Agra prepares to welcome US President Donald Trump
Walls are being adorned with paintings reflecting the Brij culture and architectural heritage of Agra, victorian-style lamp posts installed and the lawns of the iconic Taj Mahal bedecked with colourful blooms as the historic city gears up to welcome US President Donald Trump.
Trump is slated to arrive in Agra on Monday evening after attending the mega 'Namaste Trump' event at the newly-built Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.
The city administration is all geared up for the big day and preparations are in full swing to present the 'best face of Agra'.
'We are fully prepared, and we wish to present the best of Agra to the US President and his delegation. At the Kheria airport, upon his arrival, expected at about 4:30pm, hundreds of artists will welcome him with 'mayur nritya',' Agra's divisional commissioner Anil Kumar told PTI.
Security has been stepped up in the city ahead of Trump's visit, his first to India. His daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and a galaxy of top US officials will be part of the high-level delegation accompanying him during his visit to India on February 24 and 25.
In Agra, the Trump family will spend about an hour at the Taj Mahal before sunset. They will then leave for Delhi.
Authorities said a multi-level security cover will be in place for the visit and police and paramilitary and other forces are keeping a hawk-eyed vigil in the city.
The huge police deployment will be in addition to officials of the United States Secret Service, and officials of the National Security Guards (NSG), they said.
The Agra commissioner said Trump's convoy route from the airport to the Taj Mahal will span about 13 km, and along the way thousands of artistes will welcome him with special performances.
'Along the route, 21 designated areas have been marked, some with stages and others on ground level, where artistes will present the dance forms of Brij region (Mathura-Vrindavan), like Krishna Lila, dances themed on Radha, and other cultural assets of the region, Kumar said.
In the main city, old roads are being repaired, road-dividers being painted afresh, illegal hoardings and posters removed, and walls along the route that President Trump will take being decorated with painting reflecting the Brij culture and architectural heritage of Agra.
At many places, artworks greeting Trump have been made by artists, who are busy finishing walls ahead of the visit. Water is being sprayed regularly to ensure there is no dust.
Victorian-style lamp posts have been installed in many areas to improve the aesthetic look of the city.
Water has also been continuously discharged into the Yamuna river to improve its environmental condition, authorities said.
At the Taj Mahal premises, workers were seen cleaning the marble and sandstones.
The 17th century famed mausoleum was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan over a period of about 20 years after the death of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631.
Built with white marble and red sandstone, the exquisite architectural marvel, considered one of the seven wonders of the world, attracts a huge number of tourists from all over the world, and is often on the itinerary of heads of states of different countries who visit India.
In Taj Ganj, the area neighbouring the mausoleum, many shops are sporting a uniform signboard as directed by local authorities.
'About a week ago, the boards were changed to a uniform look for all shops to present a beautiful look. We are very excited about President Trump's visit,' said Pawan Kumar, who runs a 'petha' shop.
Guide Abdul Khan also gushed about Trump's visit, saying it will boost the stature of Agra and further boost tourism .
'The fountains have been thoroughly cleaned and flower pots are being put up bearing shimmering flowers. Taj doesn't need any promotion, but an added spotlight will definitely enhance the glory of Taj and Agra too,' he said.