goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Where are YOU in the Dumbing down of America?

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” I may say, except it wouldn’t do much good, as very few Americans would understand me.

Some facts about the dumbing down of America:

18% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth, according to a Gallup poll.geocentric_model-_of_the_Universe-300x298

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs commissioned a civic education poll among public school students. A surprising 77% didn’t know that George Washington was the first President; couldn’t name Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence; and only 2.8% of the students actually passed the citizenship test. Along similar lines, the Goldwater Institute of Phoenix did the same survey and only 3.5% of students passed the civics test.  Try to pass a typical citizenship test to see how YOUR knowledge rates.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities report on education shows that the U.S. ranks second among all nations in the proportion of the population aged 35-64 with a college degree, but 19th in the percentage of those aged 25-34 with an associate or high school diploma, which means that for the first time, the educational attainment of young people will be lower than their parents. And while the lack of a college education limits earning potential for most people, the escalating costs and increasing debt load of young people make the cost of a college education difficult to value. Meanwhile, the US is falling further behind other western nations.

According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 68% of public school children in the U.S. do not read proficiently by the time they finish third grade. And the U.S. News & World reported that barely 50% of students are ready for college level reading when they graduate. Few people read for pleasure and even more, many people do not seem to have the ability to do basic research skills so they accept what they read at face value.  How many books have YOU read so far this year?

Gallup released a poll indicating 42 percent of Americans still believe God created human beings in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. This has a lot to say about science education and the lack of interest by almost half of the population to know basic physical facts about the world around them. 

A 2008 University of Texas study found that 25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously and there is a museum in Cincinnati that shows this so it must be true.dinosaur and person

In American schools, the culture exalts the athlete and good-looking cheerleader. Well-educated and intellectual students are commonly referred to in public schools and the media as “nerds,” “dweebs,” “dorks,” and “geeks,” and are relentlessly harassed and even assaulted by the more popular “jocks” for openly displaying any intellect.  These anti-intellectual attitudes are not reflected in students in most European or Asian countries, whose educational levels have now equaled and and will surpass that of the U.S. Again, just one more way we have fallen behind. When more people are interested in Kanye and little about their current representative to Congress, there is a serious problem. 

And the list goes on…..

So the question is what are you doing to keep learning?tellign the truth


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Maybe a Teenager

Imagine you have a plumbing problem and since you’re the kind of person who can fix that kind of thing, you remove the toilet and then the floor in the hope of getting to the pipe and replacing it. That was Lucciano Faggiano’s goal when he had a toilet problem holding up his dream of opening a trattoria. What happened next was amazing..castle keep interior

When I read this story this morning it reminded me how young the United States is, how short our history, how immature our culture. Maybe a teenager when compared to most other parts of the world civilization.

Who are we to tell people what to do? How can we go into a nation whose culture is so very different from ours that it is almost incomprehensible, and expect to fix it? And when that hasn’t worked numerous times before, why do we keep trying in other places?US-war-graph

Like a teenager with limited experience we keep butting our head against the wall.

Or maybe the people pulling the strings, the power players, want it that way. Whenever the sabers rattle, look at who has to gain. Wars almost always are about expanding markets. Using our young people as fodder, the rich old men get richer. puppet-master

It has always been this way. Pretty sad to think we are in a rut, banging our head against the wall.Again and again and again.

Pretty sad we race around the world to help others when there are people here at home that also are wanting freedom, education, medical help and food. think globally


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Ready…..Get Set……Share

Later this week the nation shares a holiday that Abraham Lincoln set aside as a national day of celebration. Take a moment and read his Proclamation. The timing of it is significant.

Washington, D.C.                            

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Amazing, even in the midst of a war that had torn the country apart, this beleaguered leader was able to express how much we had to appreciate.  So, I ask you, how do YOU celebrate Thanksgiving?  Many people plan a feast, gorge, and then watch football, with no apparent moment of thought to any of the blessings they have experienced, even in the midst of turmoil.gratitude-rainbowspiral1

Several years ago our Thanksgiving table was full. We always make sure to invite others to join our family to add to the celebration. As I tend to do, I asked the people to take a moment to speak of what they felt had happened to them during the year that was noteworthy of appreciation. It was sad for me to hear several adults say “this meal”. Perhaps they were just saying thank you for the fellowship, as it was unlikely that they had not eaten all year. More likely, they were ducking the thought process. As for the child present, she had no idea how to develop the thoughts. This lack I place on the parent, for not teaching values and ethics. Without appreciation for achievements, how do we learn to make the effort in the first place?appreciation-is-wonderful-thing-voltaire

Why is this so difficult? For those of us who daily take a moment either in prayer or meditation, this lack of connection with the Universe is a startling absence.

