The Golden City in the desert

Jaisalmer (Rajasthan), India. We flew from Dehli to the amazing city of Jaisalmer, in the heart of the desert and only 100 miles from Pakistan. Lots of armed men around, so let’s hope things stay calm for the next week or so.

Jaisalmer is a former medieval trading center on the Silk Road and a princely state in Rajasthan, in the heart of the Thar Desert. Known as the “Golden City,” it has distinctive yellow sandstone architecture.

The taxi ride from the airport was mostly off-road, heading toward a collection of buildings that slowly became a town of buildings that matched the desert around us. Our hotel equally matched the terrain, until we got inside. It is the former home of royalty, converted to a hotel.

The lobby and almost every available corner is currently decorated with wonderful layers of cloth, sometimes woven and sometimes hanging, in ways that make all the available sunlight filter through and create lovely shadows and hyper-colors. There is going to be a wedding here in a week, and the preparation work is already well underway. Our room is on the roof top of the haveli, and there are several pavilions also being draped up here.

This building is about 300 years old, and descendants of the original ruling family still occupy it. This qualifies as a ‘hotel de charme,’ which means no Wi-Fi except in the lobby, and lovely draperies in the suite that were last dusted or cleaned when Miss Havisham was a young girl. We had to run out and get Don an emergency asthma inhaler, and then forcibly remove the mosquito netting that was causing him to choke. But otherwise, our quarters have charm, charm, and more charm. We should be able to handle two nights worth.

Having emerged for the drug store run, we then walked around the square in front of our hotel, guided by a young man who is a history lover, proud of his city, and bored enough to want to give us some insights into Jaisalmer. The gorgeous mansion/hotel next door to our hotel was the home of an extension of the family in our haveli. (“Cousins,” our hostess said, most dismissively.) It seems that our building was made to house the younger son of the ruling family of Maharaj Kesarsinghji of Nachana, which is why it shares walls with the Royal Palace. But his descendants went on to rule the city, so I guess they have the right to a certain snobbery.

The scrollwork in the local sandstone is a hallmark of this city and it is hard to believe that what we saw today was carved out of something other than wood. The sandstone is soft initially when it is plastered on the walls, but then hardens to the density of stone. Astonishing work, much of it 500 to 600 years old.

Lots of animal life here – more cows than we have seen for a while, and lots of dogs. The cows certainly get in the way, laying down in the middle of the city gates, etc. But what are you going to do? Honk and hope they get the message.

We did manage to fit in one museum, the home of a very wealthy family last occupied in the 1950’s, which is when the house cleaner quit. But the house itself is stunning and the remnants certainly evoke a luxurious life.

Next, we will conquer the majestic fort overlooking the town. And on the way back to our hotel, we just enjoyed the street life.

 

5 thoughts on “The Golden City in the desert

  1. Sorry, as a geologist I noted your comment:

    “The scrollwork in the local sandstone is a hallmark of this city and it is hard to believe that what we saw today was carved out of something other than wood. The sandstone is soft initially when it is plastered on the walls, but then hardens to the density of stone. Astonishing work, much of it 500 to 600 years old.”

    Are you saying that the sandstone is applied on top of something else, carved while relatively soft, and then it hardens with time? Sandstone is an actual rock, soft enough to easily carve, but still hard (as a rock 😛). If it were a plaster-like coating, after 500-690 years probably quite a bit of it would have fallen off. Or did I misunderstand your comment?

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    • Pam, thanks for keeping GoKnowDonJo honest. The way the guide explained it to us was that in parts the sandstone sculpture work was done like a stucco process — ground up stone that was originally worked wet and then hardened as it dried . In other places, it was done as pieces from solid sandstone and faced onto some other type of stone underneath. And in other places, there are solid freestanding sandstone carvings. We see in more modern buildings, including the resort hotel we are staying in now, that the whole process has been replicated by using some hard substance (cement?) and then painted to look like sandstone. In these cases, it looks like they are working from molds and no one is actually carving anything.

      Liked by 1 person

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