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7 December 2008

In the heart of the Great Thar Desert and at the westernmost region of Rajasthan lies the golden city of Jaisalmer.  It was built in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Jaisal and as with most cities built around the time, it is home to a sandstone fort built atop a hill that overlooks the city.  It is one of the few living forts today and many people still live inside it, unfortunately to the detriment of the fort itself since the increased use of water is slowly eroding away the foundation.  Visitors are therefore encouraged to look for accommodation outside the fort walls.

We arrived in Jaisalmer in the early afternoon after spending nearly six hours on the road.  Our hotel was situated just 5 minutes away from the entrance to the fort and from the rooftop, you could see its reddish brown walls rising up against the blue sky.  We put our bags down in our room and walked into the city to find a place to have lunch at.

The old city itself is not that big.  It had the usual narrow and dusty alleyways lined with home stores selling nearly anything and everything one could need, with the occasional material stores adding a bit of colour to the otherwise monotonous sandy tone of the buildings.  There were men frying up bhajia, selling the usual milky sweets like burfee, gulab jamuns, jelebi and sweet paneer and of course, sweet tea.  Crossing the dirt road to get from the old city market to the fort, we not only had to dodge the occasional tuk-tuk and motorcycles but also the dogs and cows.

We walked through the gates of the fort and inside was another city altogether with more alleyways and doorways that led to homes.  We passed by tourists in tie-dye and dreads and temples with devotees coming in and out.  Tired from the day’s traveling and walkabout, we decided to head back to the hotel just before sunset.  Although the city itself is made entirely of sandstone, giving it a monotonous sandy beige colour during the heat of the day, in the late afternoon sun it is transformed into something else and you can see why this city is often known as the city of gold.

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