Start thinking now…you have a few days. Think of the entire year, not just the plate in front of you. Remember the hard times, yes. Remember the passage through them. Recognize the stresses do not go away, but recognize the ease that comes at times.thanksgiving2

To me, this exercise is not limited to Thanksgiving but is one of the easiest days to express it openly. Tell us what you gained this year.


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Reaping What You Sow

Karma…..many of us know the pretty relaxed concept…..what goes around comes around. You actions, good or bad, will come back to you later in time. send out get back

Taking that concept…let’s look at some of the things I saw on my Facebook feed today.

Now this one is probably a concept many agree with. This person is expressing to the best of her ability her fear with the President’s announcement last night to define, by Executive Order, part of the current immigration policy that the House of Representatives failed to work on. It is an important concept and one many support. While I personally don’t see the need to have an “official” language in this country, I do think it is smart for immigrants to learn English in order to achieve the best success they can. I also urge native born Americans to learn English as well.

English language

If you agree with her message, does her misspelling disturb you or do you think the message is more important than the method?

Many of the undocumented workers keep themselves apart and do not mingle but there are many people of all kinds who may be working at low paying jobs and just have a hard time making ends meet. This is food insecurity and it exists in your neighborhood. Here in McMinnville we  have soup kitchens that operate that provide at least one hot meal a day.st barnabus soup kitchen

The local food bank recently reduced what food the soup kitchens could purchase. This leaves their budgets strained. If you can, give.  If you can’t afford to give, go help.

Related to the latest political wrestling match I still saw a number of these today.exec order

The reminder was not only that Republic Presidents had gone ahead to clarify immigration issues through Executive Order, but they also had done it legally.

And speaking of Republican Presidents who used Executive Orders, I suspect the one that used it to make the largest change in our American history was Lincoln. Although Mathew Brady and others were beginning to use photography in the days of the Civil War, it was assumed no photograph of Abraham Lincoln existed until a plate was found and examined closely.Lincoln

Almost 90 years after the Gettysburg Address, Josephine Cobb, the chief of the Still Photo section at the National Archives, discovered a glass plate negative taken by Mathew Brady of the speaker’s stand at Gettysburg on the day of its dedication as a National Cemetery. Her perseverance and dedication to the task helps us get a better feeling for the events of that charged time.

In the midst of difficult times, some people hunker down. Others feel rules don’t apply to them I heard a lot yesterday of the difficulty the Buffalo area was having because as streets were cleared, people broke the travel curfew, ventured out and got stuck, needing to be rescued and their cars cleared from the streets.  It is hard to repress curiosity, for sure, but I hold this person in high esteem.3 feet of snow

Not only did he or she venture out, but they left us something to enjoy. Art wins.

And finally, something to ponder.potential

How do you chose to express yourself?

 

 


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The Way It Looks

The Way It Looks…….It’s not going to be pretty tomorrow when the Grand Jury hands down its decision in Ferguson, regardless of what the ruling is. Presumptions have been made. Regardless, it is not going to be friendly.

The Way It Looks…..People are going to remain bigoted, righteous in their position, and angry as hell. There will be no effort to work it out.

The Way It Looks….there will be many people hurt, many people arrested, many people who feel they have no other way they can express their feelings.

The Way It Looks…there will be many people who will take advantage of the situation to break the law.

The Way It Looks…the cycle will continue.

Unless YOU  change YOUR ways.

Unless YOU step up to help offer solutions.

Unless YOU look in your own neighborhood, your own town to make sure everyone is treated equally and fairly.

The Way It Looks…you will be just as apathetic tomorrow in your anger as you are in anticipation of it today.


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So Easy to Hate

We hated the Jews because they killed Christ, or so we were taught, and so they were forced to convert or killed. Or just killed. Or rounded up into ghettos and then killed.  Here in the United States we restricted them from universities, medical schools and social clubs.

