Oct 7, 2013

Heritage- Jaisalmer, The Golden City in the heart of Thar Desert

Jaisalmer in the state of Rajasthan in India is popularly known as The Golden City. Located in the heart of Thar Desert the city is a home for many beautiful structures like forts and palaces built of yellow sandstone and the yellow tinge in the surrounding desert sand make the city look GOLDEN. 

Sonar Quila at Jaisalmer Rajasthan at night
Sonar Quila illuminated at night
Jaisalmer Fort, locally known as Sonar (golden) Quila (fort), is one of the largest forts in India. This 12th century fort is named after its builder Rao Jaisal, a Bhati Rajput ruler.  This massive fort proudly stands on Trikuta Hill and can be seen from any part of the city. In the medieval era, the rulers of the fort had trade connections with Persia and Egypt it seems. 

Intricate Jali work Jaisalmer Haveli
Exquisite carving in sandstone
Inside the fort one can visit the Royal Palace, museum, Jain Temples (have entry fees and a separate camera fees Rs70), havelis. Most of these structures are heavily ornate. The fine carving in the sandstone is breathtakingly beautiful. Some of the havelis are privately owned and hence the exquisite carving can be enjoyed from the outside only.

The Royal Audience has a marble seat perched high in the open. The streets inside the fort are lined with shops selling Rajasthani art and apparel, leather and metal artifacts, sweets and savory snacks and beverages. It is a nice experience to walk around in the streets though the touts sometimes are annoying. One of them even asked if I wanted to have bhang, an intoxicant used in Indian sub-continent. Well, there is a Government authorized Bhang Shop here! Definitely I didn't want to try when traveling alone! It took some effort to push the tout away.

Intricate marble carving at Jain Temple in Jaisalmer fort
Ceiling of Jain temple
There are seven Jain temples inside the fort in an extravagantly ornate complex. These 12th century Dilwara style temples dedicated to Jain Teerthankaras (Jain hermits) have intricately carved marble all over the walls, ceilings, pillars which leaves the visitor spellbound. Interiors of these temples are cool and peaceful. Per my knowledge the temples close at 12noon, so check before you visit. Salimji Ki Haveli and Nathmalji ki Haveli are private residences and have striking latticework in sandstone all over.

I did some shopping here. I bought a shoulder bag stitched of cotton cloth with very intricate embroidery and a leather water-bottle holder. I am not a big fan of leather but, the shopkeeper was convincing enough. Camels are not killed for their leather. Street-side stalls sell farsan (deep fried snacks), mainly kachori and samosa, mirchi vada, mawa kachori etc. I love the mawa kachori, it is sweet. I walked around the market until my feet hurt. 

Camels at Jaisalmer Sam sand dunes
Camels in Sam Sand Dunes
Visit to Sam Sand dunes was another experience. I went on a camel ride. Pay a little more and they will take the camel ride inside the desert dunes. Riding the camel is not very easy when you don't have much to hold on to. When the camel you are sitting on runs on the sand- that is out of the world experience!! Not sure why my camel ran- it really freaked me out! Watching the sunset sitting on the highest dune is fun! It gets cold in the night. Walking on the still warm sand with cool breeze brushing my cheeks, watching the twilight glow was an amazing experience.

Snake Dancer of Rajasthan at Sam Sand Dunes
Snake Dancer
Even though it is a desert city with minimum facilities, Jaisalmer is a premier tourist place! There was some entertainment too! I had purchased a package for the camel ride, snake dance program and a Rajasthani dinner. The folk dance was good, they showed few dangerous tricks such as picking up a needle with eye-lashes! Dinner was authentic Rajasthan Marwari vegetarian food. There were many international tourists some of who were not so happy to see spicy-vegetarian food. Dal-bati, kair-sangari side dish and churma- a sweet, ghate ki subji and few other curries were part of the dinner. I liked it- very different than my South Indian and Konkani food.

I spoke to some of the locals all along my trip. The main livelihood of people here is tourism. From November to February is peak tourist season and people earn as much as possible In summer the city sleeps. People live here with minimum facilities though tourists get better accommodation. Water is precious and education is scarce.  The Pakistan border on the west brings more military traffic on these lonely long roads. Every young man tries to converse with you in English. And ask you to speak only english so that they can learn more!

I wanted to explore more in the desert and so I headed to the remote areas too. The trip to the golden city in the golden desert was one memorable and special experience! More on Rajasthan soon!

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Related articles-
Off the beaten track- Remote Rajasthan
Sunset at Jaisalmer sand dunes
Jaipur, The Pink city of Rajasthan
Gwalior, The tourist capital of Madhya Pradesh
Temples of Khajuraho

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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Wow! A trip to Jaisalmer! I have been there long ago and the Sonar Kella, reminded me of the Satyajit Ray movie! Gatta, Dal bati and churma are just too good:)

    1. Yep, Trip to Sonar Quilla is definitely memorable even after years!

  2. Looks like a grea trip. Love the carving in sandstone

  3. what a magnificent fortress. i like to explore it.

  4. How, I have only seen places like this in the movies. Very cool and I love the camels. Great post, thanks for sharing your world!

    1. Ha ha! Yes in the movies! Camel ride is one popular attraction here.

  5. What terrific captures/post for the day, Kusum!! I, too, would love the be able to visit there, but the next best thing is being able to enjoy your photos!! Thank you for sharing!! Hope you have a great week!

    1. Thank you Sylvia! Glad you enjoy reading my posts.

  6. Fascinating and informative post for OWT and excellent photography ~ carol

  7. Oh my! This looks like a wonderful place.

  8. Wow wow wow - so gorgeous.

  9. Great post - so much to see in India.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

  10. Interesting to read - and to see your photos!
    I lived in India 25 years ago. In Srinagar.
    Visited Rajastan, but not this part.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh 25 years ago! It must have been very different then!

  11. Such a royal place! Would love to visit it. Lovely post on it, Kusum!


  12. India is incredible!, so many places to visit ...

  13. Very nice place. Thank you for blogging..


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