Agra is renowned for its marble tabletops, vases and trays, inlaid with semi-precious stones in ornate floral designs, in imitation of those found in the Taj Mahal. It is also an excellent place to buy leather: Agra’s shoe industry supplies all India, and its tanneries export bags, briefcases and jackets. Carpets and dhurries are manufactured here too, and traditional embroidery continues to thrive. Zari and zardozi are brightly coloured, the latter building up three-dimensional patterns with fantastic motifs; chikan uses more delicate overlay techniques. Shilpgram is an extensive crafts village close to the Taj Mahal’s East Gate, with arts and handicrafts from all over India, and occasional live music and dance performances. Shopping or browsing around The Mall, MG Rd, Munro Rd, Kinari Bazaar, Sadar Bazaar and the Taj Complex is fun, but you need to know what you’re buying and be prepared to haggle. A lot of private shops try to disguise themselves to look like state-run “cottage” or “handlooms” outlets – an indication of their level of integrity. The official-sounding (but private) Cottage Industries Exposition on the Fatehabad Rd is well presented but ­outrageously expensive (it’s one of the places you’re likely to be taken to by commission-seeking rickshaw-wallahs). Shops in the big hotels may be pricey, but their quality and service are usually more reliable.

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