We hated the Irish because they were all alcoholics and took low paying jobs, so proved they were not worthy of respect. no irish

We hated the Blacks because they dared to rise up out of the slavery and subservience we had placed them. We believed they were stupid and unable to achieve anything.

We hated the Native Americans because they had the land we wanted. So we tried to kill them off with smallpox and shuffled them to undesirable land on to reservations.Genocide-Slavery

The list goes on and on.  Latinos, Japenese, you name it, it seems if you are not a white anglo-saxon protestant conservative, you have a group of people en mass that you can hate.

Now we hate all Muslims because of the terrorists attack on 9/11 and the horrific activity of ISIS. hate muslims

There are good people and bad people in any group. In any religion. In any nationality.

When the astronauts traveled into space, there was one comment they almost all had: from space there are no lines demarcating where one country ends and begins. We are all on one small green and blue ball. earth from space

We can have plenty to put our energies towards. We can hate poverty. We can hate ignorance. We can hate the way so many people just seem to be floating through their lives with no effort to help improve it. We can hate the fact that our planet is being poisoned. We can hate the indifference of people to do anything more than bitch.

What do you hate? What are you doing about it?

 


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Fundamentalism is a Problem

Every religion has its super conservative side. The group believes strongly that THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD, WRITTEN BY GOD, AND MUST BE FOLLOWED EXACTLY.  My religion has people who feel this way and so does yours.word of God

Every religion has its super conservative side.   This group denies that others who practice the same religion are members of that religion BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES RIGHT.  My religion has people who feel this way and so does yours.funda2

Every religion has its super conservative side.  Other members of the religion often explain to outsiders that that fundamentalist group is not really an indication of the religion.  My religion has people who feel this way and so does yours.

Every religion has its super conservative side.  Including yours.

If you believe yours is the only right way to God, you may be a fundamentalist.funda4

If you believe that others are doomed to Hell, even if their religion does not have that belief, you may be a fundamentalist.

If you believe that this country needs to put God in every governmental agency and activity, you may be a fundamentalist. And if you think it is the atheists that are the ones who are uncomfortable, you are apparently forgetting there are other religions, so you may be a fundamentalist.Separation1.002

Every religion has its super conservative side. They don’t want anything to be different, ever.  They don’t want anyone to believe differently, ever.

Every religion has its super conservative side. They think women are not as important as men. They think women distract them so want their attire to cover up. They do not accept any responsibility for controlling their hormones. They want to control the women though.Israel Enforcing Modesty

Every religion has killed people for not believing their way. Even yours.  My religion has done this, claiming it is their God-give right and so has yours.

So tell me why you are so horrified that ISIS is acting the way they are?  They are just following the model our religions established.  If it was okay for you, why not them?

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Truly, it is horrific behavior meant to tyrannize us. No question about it. It was tyranny each time in history any religion killed people who did not believe their way. I do not condone it. I just want you to understand there are people in this country who are not Muslims who feel this way also. You probably know one or two.


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Where are We Going? Who Are We Becoming?

Is your inbox as full as mine? It seems that everyday there are more and more petitions to sign, new concerns to investigate, horrors to try to fix. It’s too much. There are too many things that are not right with this world. And it seems like everyone wants my attention and help.online-petitions-movement-010

Each of us has only so much energy. How do you select which concern gets your attention and effort?  I am assuming you are involved in some way to fix something in the world that you know is not fair, is not right. If you are not, if you are completely self absorbed without any thought to your world and the creatures that live on it, you are missing an opportunity to grow. Being a part of the society in which you lives gives you the chance to help make it better, and that makes what affects you better.

Here are things that bother me:

1. FOOD: The food we eat today in the United States is not the same as it was when I was a kid. Farming has become a booming industry during the past 40 years, and as such, efforts are made to produce more food faster to make more profits. That mean chemicals are used to keep bugs and weeds away, to help animals grow faster, to make all the tomatoes look pretty so you will buy them.  But what is that doing to our bodies? There has to be some correlation, no matter what the USDA tells us, between all those chemicals and the increasing obesity, diabetes, and other health issues we have. You are what you eat…and you can make a small change that can have a huge impact.veggies

The most recent farm census indicates that 91% of all farms are small. That means that not only does most of the food you find at the grocery store only come from a new farms,  most farms in the US earn less than $10,000 after all the hard work they do.  That means that your local farmer, the one who is passionate about raising healthy food to eat, has to work another job off the farm to provide enough money to the family to live. That means your local farmer is not being supported in what s/he does well. If each of us spent only $15 a week buying directly from a local farmer through a farmers market, CSA, or direct sales, the shift would be profound.  And the food will be healthy for you, better than what you find in the supermarket. And YOU will be healthier. There are local farms everywhere, even in major metropolitan areas. Go to Local Harvest to find available healthy food choices near you.

