Arabian nights in Jaisalmer
by Shubha Apte
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)
A view of the Jaisalmer city from top of the fort
Arabian nights in Jaisalmer- College friends reunite to explore the golden city
What do you need more in life than good friends and great adventures?
I reunited in the golden city with four of my college friends after four decades. We decided to embark on a journey of adventure and travel together to experience the sand dunes of Jaisalmer and make shared memories. Our craving for Rangilo Rajasthan made us zero in on Jaisalmer. The excitement of meeting after such a long time was going to be an experience. Each one of us was looking forward to this reunion. It took us almost three months of planning, booking hotels, air and train tickets, planning the itinerary etc. The excitement was palpable. Technology made it possible for us to reconnect and plan this holiday.
Where is Jaisalmer?
Standing in the heart of the Thar desert with its limitless expanse of sand, Jaisalmer reminds you of the Arabian Nights fables. It is situated in the state of Rajasthan in northwest India, just a stone's throw away from the Pakistan border.
Each of us came from a different city in India. We had all decided to meet in Jaipur and then travel by road to Jaisalmer. The entire drive was spent catching up about the years gone by. Each of us had a story to tell. We had hired a cab from Jaipur, which would take us to Jaisalmer, show us the sand dunes in and around the fort city and bring us back to Jaipur. Our stay in Jaisalmer was for two nights and in Jaipur for one night.The journey from Jaipur to Jaisalmer
"There is an unspoken bond you create with the friends you travel with." – Kristen Sarah.
The distance from Jaipur to Jaisalmer is about 580 kms. It took us about 5 hours, with a few coffee and tea breaks. It would be a crime to travel on a highway without stopping over and enjoying a cup of dhaba chai. Sipping tea on the road reminded us of some of the best times during college trips. Travelling together, we created some beautiful memories.
The road is good, and since the driver was from the same area, he knew some of the less crowded routes. We passed through several small villages where we could see tribal ladies dressed in their colourful attires.
We reached Jaisalmer after sunset. Generally, the deserts get cooler at night. We checked into Hotel Lalgarh, where a hot dinner was waiting for us. After about eight hours on the road, the sight of hot food and its aroma was very inviting. We could feel the cool breeze as we attacked the hot and spicy Rajasthani food in the hotel's rooftop restaurant. Jaisalmer Fort was in the background, and the fort was lighted, which provided a spectacular view from the terrace. We were tired and hungry, but we had so much to catch up on that none of us were willing to retire for the night. Exploring Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer is also called the "The Golden City", because it stands on a ridge of yellow sandstone. Jaisalmer Fort has a royal palace and Jain temples. Many famous Indian movies have been filmed in this desert city.
Our first destination was the fort, situated on the Meru hill the following day. It is also called the Sonar Kila because it is of yellow stone. The fort was visible from our hotel terrace. The golden glow during sunrise was spectacular. The fort has impressive architecture and provides a glimpse of the bygone era. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. One-fourth of the city's population still resides in the fort. It is one of the few living forts in the world.
You cannot take your cars inside the fort since it has very narrow lanes, through which only two or three-wheelers can move, or you have to walk, so we had to park our car outside the fort area.
One of the main attractions inside the fort was the "battle gun", which is at the top of the fort. The Jaisalmer maharajas used it to defend themselves during the war. From this place at the top, you can see the whole city. You feel like sitting there for a long.
It took us a couple of hours to see the entire fort and visit the gem and jewellery shops and Jain temples in the fort. There are hotels, homestays and restaurants inside the fort area, which gives you a local feel. Since it was lunchtime, we decided to have lunch with some locals residing in the fort. They serve home-cooked authentic Rajasthani cuisine. Rajasthani food is spicy, and the food style of this desert city and the entire state is affected by the natural topography. It is known for its spicy curries and delicious sweets. Because it is a desert, there is a lack of leafy green vegetables. Instead locals use lentils, pulses, legumes, milk, curd, ghee and buttermilk. You cannot miss the famous dalbati (Rajasthani dish) while in Jaisalmer.
During lunch, the locals shared fascinating stories and traditions of the local communities.
In the evening, we decided to come back to the market square outside the fort entrance to check out handicrafts, souvenirs, and exquisite silver jewellery. Before visiting the market square, we decide to head to Gadisar Lake. This is an artificial lake to sustain and provide water for the whole town. Boating here is one of the main attractions. Near the Gadisar lake, several photographers offered to provide us with Rajasthani dresses and click pictures. All of us took turns dressing up and getting photographed. It was an excellent opportunity to create memories to remind us of our trip.
The next biggest attraction was the haveli. On the second day morning, we visited the havelis. It is a historical site. Beautiful and intricate carvings adorn the windows and balconies of Patwon Ki Haveli. It is a cluster of five small havelis. Inside the haveli, there is a museum where you can see an artefact collection that gives you a glimpse of the culture of the bygone era. Since photography is allowed inside the haveli, we decided to pose for beautiful pictures. We wandered through the haveli's since every nook and corner had something interesting to see.
After a short break, we were looking forward to visiting the SAM sand dunes, camel rides and campfires with music and folk dances.
On our way to the Sam sand dunes, we stopped over to visit the haunted village of Kuldhara. Set 200 years ago, the Paliwal Brahmin community vanished overnight, leaving behind a ghost village to narrate the tale. We stepped inside some of the abandoned homes. From the terrace of some of these houses, you can get a glimpse of the abandoned village. The whole village wears a desolate look. Since the sun was about to set, we decided to move on as it was getting quite eerie. Many interesting stories float around this place about the haunted village.
We spent a long time enjoying the vast expanse of sand, walking, and taking turns on camel rides. Our group decided to take a camel cart ride to reach the sunset point. The sunset is spectacular. There is nothing like watching a beautiful sunset to end a day. It had started getting dark as we made our way back to the main road leading us to Jaisalmer. After the mesmerizing sunset, we were looking forward to the desert camp to enjoy the campfire, music and local folk dance show by the local community.
"Drifting across the vast space, silent except for wind and footsteps, I felt uncluttered and unhurried for the first time in a while, already on desert time."
- Rebecca Solnit
Wrapping up the fun- travelling back through Pushkar and Ajmer -
After two eventful days in Jaisalmer, we started our return journey to Jaipur. We decided to travel through Pushkar and Ajmer on our way back to Jaipur. We were keen to visit the temple town of Pushkar.
We reached Pushkar around 4 pm and headed straight to the temple area. Snuggled in the lap of Aravalli hills and near the serene Pushkar lake is the Brahma temple. Temples and 52 ghats surround the lake. It is believed that if a person takes a dip in the lake on Karthik Purnima, it clears one from all sins and cures all skin diseases.
After spending some time window shopping in the shops near the temple and feasting on hot chai and some snacks, we started for Jaipur.
We reached Jaipur at about 9 pm and headed straight for dinner. Since all of us had early morning flights to catch and head home, we decided to call it a day. Promising to meet again on our next trip, we bid goodbyes. We created new invaluable memories from this trip.
The nearest airport for Jaisalmer in Jodhpur. You can drive from Jaipur to Jaisalmer. The distance is about 580Kms. Jaisalmer is also well connected by rail with New Delhi.
Jaisalmer has many good hotels to suit every budget.
For additional information on Jaisalmer, you can refer to the guide at https://www.kayak.co.in/Jaisalmer.44485.guide.