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Art Sumo Blog http://www.artsumo.com/blog The ArtSumo Blog Copyright 2015 en-en 2015-08-08 8 An Interview with Javier Santamaria http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/14/An_Interview_with_Javier_Santamaria http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/14/An_Interview_with_Javier_Santamaria

After selling many of his paintings last week, and receiving very enthusiastic feedback from customers, Artsumo decided to interview Colombian artist Javier Santamaria. We asked him to share with us some of his inspirations, and his thoughts about being an artist.

Javier Santamaria is a visual artist based in BogotŠ, Colombia. He works mainly with painting and digital media. Through his academic studies he obtained a knowledge of classical and contemporary painting, mixed media, airbrush, graphic art, and photography. Santamaria has exhibited his works in various group shows in Colombia, as well as in many solo shows, beginning in 2007, at Kether Worldwide in BogotŠ.

Art Sumo's interview with Javier:

At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

Javier: Throughout my life I always enjoyed building with different materials, including clay and wood. I studied industrial design, and realized I would have to have good manual labor skills, and finally, I decided to begin a career in the visual arts.

What inspires you?

Javier: My experiences as a human being, my journey in life, and my own personal evolution really inspire me and my artistic creations.

Who are your favorite artists?

Javier: Barcelů, Tŗpies, Saberon, and all futurist artists.

 I really admire them and their innovations.

What are the biggest struggles as an artist?

Javier: Being persistent, constantly producing work, and the financial torture that plagues artists are major struggles.

How did you learn to start painting?

Javier: In the academy, and also on my own. I learnt formally but also on my own, which was important.

What struggles do artists face, specific to Colombia?

Javier: Financial torture - even if you have additional work, you nevertheless need to continue to produce artwork, which can be very tough when on a financial budget.

How did you develop your style?

Javier: Through my imagination. I admire the future, along with futurist artists, and I try to develop work from there which is dynamic in terms of composition, and also innovative and particular to my own style.

What makes the art scene in Colombia different from other countries?

Javier: Our desire to give our best in the field and our strong traditions permeate many fields of art. There is much diversity in art, from street art to traditional and classical art. Colombia is very diverse in terms of the visual arts.

Would you ever give up painting?

No, itís my passion, but sometimes I have to find additional work as well, but I would never give up painting.

An example of Javier's work, Guardians, which Artsumo featured:


Another painting of Javier's which we featured, Within:

An Interview with Katia Dutra Kimieck http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/13/An_Interview_with_Katia_Dutra_Kimieck_ http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/13/An_Interview_with_Katia_Dutra_Kimieck_

Katia Kimieck was recently featured on Art Sumo - with all three of her paintings selling within moments of posting to the site. Katia is an extraordinary artist from Brazil who wakes up every morning eager to reveal what a blank canvas can hold.

Katia graduated from the Faculty of Arts at ParanŠ with a degree in Fine Arts and a specialization in Graphic Expression. She is a member of the Professional Association of Visual Artists of ParanŠ, and is also a private art teacher. Katiaís style of painting is very distinctive, and during her interview with Art Sumo, she shared how this style came to be, and even sent us some photos of her latest work!

Art Sumo's interview with Katia:

Why are you an artist?

Katia: I always liked art - drawing, painting, and using colored pencils. When I turned 8, I was in the mood to paint but I had no design in mind, so I decided to copy one of Sarah Kayís, and thatís how I first drew and painted hair. Later, when I was 14, I decided to pursue fashion design. What I liked most was creating the model's hair, but through this I also learned body proportions. When I studied at the Faculty of Arts, I learned to draw human figures, and other techniques that awakened my skills, in order to help create and develop my style.

What inspires you?

Katia: Women and hair. When I was a young child, I used to draw and paint adolescence, and as I grew into my later teens, my theme became women.

Who are your favorite artists? Why?

Katia: Itís hard to pick just one, because I like a lot, but an artist who has really inspired me is Juarez Machado, a Brazilian who lives in Paris. I love his drawings, his paintings, and the colors he uses.

How did you first learn to paint?

