During his 2008 India visit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had promised he would be back to see the Taj Mahal.
On Saturday, he kept his word, this time also bringing his wife, the glamorous Carla Bruni, to see the 17th century Mughal monument of love at Agra in Uttar Pradesh.
The couple spent at least an hour at the Taj, with about a dozen officials from France and India accompanying them. Deputy superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of India AK Tiwari was present too.
Earlier, after emerging from the presidential suite of Agra’s The Oberoi Amarvilas hotel, Bruni joined her hands, greeting people with a namaste.
Sarkozy and Bruni then headed for the Taj in a fleet of battery-operated vehicles, entering the monument around 5 pm.
The media were politely asked to keep their distance by the president’s staff. “They (the couple) have indicated a desire to be left alone,” said Agra district magistrate Amrit Abhijat.
The Oberoi Amarvilas redid the interiors to make the stay of the visiting head of state and his wife “an experience to remember”, a hotel source said.
The president has reportedly expressed a desire to start Sunday morning with a jog and time in the gym. “Since it would be nearly impossible to manage the crowd if the dignitary goes out of the hotel, we have requested that it would be better if the president jogs within the hotel park,” an official said.
Ricot Rene, former head of France’s confederation francaise des travailleurs chretiens (one of the five major confederations of French trade unions), said Sarkozy and Bruni were a popular couple.
“The president has initiated several reforms in France and has made it clear that people should put in more hours if they want to earn more,” he said. “Bruni is well read and very beautiful. Together, they make for a nice couple.”
The duo are expected to visit Fatehpur Sikri, which is 40 km from Agra, on Sunday.
Earlier in the day in Bangalore, the duo briefly halted at the Leela Palace Hotel. “I am very much looking forward to visit the Taj,” Bruni said.
(with inputs from Bangalore)