Jaisalmer Fort looks like a giant sandcastle rising from Trikuta (three-peaked) hill, as just about seen from the roof-terrace restaurant of the hotel. Built of sandstone and almost covered with sand blowing everywhere - it was windy and very, very sandy. Luckily the temperature dropped as we approached - 5 days before there had been no wind and temperatures reached 52 degrees!!
25% of Jaisalmer's population live within the walled old city which is encircled by 99 huge bastions and the inhabitants used to work for the local maharajas, but today they focus on tourism and spend the day trying to convince you into their shop! The city used to be positioned on the camel-train routes between India and Central Asia which brought it great wealth. In the 17th century it was on good terms with Delhi and experienced a golden age when many of the beautiful havelis and grand palaces which can still be seen today were constructed. When Bombay saw a rise in shipping Jaisalmer saw the resulting decline. Being the closest we are getting to the Pakistani boarder, we really visited on our way to the camel safari in the Thar Desert.
Jaisalmer Fort was built in 1156 and is similar to that of Jodpur just a little smaller and no audio commentary which was a shame! Unfortunately we also experienced a power cut while looking around, so couldn't actually see half the exhibits...so we went shopping for turbans. This seemed to take the majority of the day before heading out to celebrate Iona's 19th birthday (she is the 'baby' of the group!)
The camel safari into the Thai Desert was great fun!! I chose the biggest camel there was, which started in the lead, but being such an old man as he was, slipped towards the back! We covered a distance of approx. 10 Km in 3 hours, and although my bum was very sore afterwards, I was no way near the worst off - Laura's rubbed until it bled!!!
There was shock on our arrival at 'camp'. We were warned in advance that due to heavy winds the night before all the tents had moved to a more sheltered location and may not be up to the usual standard, so expecting all us 12 girls to be sleeping on the floor of one tent I was stunned to see the little marquees set up for only 2 people each! Inside got even better (if this is what people call camping then I think everyone would rush to do it!) 2 beds with beautiful mahogany frames and white cotton sheets, a bedside table; then a separate compartment for the 'bathroom' which had a porcelain toilet, sink with mirror and muslin buckets containing water for washing! There was even an area to stand to shower!! So, so beautiful....
That evening we were given tea and dinner, followed by a dancing display. The local ladies dressed up in their traditional costumes and sang, while the men played the instruments. When the ladies danced they were brilliant. Apparently some other ladies from this village have toured Europe and you could see why! Their dancing included shaking their arms and legs which were covered with bangles that clinked. One lady then arched her back and lifted a note up from the floor in her mouth! Even more impressive was when she did it again to lift up a ring with her eye! The rest of the village also joined us watching and the crowd got really pretty big. Unfortunately, as they do, they got us up to dance, which of course I was totally brilliant at and followed in time!!!!
Jeeps back the next day were probably more hair-raising than the camels, but we did reach the destination quickly and the comfort of the a/c bus!