|Today we took the local bus from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri.....and arrived for a visit to the ancient ghost palace. This city was built by Emperor Akbar between 1570 and 1585 AD but was virtually abandoned within twenty years, for state reasons, and not for lack of water as legends have it. The palace had a life size Parchesi game board, for which Akbar is said to have used slave-girls as game pieces. Next to the old palace is the Jami Masjid Mosque, which contains the tombs of several royals, but it is the tomb of the Sufi saint, Salim Chishti that is the most elaborate as it is he who inspired the building of the city of Fatehpur in the first place based upon his prophecy that Akbar would have three sons and when this prophecy came true, Akbar built the city of Fatehpur in his honor after Salim Chishti died in 1571. Upon completing our tour of the palace we returned to the townsite where we had lunch at the Ajay Palace. They served us a "thali" which is a fixed vegetarian plate which consisted of rice, potatoes and spinach, mixed vegetables and dal (a spicy sauce made with lentils) along with some yoghurt. The owner served us some of his homemade hot pepper pickles and was also very proud of the fact that the yoghurt was made from the milk of the four water buffalo that he owned. Owning animals seems to give someone a little higher status in the village. For dessert they served a rice pudding with cashews and pistachios which was very good. After our visit at Fatehpur Sikri we rode by Jeep to the city of Bharatpur where we visited the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary. For some reason the driver assumed we had to be there yesterday and drove like a madman possessed and was passing other vehicles, cattle and people left, right and centre, all the while with oncoming traffic and sometimes you wondered who was going to blink and move over first. We arrived safe and sound and checked into The Birder's Inn where we got an opportunity to get cleaned up before heading out to the bird sanctuary. The sanctuary was originally used by the Maharajah of Bharatpur and his guests for duck shooting until 1956 and in 1983 it was declared a national park. It now has over 400 species of local and migratory birds depending on the season and the droughts. We were driven around the bird park by amateur ornithologists on cycle rickshaw and enjoyed the tranquil surroundings and were able to see many species of birds as well as monkeys, turtles, jackals, antelope, deer and holy cows. It was very peaceful and relaxing........