I have been to the Taj Mahal three times so that probably answers the question!
A close-up of the famous Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal, located in the city of Agra in India, is one of the great 'Wonders of the World.'
And the problem with that description is 'expectation.'
What am I going to see? How will I feel? Is it just another building? Should I travel to India to see it? Is it worth it?
It depends on what floats your boat, but my first time seeing the Taj Mahal in 2000, 22 years ago, was memorable enough to keep me coming back.
I have seen countless surprising delights while travelling, living and working in India for two decades, but few meet the splendour of this most iconic of world wonders.
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum constructed in 1632 to house the tomb of the mogul Emporer, Shah Jahan's favourite wife.
His wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died in childbirth.
When I first saw the Taj Mahal, it was unreal. It is such an iconic monument.
As I neared the entrance gate to the complex, the Taj Mahal appeared, centred, through a silhouette of a stone, often photographed by visitors.
And it was so much better in real life than the picture could convey.
It's much larger than I had imagined. It's imposing and striking and changes colour and mood along with the sky.
It's symmetrical and bold yet also has a delicate, fragile quality, with precious gemstones and thoughtful carvings, along with the often translucent marble.
A stunning piece of architecture, taking 20 years and 22,000 labourers and skilled artisans to construct, it stands as it did years ago, as a monument to a decadent era in Indian history and a beloved wife.
In today's money, the budget for the 42-acre complex is $70 billion, which seems like a budget blowout!
An intriguing detail about the construction relates to the four minarets or towers on the sides of the main building.
The design ensured the towers would fall outwards should an earthquake occur, thus protecting the main structure.
View of the Taj Mahal from across the Yamuna River
There are many incredible, romantic and horrific stories and myths surrounding the Taj Mahal.
One such myth refers to a plan to construct an identical version of the Taj Mahal on the opposite side of the Yamuna River, made with black marble.
A popular, if not gruesome myth, is that the hands of all the workers were to be cut off after completion to prevent another Taj Mahal from being built (not sure who was to work on the black one across the river if this was true!).
A real story is that the creator of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan, was imprisoned by his son further up the Yamuna River at Agra Fort in a room with mirrors.
The room was to taunt him so he could see the building wherever he looked in his prison cell but never visit in person again.
The Taj Mahal can never be 'just a building.'
Ultimately I think the Taj Mahal is about people. The people it was built by and for. The designers and architects. And the thousands of builders and artisans.
The Taj Mahal is closed to the public on Fridays. Only the descendants of the artisan families are allowed to visit and pray at the mosque.
And then there are the international people who have visited the monument. Princess Diana is perhaps the most remembered.
A long list of world leaders, movie stars and business moguls has also made the journey.
When you Visit
I take this opportunity to recommend something to those who visit The Taj Mahal.
Take photos, listen to the expert guides, and wonder at the gemstone carvings but take a little time to sit and reflect.
On my three visits, I encountered a unique feeling and quality to the beautifully landscaped grounds surrounding the Taj Mahal.
It's worth the time to reflect on what one person did for another, the architectural feat, the skill and labour of the builders and artisans or simply the time in history.
What did Princess Diana think on that famous day?
But perhaps think and remember the feeling you had when you saw one of the most significant historical wonders of the world, in magical India, and the 'luxury' of such a unique experience in life.
Let me know your experience at the Taj Mahal. Comment below.