No crowds as Taj Mahal opens after longest closure

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image copyrightGetty Images

legendThe Taj Mahal is located in the city of Agra in northern India

Few came to see the iconic Taj Mahal when it reopened after six months – the longest it has ever been closed.

The entrance, which usually has long lines, was largely empty on Monday as officials waited for visitors.

New security measures include a ban on group photos, entry temperature checks and digital tickets.

The monument will only allow 5,000 visitors a day, as India reports cases of Covid-19 every day.

The 17th century marble mausoleum was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his queen, Mumtaz Mahal.

image copyrightYogesh kumar singh

legendThe entrance to the Taj was empty on Monday

It has long been one of the main tourist attractions and drew up to 70,000 people every day before the pandemic.

It was briefly closed for the last time in 1978 when the city of Agra, where it is located, was flooded. And before that, the monument closed for a few days in 1971, during a war between India and Pakistan.

Selfies allowed, but no “group photos”

The entire campus was disinfected before the gates opened at 8 a.m. and all officials were seen wearing masks and face shields, local journalist Yogesh Kumar Singh, who was at the BBC, told the BBC. monument when it opened.

India has reported more than five million cases to date and Uttar Pradesh, where the Taj is located, has the fifth highest number of cases in the country.

Authorities said there will be temperature checks at the entrance and visitors will be asked to use digital payment methods to purchase tickets.

They were also told to follow social distancing on the property.

While visitors can take selfies or solo photos, group photos are not allowed.

‘It doesn’t look like the Taj’

“But there is no rush, it doesn’t look like the Taj Mahal,” Singh said. “I think a lot of people won’t come forward until the cases continue to climb. “

Mr Singh added that it would be interesting to see how authorities enforce safety regulations when large groups start to visit the site.

image copyrightGetty Images

legendThe Taj Mahal has always attracted large crowds

The Taj is surrounded by gardens where visitors spend a lot of time walking around and posing for photos. But the mausoleum itself is an enclosed space, with almost no ventilation, which makes it vulnerable to Covid-19 transmission.

Usually, it is crowded as tourists enter and exit in long lines.

Gautam Sharma, who drove from Delhi to visit the Taj Mahal on Monday, said he had been waiting for the day for months.

“I knew that not many people would come initially, so I thought it would be safe to visit the monument in the first days of its reopening,” he said.

It is perhaps the most famous monument in India and is usually part of the itinerary of every foreign dignitary.

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania visited the Taj in February. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Russian President Vladimir Putin are other world leaders who have visited the monument.

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