India’s “monument of love”, the Taj Mahal, has reopened after a gap of six months, introducing special rules.
Only 5,000 visitors a day are allowed – a quarter of the usual capacity – and all temperatures are taken by staff wearing face shields, masks and gloves.
Visitors can flog their masks for the photo, but security personnel quickly remind them to put them back once the shutters are pressed.
And the famous benches where people usually sit to take their pictures have been cut into pieces to help clean up between each picture.
“We have all the security measures in place,” said Vasant Swarnakar of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Agra, south of Delhi.
“We want to send a message that things are not so bad and that you will be safe if you follow the instructions.”
Neither the new rules nor the dangers of catching the corona virus permanently shut down visitors to this beautiful 17th-century monument on Monday morning.
“When I heard that the crown was reopening, I decided to visit. “I had planned it for many years,” said Debargha Sengupta, 25, an engineer who took the train 500km (300 miles) from Allahabad.
“It’s amazing, it’s amazing. I read about the crowns in books and saw pictures but to see it. [for] The reality is amazing, “he told AFP.
“I’m not worried about the corona virus. It’s been six months and I’m so tired. We can’t sit at home forever.
The return of visitors is a great relief to many people in Agra who depend on Taj Mahal tourists for their livelihood.
Rickshaw driver Zahid Baig said, “It was very frustrating to be homeless for six months.
“Agra Taj looked like a ghost town without tourists,” he said.
The reopening comes as the Indian government seeks to revitalize Asia’s third-largest economy despite an increase in virus cases.
It has so far recorded more than 5.4 million cases of the corona virus – the second highest in the United States in the coming weeks.
The lockdown in March resulted in millions losing work overnight, while the economy nearly collapsed between April and June. Changed to a quarter.
“People have suffered a lot and now is the time for the country to be fully open,” said Ayub Sheikh, a 35-year-old bank official who met his wife and daughter.
We are not afraid of viruses. “If it has to impress us, it will,” he told AFP.
“A lot of people aren’t dying now. I don’t think it’s going to go away any time soon. We just have to get used to it.”
There were very few foreigners there on Monday as India has not yet opened up to international tourists.
But Anhu Mercury from Spain, who lives in India, traveled.
“The corona virus is present in every country,” Para told AFP after taking selfies with her husband and two friends.
“We have to be careful, but if we have an infection, we will do it.”
The allure of this monument, which was erected by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan around 16 1630 for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, remains intact.
“The crown has a magnetic effect on people. They are crazy about it, “said Vasant of ASI.
“Everyone wants to visit it at least once in their life.”
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