A tour through the coloured cities of Rajasthan, India, is an amazing spectacle of the wars, honour and extravagance of the Rajputs (now bewilderingly reduced to commoners). There’s Udaipur the white city, Jodhpur the blue city, Jaisalmer the golden city and Jaipur the pink city.
Udaipur is almost unbearably romantic, with creamy palaces floating on the lake. This is the view at sunset from the “Monsoon palace” a few kilometres away by auto rickshaw.
Jodhpur’s huge red sandstone fort dominates the Rajasthan landscape here and is filled with fascinating mahals – each with hundreds of intricately and uniquely carved stone screened jaalis or windows.
At Jaisalmer we took the ubiquitous camel safari and witnessed the annual Rajasthan desert festival, complete with camel races.
Riding a camel is about as uncomfortable as you would think but there is something magical about cruising through the desert in the morning or evening and sleeping in the dunes under the stars – listening to the cry of a wandering peacock, the boom of mirage jets patrolling the border with Pakistan, the groaning and farting of your friendly “ship of the desert”.
It was a chance to get a close up look at the life of the people of the Thar desert in Rajasthan; desperate poverty in a failing rural economy and the intensive labour of supplying a family with water.
This is probably the opposite of romantic but the brilliant colours favoured by the women of Rajasthan are a defiant touch in a harsh landscape. It’s a part of India not to be missed.
By Natasha von Geldern