Trumps cherish an iconic moment -- touring the Taj Mahal
Posted February 24, 2020 10:39 a.m. EST
CNN — It's the most popular tourist attraction in India, but for a few moments on Monday evening, all was still while the first couple of the United States took a romantic, sunset stroll outside the Taj Mahal.
President Donald Trump, joined by first lady Melania Trump and at times a tour guide, spent more than an hour touring the grounds, including winding down on a path in front of the majestic white marble building and posing for countless pictures during the Indian golden hour.
Despite naming his Atlantic City hotel after the iconic landmark, it was the President's first visit to the real Taj Mahal, a symbol of lasting love built in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to honor his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to the couple's fourteenth child. Today, it is among the busiest tourist sites in the world; in 2018, almost 6.5 million people visited the Taj Mahal, according to statistics from the Indian Ministry of Tourism.
The tour came hours after the President arrived in India for a visit marked by pomp and circumstance, the quiet Taj Mahal standing in stark contrast to a "Namaste Trump" campaign-style rally earlier Monday afternoon in Ahmedabad, where Trump was greeted by more than 100,000 spectators.
"Do you want to do a press conference now?" Trump joked to the traveling reporters. "Have any questions about anything?"
He called the the Taj Mahal "truly incredible" before turning around to observe its majesty, holding hands with the first lady, who called it "lovely, beautiful."
"One of you is going to get a Pulitzer for this," Trump said to photographers as he posed for a photo in front of the reflecting pool with a smiling Melania Trump.
Like many of the stops along Trump's brief trip, officials took extreme care in preparations for his Taj Mahal visit. Fresh water was funneled into the adjacent Yamuna River to dilute its usual smell, according to local reports.
Roads between the Taj Mahal and the nearby airport were cleared, pavements were leveled, footpaths "beautified," walls painted a uniform color, and the roads sprinkled with water to ensure that dust didn't fly up when Trump's convoy drives past, said Rajiv Rathi, executive engineer at the environment department of Agra Municipal Corporation.
"We have also put in barricades for people to stand behind and flower pots for decoration," he said, adding that authorities are "expecting around 30,000 people on the road to Taj Mahal when Trump arrives."
Despite an initial local report of concerns regarding aggressive monkeys near the memorial, there were no apparent presidential primate interruptions during an overall peaceful trip.
Trump also received a key to the city of Agra.
"This is a long standing tradition, whenever any dignitary comes to the city we give them a key to the city and he is the mayor of the city for the day, we will be giving a key to President Trump as well," Rathi said.
The Trumps paused for several moments as they walked along the Taj Mahal's reflecting pool and spent more than 15 minutes inside the marble mausoleum, according to reporters traveling with the President.
Other presidents and first ladies have made a pilgrimage to the iconic structure; Jackie Kennedy held a solo photo opportunity at the Taj Mahal, President George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara visited, and first lady Hillary Clinton visited with daughter Chelsea during a 12-day tour of South Asia. The Obamas cancelled a planned trip to the iconic landmark, cutting their Indian visit short after the death of Saudi Arabian King Abduhllah.