Founded in 1156, Jaisalmer’s strategic position on the camel-train routes between India and Central Asia brought it great wealth. The merchants and townspeople built magnificent houses and mansions, exquisitely carved from wood and sandstone.
Jaisalmer is a giant sandcastle with a town attached, an emblem of honour in a land of rough and tumble. The fort is a living monument to long-lost desert might, a Golden City of dreams that exceeds expectations of the most travel-sick tourist or hardened history buff. Rising high from Trikuta hill, 99 enormous bastions hide havelis of crumbling beauty, and former Raj retainers, who now raffishly run guesthouses or flog bedazzling mirrorwork and embroidery. Like a Hansel and Gretel wonderland, the enclosed palace is carved from the same near-edible golden sandstone.
But Jaisalmer is in trouble. Overcrowding and poor drainage – coupled with devastating monsoons – have seen the fort sinking into Trikuta hill. Add to that the high hassle factor for camel safaris and your precious rupees, and the atmosphere is a touch strained. Yet Jaisalmer is still the stuff of legend – as the night sky spreads thick across the scrubs and dunes of the Great Thar Desert, most travellers will find themselves happily trapped in this exotic trade route town.
The town hosts the Desert Festival in February.