In the western Rajasthan, near the Thar Desert and the ancient Silk Route, stands the Jaisalmer Fort. I went with Agathe, Vinod, Sanjay and Satyam, my colleagues from Shanti Travel, Delhi. We went visit our partner hotels and test activities that we offer to our guests.
After 17 hours of overnight train from Delhi, we arrived in Jaisalmer. This city, also known as the Golden City of India, far away from everything is full of riches. We first put our bags in Gulaal Hotel which has a nice pool, before going to meet few other hoteliers with whom we work. The hotels we visited that day are located outside the citadel and therefore offer a magnificent view of the Fort.
Discover the life and stories of the desert
At 4 PM, we went towards the desert in a jeep, accompanied by Antriksh. Born in Jaisalmer, he took the pleasure of telling us the stories of his region. In particular, we learned that Jaisalmer and its surroundings is the hot pick for many Bollywood film shooting. On our way to the Sam Dunes, we paid a visit to infamous Kuldhara village, an abandoned village of Paliwal Brahmins of Jaislamer that many believe that have turned haunted in all these years.
The story goes that the some 300 years ago Paliwal brahmin community of Jaisalmer used to live a prosperous life in this desert village. One day, the Prime Minister of Jaislamer, Salim Singh, came to visit the village and fell in love with the daughter of the village head. He proposed to her and desired to marry her by force. But the people refused to let one of their own to get married with the evil prime minister. So instead of abiding by the order of the tyrant, the council of Paliwal brahmins decided to evacuate their ancestral place. It was not all, before leaving the village they put a curse on Kuldhara that no one will ever be able to inhabit their village and to this date the village remains deserted. In the past there have been reports that people have tried to stay there at night but have been haunted by a strange paranormal phenomenon. Today, we say that we survived the evening in one of these villages!
We then left to join our camel caravan that took another one hour of jeep ride towards the camp where we were going for dinner. It was for the first time I did a camel safari, and I admit that I was impressed!
Finally I perched on my camel named Captain, my excitement has taken over my apprehension. To straddle such a strange mount, you feel special. During the Camel ride, I heard Agathe talking to the camel driver, while my mind was following the waves of dunes that camouflage in golden color by the end of the day.
We finally arrived at the camp where we were greeted with Chai, a typical tea from India. We were able to participate in the preparation of chapattis, flour bread that accompanies meals. Then we had dinner in the glow of the sunset over the dunes. It is possible to stay for the night, sleeping under the stars or in tents, but we had a busy schedule so we returned to the hotel.
Visiting the Golden City of India
The next day, after a scrumptious breakfast with the views of the Fort, we started to explore this golden city accompanied by our local guide Khanshayam.
In the entrance of Fort I realized its peculiarity. It is one of the living forts of India. The access to the fort are protected by four successive gates. It was necessary to protect it from enemies who used to attack the gates with elephants! Once inside, it is imbued with a medieval ambiance stranded in narrow, winding streets. The small shops follow one another, inside we see families busy with their daily activities. Then we get to the Jain temples. Khanshayam explains the history of this little-known religion. Please ensure to move in the clockwise direction when you are inside the temple!
We then went to visit the havelis, the mansions of wealthy merchants. Their particularity in Jaisalmer is in the sculpture of their facades: it looks like stone lace. The warm color of the stone mixed with the finesse of the architecture made me realise that why this city is nicknamed as “City of Gold”. We finish our discovery of the city by visiting the palace. Maharaja no longer lives there, but tries to preserve and restore this historic building. Inside, the portraits of various kings helps us to better imagine the history of the Fort.
It’s already time to leave. When I boarded the train, the pictures were running through my head. I feel to have been part of the people of the desert, then a wealthy merchant family, and finally to the royal family.
You can Travel to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan with Shanti Travel by contacting us on our website: http://www.shantitravel.com/en/north-india-tours/rajasthan/