A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Agra Fort lies 2.5 km (1.5 miles) away from its sister monument, the renowned Taj Mahal. At one time it served as the residence of Mughal emperors. The fort is a colossal structure, surrounded by a grand moat and stretching across 380 000 square metres (455 000 square yards), with 20 metre (70 foot) high impenetrable walls surrounding a group of buildings laid out in a semi-circle. The fort stretches along the banks of the Yamuna River and its impressive walls look out onto the river waters, boasting paired bulwarks with immense circular bastions, ramparts and other ornamental features. The fort is a beautiful example of Mughal design, featuring a combination of Islamic, Persian, Turkish and South-Asian architecture. It is decorated with the region’s famous pietra dura inlays, which feature semi-precious stones carefully inset into beautiful white marble in intricate designs. Its imposing exterior walls are made of burgundy sandstone and dominate the landscape, today attracting travellers but once responsible for striking fear into the hearts of invaders.
The famous Hathi Pol, or Elephant Gate, is guarded by two live-sized elephant statues. The fort is also home to other renowned monuments, such as the Moti Masjid, likened to a shimmering pearl, the Diwan-e-Am and, Diwan-e-Khas, which served as the halls of public and private audience, hosting kings, dignitaries and ambassadors, and the Sheesh Mahal, decorated with thousands of tiny mirrors. Also within the fort’s walls is the Jehangir Mahal, which functioned as the principal zenana, housing the female royal household, whilst the Khaas Mahal, bedecked with rich blues and gold inlets reserved for royals, was bequeathed to the much-loved daughters of the Emperor. The Musamma Burj is an octagonal tower adjacent to the Emperor Shah Jahan’s private hall, the Diwan-e-Khas, and was once home to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, before she was laid to rest in the Taj Mahal. It is also here that Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned by his son and where he lived out his final years gazing across the river at his magnificent monument to his lost love.