Katia: In college, I learned the art of working with various types of paint: acrylic, gouache, and watercolor, but I did not like any of them. Then, I was invited to teach private lessons in oil painting, and I accepted the offer without knowing anything about the technique. I brought a bit of various colored paint and started to paint my own designs. I began to like it, and my love of oil painting has never seemed to end. I still learn the technique as I paint.

What are some of the challenges of being as artist?

Katia: Gaining exposure and sponsorship are some of the challenges, but the greatest challenge of all is being, and remaining, an artist because we have to be strong to face the difficulties ahead, and not give up on our dream.

How do you find customers for your work?

Katia: I publish my work on the internet and display my work in exhibitions. I read an article on the website globo.com, and ended up contacting them and selling some paintings. I was really happy.

Please complete this sentence. I would be happy for the rest of my life if...

Katia: Iím already happy, being able to paint every day and being able to devote myself to my painting and my own designs. I am able to paint whatever I want without censorship.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Katia: Waking up in the morning and having a canvas to paint, I love it!

Katia also shared with Art Sumo some of her most recent work, featured below:

the kiss Katia's latest work New painting by Katia
15 Things I Learned in Turkey http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/11/15_Things_I_Learned_in_Turkey http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/11/15_Things_I_Learned_in_Turkey

Istanbul at night

I spent the last month living in Istanbul, working as much as possible on Art Sumo while enjoying Turkish culture. While my first three days were spent getting scammed by a belly-dancing scheme, receiving food poisoning from a considerate 'wet burger', and below-freezing tempratures, gladly, the rest of the trip was one heck of a lot better. The Turks are incredibly hospitable and eager to show you their country. Although I'm now in sunny and wonderful Granada, Spain - I still miss the craziness of Istanbul and have added it to the list of places to live someday. I would highly recommend a trip, but before you do here are some tips for you.

1. Tea tastes better in small shot glasses.

2. You can conduct the cheers of a football match, like a conductor directs an orchestra.

crowd conductor at a FenerbahÁe football match

The crowd conductor at a FenerbahÁe football match.

3. Istanbul is the land of cats! While in North America, people have cats, in Turkey, cat have humans.

4. Speaking of cats - March is the month of cats, so be prepared: bring earplugs and prepare to cover your children's eyes.

5. Forget everything that you know about breakfast. The Turks do it best!

a traditional turkish breakfast

A traditional Turkish breakfast

6. "Menemen," a popular Turkish egg dish, is very different from "many men;" beware of what you're ordering.

7. Turkish hospitality is unparalleled. They love to invite you into their homes, serve you tea and ensure you are extremely comfortable. Be warned, however - they may try to snuggle with you at night.

8. Istanbul's cafe culture has Seattle's beat. How can you argue with free wifi, $1.50 cappuccinos and cafe owners with fantastic taste in music?

9. A nice pair of jeans: $20. A master tailoring by a tailor with 40 years of experience: $3. Realizing I shouldn't buy clothes in North America: Priceless.

10. The nuances of the Muslim world are clearly more complicated than they are portrayed in Western media. While the Turkish government claims that 99% of the population is Muslim and therefore justifies spending tax money on building multiple religious structures, the bars are packed with young Turks drinking, most mosques are relatively empty, and we met numerous atheists.

me outside the house of Baha'u'llah in Edirne

The inside of one of the beautiful Mosques in Edirne. While there are mosques everywhere, only 20% of Turks actually pray in them.

11. By most accounts, Turks don't really exercise - so the girls just don't eat. Makes sense when gym memberships cost $150 USD/month!

12. Speaking English raises the price of everything by 5 lira - 10 lira if sporting a fanny pack.

13. While many think of the Turkish government as democratic, most educated Turks aren't believers. Their argument? A democratic government doesn't arrest reporters, stage coups or require bribes for businesses to keep their doors open. We saw more protests on Istiklal Ave. than we could count and the majority of the educated population are eager to leave.

14. Stepping into the Grand Bazzar will inform you what nationality you really are based upon what language is spoken to you. Apparently - I am Spanish; Lindsey is Lithuanian.

