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Published: March 13th 2013
The Fort in Jaisalmer I
View from the roof top terrace of our hotel, in the evening light.
Jaisalmer is in the very west of Rajasthan, in the Thar Desert. There is, once more, a fort on a hill above the city, this time all in yellow, the same colour as most houses have. So while Jodhpur is the Blue City, Jaisalmer is the Golden City.
On Tuesday morning, Mizzi and I visited the fort that dates from the 17th century. What makes it different from all the other forts we had seen so far is the fact that it is still inhabited. This means that there is a part of it that has been turned into a museum, but the rest of the fort is full of shops and restaurants as well as temples, and of course there are people who live there. This turned it into a lively place, and after our visit of the museum, we took a long walk around the fort. Afterwards, we looked at one of the many havelis (merchant's home).
After lunch, our driver picked us up from our hotel and drove with us into the Thar Desert. We were going to go on a camel safari! We had a welcome Chai (Indian black tea with spices, milk and sugar)
The Fort in Jaisalmer II
View from one of the towers onto another part of the fort.
and then mounted our camels. In order to do so, the camel lies down, you can mount it, and then it gets up. In this moment, you have to be careful not to fall off right away! Both of us had their own camels. For each camel, there was one guide that walked next to the camel. Like this, we headed off into the desert. Camels have a slow gait, and you swing back and forth and feel almost like on a boat. In a shady spot, we had a little rest and got off our camels, then we continued into the dunes. The view of the desert was amazing. In some spots, there is only sand and dunes, whereas in others there is still some scarce vegetation, with brushes and dry grass.
We watched a beautiful sunset before returning to the "base camp", where we had dinner while watching and listening to traditional dance and music. After dinner, we were taken back into the desert because we wanted to sleep under the open sky. The camel farm's employees had loaded some simple beds and bedding onto a cart with a camel in front of it. Mizzi and I
The Fort in Jaisalmer III
Little pavilion and view into the desert.
and four girls from Denmark mounted the cart with us, and like this, we went out into the desert. After about half an hour, we stopped and our guide set up the beds in a little valley between the dunes. We could see an amazingly beautiful sky with many, many stars and enjoy the silence. Well. Almost. The four girls kept on talking and talking and Mizzi and I were already joking that this was going to be our first night in India where we would need earplugs... But finally, there was silence. There was a slight wind, the temperature was cool, but pleasant, and looking at the sky was just wonderful. I must have fallen asleep eventually and had a very good night.
The next morning, we could enjoy a nice sunrise. Then we were taken back to the "base camp", where we had breakfast. Then Singh picked us up again and drove us to Bikaner, where we arrived in the afternoon. We had just enough time to visit another fort: Junagarh Fort. It is situated in the city centre and not on a hill, and from the outside it does not look special. But inside, there are
Haveli in Jaisalmer
The top floor of one of the havelis (merchants' homes), beautifully decorated.
marvelous paintings, mirrors, carvings and tiles on the walls. We felt a bit rushed because we were the last group of the day to be taken through the fort, which was a pity because we would have loved to have more time for looking at all the fine artwork. In consequence, we refused to tip our guide even though he was trying to get some money from us. After the fort, we visited the nearby Prachina Museum where there are beautiful costumes, carpets and ornamental objects, partly showing European influence.
Now we are back in our hotel and will have an early dinner. Tomorrow, we will be heading off to Mandawa and then to Delhi.
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