INDIA … Jaisalmer, four Arabian Nights!

Tues 12th January 2010

Driving through the very overcast skies passing round thatched mud huts over sparsely vegetated landscape, we almost imagined we could have been travelling through an African landscape, especially after spotting gazelle. The drive was extremely easy with the level of traffic I can only compare to that of the outback in Australia, it felt good after the manic noise and activity of Jodhpur.

Five hours later we were approaching Jasailmer which is the only town between us and Pakistan, being only 60kms distant. Evidence of the military is around, with the biggest armoured tanks I have seen and hundreds of windmills on the horizon which are used to power the military camps and the lighting of the border fence.

But the main reason we were here was to stay in the Jasailmer Fort, ‘Sona Qila’ (golden hued fort) which stands tall on a rocky plateau in the midst of the plains of the Thar Desert.

Built in the 12c is has a wonderful medieval atmosphere which is alive and kicking with the two thousand plus inhabitants that live within its walls. In fact it is the oldest lived in fort in the world but is in jeopardy due to increased water consumption and subsidence of the sandstone buildings. A centuries old open drainage system is constantly causing the soft clay, sandstone base below to subside.

As the lanes within the fort are no more than 4 metres wide and cars are not possible, we were met outside the one and only fort entrance by an auto rickshaw to transfer us to our hotel via four successive gates. Climbing up through the ramparts over cobbled streets that have had such a violent past of twelve year Rajput / Moghul battles, we felt we were entering into a living world of the Arabian Nights.

Arriving at Hotel Rajmandir we were shown our semi-circular room which is built into one of the barrel-sided 99 bastions that form the fort with spectacular views over Jaisalmer 100 metres below. Stone walls and ceilings furnished with medieval wooden furniture and lush Indian fabrics made it feel like staying in a castle.

Suresh the owner runs this intimate five roomed hotel with the help of two Nepalese boys who serve chai, snacks and beer on request. It is a great place to stay and already we wish we were staying more than four nights.

However, most people who come to Jaisalmer only stay one night so at least we have more time to luxuriate and soak up the atmosphere of this beautifully relaxed town. My camera is going to snapping nineteen to the dozen!

Our hotel room is top right look for the yellow tank highest poit and it is the bastion below.

Internet is slow and hit n miss here as are power cuts so apologies for not replying to emails as often!

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