15. The Baha'is have preserved one of the houses where Baha'u'llah stayed in Edirne, Turkey, just like similar houses in Acca. The most hospitable Turkish family takes care of the place and greets visitors. Similar to Haifa, there are plans for a beautiful visitors center to be built, as well as an unparalleled garden near Baha'u'llah's home. Rumor is that construction is scheduled to begin sometime this year.

me outside the house of Baha'u'llah in Edirne

Me outside the house of Baha'u'llah in Edirne.

15 Things I Learned in Lebanon http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/12/15_Things_I_Learned_in_Lebanon http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/12/15_Things_I_Learned_in_Lebanon

In early February, while CNN was filled with images of a Lebanese day of rage, claims that Hezbollah had overthrown the government and a fresh travel advisory from the US Department of State urging Americans not to travel to Lebanon, I was in possession of a one-way ticket to Beirut. Should I cancel the trip? Fly somewhere else? Or, suck it up and hope for the best? After a lot of deliberation, research and angry conversations with family, my buddy Devin and I decided to throw caution into the wind and jump on a plane to Beirut.

In stepping off the plane, I had no idea what to expect: would I have the time of my life or end up in a van with a hood on my head? Happily, the former occurred - we both had an amazing time and I would like to share with you some reasons why I think you should plan to visit Lebanon as well. These are some of the things I learned.

1. Beirut is a huge vacation destination in the Middle East and way more modern than I ever expected. Sure, there are buildings that look like they have been bombed recently, but there is also more Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores than you can count.

2. The Lebanese might just make the best food in the Middle East. Our breakfast everyday? A rolled up zatar with mint, cheese, turnips and spices on top for 1500 lira ($1 USD). Lunch? Delicious, homemade falafel for a mere 2000 lira (1.25ish USD) fried up by a chef that has done nothing but make them his whole life.

zatar baking

Our daily breakfast zatar baking in a brick oven

3. Mint makes everything taste better and should be put in anything possible.

4. Hookah can be found in two forms: 'amazing' and 'it will kill you.' Choose wisely.


Devin is a hookah pro. Personally - my lungs hurt three days in.

5. Americans are more welcome in Lebanon than I initially thought. When we first arrived in Beirut, we tried to mask the fact that Devin is American. People would ask him where he was from, he would point at me and I would proclaim, "Canada!" To which they would say "Welcome, welcome." Later on in the week we were braver, and Devin just replied directly, "American!" - to which everyone proclaimed with more enthusiasm: "Welcome, welcome!"

6. Lebanon is home to some of the best tourist spots in the Middle East. Interested in enormous Roman ruins? They've got 'em. Want to explore a cave with huge crystalized fossils? They've got those, too. Just feel like sitting on the beach and people-watching? Come on by - you are "Welcome, welcome."


These are the Roman Ruins in Baalback. They are enormous and completely under-appreciated.

7. English is really widely spoken and much more so than French. Listening to the radio in Beirut sounds a lot like listening to it in Seattle, perhaps with less grunge.

8. The Lebanese are dedicated partiers. The night begins by meeting up for drinks at 11pm, then out dancing at 3am, followed by breakfast at 6 or 7am.

9. The Lebanese clearly aren't fans of their amazing museums. Despite their fantastic artifacts from ancient civilizations that once inhabited their country, the museums are so empty that the guard protecting it fell asleep while keeping watch (of course we just had to take pictures with him).


A Roman tomb on display in the National Museum.

10. There are two types of taxis - 1) commuter taxis which cost approximately $1 USD to and from anywhere in town, and stop to pick people up along the way, and 2) dedicated taxis which cost about $10. Beware of confusing the two!

11. Similar to the statue of Christ that looks over Rio de Janeiro, there is a statue of the Virgin Mary that looks out over all of Beirut.

12. Opinions about Hezbollah seem to be much more nuanced than portrayed in Western media. Even Christians told us that the Hezbollah folk are not evil people, just people who have political issues with Israel. Our buddy Fady heard we were hesitant about Hezbollah and was so confident that they are just normal people that he drove us straight through South Beirut - the Hezbollah turf. He was right, just a normal, boring neighborhood with a couple of flags.

