Sarkozy, Bruni round up Agra visit with Fatehpur Sikri (Second Lead)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

FATEHPUR SIKRI - French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni Sunday spent around an hour at the Fatehpur Sikri, the sprawling sandstone and marble township built by Mughal emperor Akbar in the 16th century. Bruni later wrote in the visitor’s book: “Thank you very much for the wonderful visit.”

Official sources said the French first couple spent half-an-hour at the Buland Darwaza and had a look at the white marbled Sheikh Salim Chisti’s tomb.

In the visitors’ book Bruni wrote: “Thank you very much for the wonderful visit”, and both signed.

They appreciated the conservation work done by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and took keen interest in the architectural features of the buildings.

ASI’s Fatehpur Sikri Conservation Assistant Munnazzar Ali told IANS: “They came at 3.20 p.m. and left at 4.20 p.m. They saw the Dargah, Badshahi Gate, Anoop Talab, Deewane Khas and Aaam and Jodha Bai’s palace. The president was particularly pleased with the ramps that we have recently provided for the tourists.”

The French first couple then left for Kheria airport to head for New Delhi.

In the morning, police teams cleared the Fatehpur Sikri road of encroachments. The roadside stalls were removed and pavements cleaned to prepare for the dignitary’s visit.

District authorities in Agra said the VVIPs left hotel Amar Vilas after lunch for Fatehpur Sikri.

On Saturday evening, Sarkozy fulfilled his long-cherished dream by visiting the Taj Mahal, the 17th century monument to love, with Bruni, who could not accompany him on his last visit to India in 2008 due to protocol issues. He had vowed, at that time, to return with Bruni.

On Sunday morning, Sarkozy and Bruni were scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal for another look, but changed their minds, causing inconvenience to waiting tourists. The Taj remained closed for more than an hour. “It was only after the district authorities informed the ASI (that the Sarkozys were not coming) that the ticket booking windows were opened again,” said guide Manoj.

“We had stayed overnight at a hotel to see the Taj after failing to visit the monument yesterday (Saturday), but today again it was kept shut for sometime and there was uncertainty. This is too much. You cant promote tourism like this,” said Venkatesh, an angry tourist from Chennai.

“Learning from what happened on Saturday, and today, and the inconvenience caused to tourists, it is time to have a separate corridor for the VIPs through an exclusive gate on the eastern side. Every few days there is a VIP, and the visitors are put to a lot of hardship and inconvenience,” suggested senior media person N.R. Smith.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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