Pink City because every building within the walled historic centre is painted terra cotta pink.
At the stunning AMER FORT we had a chance to ride an elephant up the hill to the main entrance. The elephants were decorated with traditional painted patterns and transported visitors up the steep slope to the fort.