Guy who kept on trying to sell me a Hezbollah t-shirt outside of baalback

This guy kept trying to sell me a Hezbollah t-shirt. I don't think Israeli customs would have liked it much.

13. Most Lebanese have never visited a Palestinian camp and probably for good reason - they are really run down. They were clearly set up quickly and never planned to house people for very long.

wiring in camp

An example of wiring in the camp. The sewage lines are not much better.

14. Despite the amount of militarism seen everywhere in the Palestinian camps, Palestinians themselves are really nice people. One family invited us into their home for tea, where they had two hookah delivered (yes, hookah delivery!) for us to smoke.

15. The Lebanese women are stunning, no doubt about it. They also have a reputation to ask their suitors to defeat Bowser to stand a chance for their love.

The best art is free: A look inside a few mosques I recently visited http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/9/The_best_art_is_free_A_look_inside_a_few_mosques_I_recently_visited http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/9/The_best_art_is_free_A_look_inside_a_few_mosques_I_recently_visited I have been on the road for the past 2 months, traveling through Lebanon, Israel and Turkey, while working on bringing ArtSumo online. It's been quite an amazing experience getting to know the Muslim world a little better. While I half expected a welcome of "Death to America," I've found just the opposite - incredibly hospitable and welcoming people, eager to show you their culture. Further, I have found the places I was most nervous about visiting to be the most welcoming. Although I almost called off my visit to Lebanon after seeing footage of a "day of rage," I found the streets of Beirut to be super safe and the Lebanese to be incredibly hospitable. Across the board, I found that the Lebanese love to ask you where you're from, then give big smiles and repeat "welcome, welcome."

In addition to the hospitable people, one perk of visiting the Muslim world has been getting to explore the numerous mosques on display everywhere. While some might call Istanbul "the land of one thousand staircases," its more common title, "the land of one thousand minarets," - a credit to the numerous mosques tucked away throughout the city - is probably more fitting.

Below are some of the images of the architecture and interior of several of the mosques I have been visiting. I hope the pictures do the structures justice.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque / Blue Mosque (Istanbul, Turkey)

My travel buddy, Lindsey, and I, like all good tourists in Istanbul, were sure to pay a visit to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. While we both were really impressed by the intricate architecture and painting of the dome, we found the amount of tourists in the mosque to dampen the experience.

Blue Mosque at Night Blue mosque Blue Mosque

The number of tourists in the Blue Mosque is slightly overwhelming.

Selimiye Mosque (Edirne, Turkey)

Although Lindsey and I made the weekend trip over to Edirne, Turky to see the home of Baha'u'llah in former Adrianople, we were thouroughly impressed with the Selimiye Mosque while visiting. We were lucky to tour this mosque with Orhan, one of the nicest couchsurfing hosts I've ever met. We both agree that it is our favorite one we have visited so far in Turkey.

The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne IMG_5971 IMG_5984 IMG_5959

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque (Beirut, Lebanon)

My buddy, Devin, and I visited the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque while touring Beirut. The massive structure really sticks out as it is lit up at night and is located in the downtown core. It was built between 2002 and 2007 by the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was buried beside it. It was inaugurated by his son Saad Hariri on October 17, 2008. While from the outside, I didn't find it as impressive as the mosques above, I found the dome roof and interior decor particularly awesome.

Martyr's Square

The carpeting guides a worshipper how to seat themselves to face Mecca.

Yours truly outside the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.

15 Things I learned in Israel http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/8/15_Things_I_learned_in_Israel http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/8/15_Things_I_learned_in_Israel For the last month I have been traveling around the middle east. My journey has gone from Lebanon -> Israel -> Turkey. Each place has been really unique and wonderful in its own particular way. As I have gone along, I've found various things interesting, shocking and curious. Below are 15 things that I learned in Israel.