2. ANGER: “I want what I want when I want it and I don’t give a flipping care about you. You get in my way, and I am going to get you out of my way, whatever it takes. You say you believe in something different, you are so wrong, have no sense, I can’t even be bothered to speak to you calmly to discuss our differences. I don’t care. You’re just wrong. And an idiot.”  Sound familiar? I sure hope it’s not you with that attitude, but maybe it is. Why are people so angry? Why have we moved, as a society, to more polarization?  And how can that attitude mesh with people who believe they are good people, religious people with strong moral convictions?  I read something a year ago that anger and lack of self control have increased dramatically in the years that GMO foods have been on the market and consumed. That there is some chemical component (and it may be the absorption of the herbicides more that the GE itself, that is the cause) in our food that is causing this to happen. Back to #1 to change that in your diet.anger_management

Regardless of the cause, it has to stop. We have become a society where few assume responsibility for their actions. From the time the jury awarded a million dollars to the woman who put the hot McDonalds coffee cup without its top between her legs while she was driving , people have started to blame others for the choices they make. Each action you take is a decision, even if you spent zero time thinking about it. Each action you take has consequences. Own up.  Think about how your actions are going to affect your life path as well as other people. Be considerate. Back when I was in first grae my teacher, Mrs. Hibbard, rewarded us for self control with one of those little sugar hearts with sayings on them you find at Valentines Day. What little treat can you use to reward yourself when you are nice, when you control your temper?

3.  GUNS: This whole “Obama is going to take them away from you so you better buy a gun now while the buying is good” seems to me to be a great marketing strategy by gun manufacturers.  And lots of people who might never consider havign a gun have fallen for it. Seriously, for all of you who think you will need to protect yourself from a government running over your Constitutional rights, how many of you voted in this past primary?  How many of you participate even at a local level in your government?  If you don’t at least i.e.,vote or work locally to make your town or city better, you are not doing your part as a good citizen to make the government run the way you would like.  Sitting on your butt bitching is not participating. It goes back to that anger issue.feel safe

My concern is that it won’t be people versus a horrible government that gets into a gun battle. It will be angry people versus angry people.  It doesn’t take much imagination for me to see that if we get into a shortage (i.e.,water, food, electricity) that we are in for some bloodshed here as people with guns will be going to get stuff they want and people with guns will be barricaded protecting what they have.

4. EDUCATION: We have become a society which has definitely dumbed down. We have short attention spans. While we holler we are the best nation in the world, only 30% of our population reads. Oh, we have a higher literacy rate, but not a literacy lifestyle. When companies like Wal-Mart put up signs like this walamart-expressit signifies the problem on two levels—that selfishness I talked about above (see #2) as well as the fact that some people can’t read the word “fifteen”. Really? So we watch tv and listen to the talking heads telling us what to think and get angry. We know what the latest movie is and which movie star or singer has done whatever.  But do we know how to take care of ourselves? To better ourselves?  Most people can’t develop a plan of action. We know we don’t like our lifestyle and the fact that we don’t have enough money but we can’t come up with a budget or a way to improve it.

New curricula are developed which have major flaws.  New tests are designed to show that children are learning but those kids can’t read, can’t multiply, don’t know the story of our nation’s history.  Many of us would find it impossible to past the test that naturalized citizens have to take.  We say we are proud to be Americans but many of us have no idea what that really means. Yet our education system seems to be falling further and further behind while the costs are rising higher and higher.

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These are just a few things that are really bothering me.


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Amber Fort Wins Best Fort Prize

Ft Ti firing demoWhen I was quite young we stopped at Fort Ticonderoga in New York State on one of our family vacations. A colonial era fort, Ticonderoga stayed in my memory as one of my favorite places so much that I had my family stop there about five years ago.  Somehow, it had shrunk and my kids were not impressed.

