JAISALMER, nicknamed ''The Golden City'' is a city in the Indian state of  Rajasthan, located 575 kilometres west of the state capital Jaipur.

Once known as Jaisalmer state it is a World Heritage Site. The town stands on the ridge of yellowish sandstone and is crowned by the ancient Jaisalmer Fort.

This fort contains a royal palace, and several ornate Jain temples. Many of the houses and temples of both the fort, and of the town below are built by finely sculpted sandstone.

The town lies in the heart of the Thar desert and has a total population, including the resident of the fort, of about 78,000. It is the administrative headquarters of  Jaisalmer District.

JAISALMER, is the city-Indian tourism forgot. Too far by road from Rajasthan's honey pot destinations of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur, the Golden City is only 131 miles from the closed border with Pakistan and surrounded by the Sandy wasteland of the Thar desert.

I, too, missed it during my tour India's most regal state, some 40 years ago. So on this occasion, after a week in the smog-filled, rickshaw choked streets of the state, capital Jaipur, I decided on a pilgrimage to the last well outpost of the long abandoned southern caravanserai of the old Silk Road. It was worth it.

My trip began by shirking the six hours of desert driving and flying direct from Jaipur to Jaisalmer's  spanking new airport, which is shared with MIG-29's of the Indian Air Force.

I was picked up in a slick  4X4 and driven 45 minutes to Sujan the Serai, a 10-year old desert camp which makes glamping look like slumming it. Even before arriving,  the urban detox began.

The desert air was sharp and clear, the airport road a single farmer's track, as was the last leg of our tented residence off the new and near-empty trunk road then on to to a pillowy, slippery sand.

The Serai's magic formula is simple - supreme comfort and service deep inside the desert.

It must be the only hotel I have stayed in that's sole, brick-built structure was the swimming pool. The reception area, the bar, the dinning room, and, of course the sitting room, and, of course, all the 'rooms'  are fashioned from tent poles and canvas.

For me, the joy of Jaisalmer was not just its desert, but the Fort itself - an Indian version of the ancient fort of Masada in Israel - which perches above 30-metre tall walls on the top of a rocky outcrop and overlooks the rest of the city.

My charming Brahmin guide was Vya, whose family had lived there since the golden age in the late 15th Century.

We toured the ancient  Jain Temple  with its  6,666  idols bearing charming signage :'Please do not Touch The God', visited the Maharajah's intimate, almost liveable palace; walked the  700-year old city walls and perused the still bargain-filled souks.

It is the only Indian town I have visited that can still claim those increasingly rare qualities    -authentic, and  laid-back [Courtesy Daily Mail].


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!