1. Anything that can be put in a pita, should be put in a pita.

2. The right way to eat a pomegranate is through a straw

Making pomegranate juice on the streets of Acca

3.Hummus isn't hummus, unless it is said with a "hue" that uses all of the mucous in your body and a force that slightly knocks you off of your feet

4.It's perfectly fine to hold an assault rifle and your girl friend's hand at the same time. In fact, in the israeli army, it's encouraged.

5.Israeli security rate how much they love you on a scale of 1-10. If they really love you, they feel you up and then ask you to drop your pants. Not sure how I learned this.

6.If you have curly hair, tights = pants

7.You can be muslim or christian in a jewish state so long as your family has been making falafel or kabobs for centuries

palestinians making kabobs in jerusalem

Palestinians making kabobs in Jerusalem

8.Mohammed, Christ and Mosses all attended Jerusalem elementary.

9.Haifa = Baha'i capital, Jerusalem = Jewish capital, Tel Aviv = foodie capital

10.The Lebanese and Israelis have a lot in common (including being very entrepreneurial and loving a good shawarma) , it's a shame everyday citizens don't interact to realize this

11.True Baha'is are a really an awesome bunch and come from every corner of the earth. True Baha'is are abundant in Haifa.

My pilgrimage group

My pilgrimage group in Haifa. People were literally from all over the world

12. Much Baha'i construction in Haifa and Acca remains, including: A super structure over the mansion of Bahji and the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, the Baha'i library (which will be the largest building on the arc), the shrine of Abdu'l-Baha and a Baha'i temple

13.The Guardian of the Faith was hardcore. It's mind boggling how he coordinated the construction of so many Baha'i sites while translating so many texts, writing books and letters in perfect english, greeting pilgrims, dealing with betrayal from his own family, and coordinating the expansion of the Faith all over the world. What an example of hard work and dedication.

14.One of the most sacred shrines in the world and the best chai on the planet are a stone's throw away from each other

Tea at doozane in Haifa

The chai at doozane is incredible. Never had anything like it

15.Couchsurfing can either be an amazing or really weird experience. Pick your host wisely.

They Paid What?! Top 10 Absurd Paintings that Sold for Millions http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/4/They_Paid_What_Top_10_Absurd_Paintings_that_Sold_for_Millions http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/4/They_Paid_What_Top_10_Absurd_Paintings_that_Sold_for_Millions Let's go ahead and conduct a test. I'll buy a handful of paintings from the cheapest spots in town - either a run-of-the-mill flea market, someone's garage sale, or even my 3 year old nephew's preschool classroom - give them a bravado title and extraordinary story, and then sell them in one of the famous auction houses of the world. My guess? With the right mis-attribution, these works could sell for at least $100,000.

Don't just take my word for it! The following are 10 examples of paintings that would be considered junk if they were sold at an ordinary garage sale, but because of their extravagant history, descriptions and estimated value, were sold for millions to the highest bidder:

1 - Concetto spaziale, Attese by Lucio Fontana - $1.5 Million

Concetto spaziale, attese by Lucio Fontana

Concetto spaziale, Attese was sold for 1.5 Million at an auction in London. The artist's forte seems to be blank, colored canvas with slashes in between, which often sell for more than 1 million dollars. And so, this brings us to the million dollar question: if the collector wishes for his 'investment' to appreciate more quickly, should he take matters into his own hands and cut one more slash? Is it the more slashes, the better the quality?

2 - Blood Red Mirror by Gerhard Richter - $1.1 Million

 Blood Red Mirror by Gerhard Richter

Mirror Painting (Blood Red) was sold for 1.1 Million. While I actually appreciate the rest of Gerhard Richter's work, I struggle to make sense of this particular one. Is it really just red paint in a slight gradient on a mirror? Perhaps the collector who bought it just wanted to see themselves in a bit more color when looking in the mirror.

3 - Green White by Ellsworth Kelly - $1.6 Million

Green White by Ellsworth Kelly

Green White by Ellsworth Kelly was sold for 1.6 Million. In my opinion, most of Ellsworth Kelly's work wouldn't sell for much even at a garage sale, but this piece is a particular gem. Yes, for those of you wondering, this is just a canvas with a misshapen circle in the middle, and yes, someone did pay enough to buy a small Thai island for the privilege of placing it in their collection.