Well, travelfans, do I have a fort for you!!! Imagine, if you will, the Amber Fort of Jaipur, high on a ridge overlooking the valley. Built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh, this palace has it all: amazing architectural details and wonderful stairways and corridors that beckon you on and on.DSCF6339

But first, let me set the tone.You should stop first by the lake and visit with the snake charmer. For a small fee you, too, can blow on the nasally sounding flute and keep a close eye on the cobra. snake Then climb aboard one of the wonderfully decorated elephants

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

and ride in leisure up up up the climbing roadway to the Sun Gate.

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

Try to ignore the vendor running alongside enticing you with an ever declining price for the elephant bedspread he is hawking. Tell him it is made poorly and you have no interest, tossing it back to him continuously as the elephant takes you higher and higher. Remember to ignore the vendor to take in the view of the gardensDSCF6359and the fortress wall climbing the opposite hillside.DSCF6351 When you enter the courtyard and he is losing hope, pay the man 10% of his originally stated price and tuck the blanket away, to be used later to sew custom made bags for people who want one that has an essence of this trip.

INdian elephant blanket And then look around the courtyard.

nancye

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

And start exploring.  So much to see. The stairs beckoning you upwards DSCF6378to the plaza.

DSCF6383The mosaicsDSCF6389 all over the place, in the wallsDSCF6380, in the ceilings….everywhere.

Remind yourself that this all was built in 1592, well over 400 years ago. Enjoy the colorsDSCF6407

and the carvings. Everywhere, more detailing.

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Every ceiling different. And the passageways….follow this one…then that one.

DSCF6402Ask someone who works there how to get back to the courtyard where Arvind asked everyone to meet in 20 minutes before moving to another section of the fort.

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Meet up with the group in time and maintain your good standing. And then go again. See another section…it is a huge place.

DSCF6385Peek out of windows to view other places inside the fortDSCF6398 and the surrounding countryside.DSCF6399DSCF6418

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then down another passageway

DSCF6414through another gate

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

and still more to see with huge cooking pots.

nancyk

and then out beyond the outer gate past more vendors and then a jeep ride back to the bus.

nancy h

Amber Fort……put it on your list of places to visit, but only if you like to explore.  You DO like to explore, don’t you!!

 


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Leadership Issues

He is running the treasury down, supporting a pet project, spending way too much money on that instead of running the government and taking care of the programs that will help the people.

Sound familiar?

Well, I think this proves it is a perennial issue with leaders because specifically, I am talking about the Emperor Akbar (1556-1605).   As for the Emperor, there was no room for discussion in that kind of government; what he decided was done, regardless of cost.  At least we have a voice, no matter how much it may seem to be muzzled at times.

Fatehpur Sikri, the “City of Victory”, sits 35 kilometers from Agra on a low hill of the Vindhya mountain range. Before Akbar, the site of the future city had already been the site of an important battle won by Akbar’s grandfather.  In gratitude he named the area Shukri, which means “thanks”. In Akbar’s time the site was occupied by a small village of stonecutters and was the home of Shaikh Salim Chishti, a Muslim astrologer and Sufi Saint.DSCF6236

In 1568 Akbar visited the Shaikh to ask for the birth of an heir which was promised soon. Sure enough, Akbar’s wife gave birth to a boy on August 30, 1569. In gratitude, Akbar named the boy Salim after the astrologer, and, two years later decided to move the capital there.DSCF6220

As a strategic location protecting inland routes, Fatehpur Sikri was completed in 1573 but served as the seat of government for only ten years.

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The first planned cities of the Moghuls,  the throne room has an intricate carved red stone platform.  DSCF6227

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although only the palace and mosque sections of the expansive city remain, the architectural details throughout the complex are eye catching.

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The city has a series of rain water channels and large pools to capture any precipitation.DSCF6224DSCF6235 pool NancyHowever, it turned out there was not enough water available in the area to support the court and all the services it needed there. The Emperor was soon distracted by an invasion of Afghans to the north and the Mughal capital was moved to Delhi in 1586.

Excavations of the ancient city started in 1892 and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Today the buildings and grounds that are preserved are a small portion of the extensive city that existed in 1585.