4 - Untitled (1961) by Mark Rothko - $28 Million


Untitled (1961) by Mark Rothko sold for more than $28 Million at auction. 'Ugly' seems like an overstatement, but 'boring' seems to hit the nail on the head. If your kid ended up bringing this home after spending a year in art school, would you: A) Be proud and hang it in place of the TV, or B) Tell them, "Nice job sweetie! Next time let's make it look like something!"

5 - Untiled (Stoffbild) by Blinky Palermo - $1.7 Million

Untitled (Stoffbild)

Untiled (Stoffbild) sold for $1.7 Million at auction. 'Untitled', like the rest of Palermo's work, is a layering of color canvases next to each other. Even though I stared at this for over an hour for inspiration of something to say, I've got nothing. I guess I never properly learned the art of bullshitting in college. However, this art critic who describes it, clearly did: "Palermo's cloth pictures offer little, if any, variation in tone and reveal no traces of painterly nuance or inflection across their surfaces; they instead afford the viewer a strictly optical experience of pure, undiluted color." Bravo - it's just awesome that he was able to take a description of the lack of variation in the work and make it seem like a positive thing. Go spin master!

6 - Peinture (Le Chien) by Joan Miro - $2.2 Million

Peinture (Le Chien)

Peinture (Le Chien) by Joan Mira sold for over $2.2 Million at auction. While I actually am a fan of lots of Miro's work, this one really seems to be an anomaly. I can't help but think the collector who bought it just wanted a piece of the Miro legacy, when not even Miro's mother would have hung it on her wall. ;)

7 - White Fire I by Barnett Newman - $3.8 Million

White Fire I

White Fire I by Barnett Newman was purchased for $3.8 Million. Ok - I'm confused. Clearly, the people that are buying these paintings are extraordinarily wealthy. In general, wealthy people become wealthy because they are intelligent. If that's they case, then why did the so-called intelligent collector who bought this work buy into this description? "The title White Fire is a mystical term that relates directly to the Torah. As such it clearly invokes a profound sense of the spiritual that Newman sought to instill in the viewers of his paintings." Really? Two lines on a blank canvas mystically relates directly to the Torah?!

8 - Untitled by Cy Twombly - $2.3 Million

Untitled 1971 by Cy Twombly

Untitled by Cy Twombly sold for 2.3 Million at Christie's auction house. This work is literally house paint and wax crayon on paper, i.e. the same material that a child learning to write would use in kindergarten. If you squint a little, doesnít the work kinda look like a 5 year old practicing writing an "e"?

9 - Cowboy by Ellsworth Kelly - $1.7 Million

Cowboy by Ellsworth Kelly sold for $1.7 Million at auction. Perhaps Kelly's history symbolizes to me what seems to be so out of wack with the art world. Kelly studied art for more than four years, both at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and in Paris, before deciding on the style for his own work. After all this study, he decided to create a style which was basically blocks on canvas. To an untrained eye, one might consider that to be a bad choice, since how valuable are blocks on paper? However, I stand corrected - economically, it seems he picked the right style. Aesthetically? Maybe not so much.

10 - Blue Fool by Christopher Wool - $5 Million

I don't think there could be a more perfect work to wrap up this post than Blue Fool, which sold for a little more than 5 million at auction. I can't help but think that Christopher, who specializes in painting words on canvas, had a great laugh when this particular piece sold. When he started out, did he ever think that he could convince someone to buy a work that implies they are a fool for purchasing it? If you did, Christopher, then kudos to you, wherever you are!

About the author: Naysawn Naderi is the founder of ArtSumo.com. Art Sumo makes it possible to purchase original paintings for less than $500. We scour the continents to find amazing artists and we make new paintings available to you each week. Please browse our stock of available original paintings and sign up for weekly updates below.

The best art is free: A look at the art of the Taj Mahal http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/6/The_best_art_is_free_A_look_at_the_art_of_the_Taj_Mahal http://www.artsumo.com/blog/post/6/The_best_art_is_free_A_look_at_the_art_of_the_Taj_Mahal About a year ago, while I was still working for Microsoft, I had the opportunity to go to India. It happened a little something like this: I was sitting in my office when my supervisor walked in and asked, "Naysawn - we really need somebody to head to India to speak with a few developers and get them up to speed on how we do development on our team. We know this would imply taking you away from your family and your work for a couple of weeks, so if you can't go, we completely understand."

While he was saying this, bells and whistles were going off in my head. My version of what I heard sounded a little different: "Would you like an all-expense paid trip to one of the most culturally diverse areas of the world where hospitality is molded into the culture? By the way, Indian food is absolutely delicious and comes in all different flavors." Since I love me some delicious Indian food, needless to say, I was on a plane a few weeks later bound for a three week trip to India (two for work, one for running amuck).

While at Microsoft, I was fortunate to receive extensive lessons from other foreign workers who successfully go on business trips and tack on some time for tourism afterwards. Microsoft pays the lion's share of the trip (the airfare) and you get to see another side of the world. Not wanting to let my teachers down, while I was burying my head in work at the Microsoft office in Hyderabad, I also made arrangements to meet up with my buddy Abhay in Delhi afterwards for week long vacation.

Abhay, who I consider to be one of my best friends in the whole world, told me that you don't come to India without seeing the Taj Mahal. Although I told him "Dooooooooooooood - it's just a bunch of big buildings," he told me "Doooooooooooooooooooood - we have to goooo." His number of "ooo's" won out and we set off on a four hour trip from Delhi to Accra, home of the Taj Mahal.

Farewell India - The Taj Mahal

The Size of the Taj

Even though I try to summarize some of the beauty of the Taj Mahal below, when I first set my eyes on the place, I immediately realized that photos just don't do this incredible Wonder of the World justice. To begin, the Taj Mahal is absolutely massive. I don't think it's even possible to photograph the entire site, short of perhaps renting a helicopter.

While what we tend to see in typical photos of the Taj are shots of the tomb (the white building indicated below), those shots fail to capture that the Tomb is surrounded by beauty on all sides. Behind the tomb, a peaceful river flows, on its right and left are an exquisite mosques and a picturesque guest house, and in order to enter the site, one must pass through an enormous red gate.

I couldn't find an overhead picture, but below is a satellite image of what the site has to offer. I would recommend scrolling around, as I had no idea about the extensive topography of the site until I actually went there:

The Gate

As seems to be typical in Mughal architecture, even the entrance to the Taj is gigantic! Here is a photo of me in front of the gate. Note how I seem to have been so awestruck, I forgot how to structure my face into a smile:


The Tomb

As I learned in visiting, the entire site was built by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his third wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. The Shah must have really loved her since he assembled a work force of 20,000 laborers, 100 elephants and all kinds of famous artists and materials to get the project done. The construction effort took twelve years in itself!

Even though the Taj is a legacy unto itself, Jahan's pet project slowly drew his attention away from matters of the State. Soon after the masterpiece was complete, the Shah was overthrown by his son and put under house arrest. When the Shah died, he was buried alongside his wife.

Taj Mahal

The tomb is said to be the best example of Mughal art. What I found particularly amazing is the incredible detail, particularly in the etchings all over the building. These are some shots showing the intricacies of the exterior:

Taj Mahal Detail taj (detail) India: Taj Mahal Close Up Taj Mahal, Apse

Below are a few more shots showing the detail of the entrance:

Taj Mahal, Agra India Taj Mahal inlaid precious stones and carved marble

The Mosque

While the tomb is beautiful beyond words, for some reason, I took even more to the elegance of the red mosque next to the tomb.

Here is a shot of mosque, taken from the tomb. Notice how the tourists below look like ants in comparison:


The exterior of the mosque:

At the Taj Mahal

The interior:

Mosque ceiling - Taj

The ceiling:

Taj Mahal mosque or masjid ceiling