Day 148: Back on the Silk Road: The Golden City
Jaisalmer Travel Blog› entry 198 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Ed (Netherlands)
The road from Pushkar to Sam had taken us most of the day; the road from Sam to our next destination, Jaisalmer, was only half an hour.
Jaisalmer was an important strategic place in the 16th to 18th centuries, when the tradesmen on the Silk Road favoured a southern route through India and Pakistan over the treacherous Pamirs of Central Asia. As Jaisalmer was the last major settlement before crossing the Thar desert into Pakistan, the city really prospered as a trading post, the remains of which can be seen to this day.
The centre of Jaisalmer is almost entirely built out of yellow sandstone, hence the moniker 'Golden City'.
The skyline is dominated by the impressive Jaisalmer fort, a 12th century fort with no less than 99 bastions. The fort is still very much a living fort, about 25% of the city's residents still live within the fort's walls.
I didn't like Jaisalmer too much. This was one of the places in Rajasthan I had been looking forward to the most, but it turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax. Not that the fort wasn't impressive, on the contrary, but I had an issue with the way tourism has transformed this city.
You could say that India is the pinnacle of capitalism; any person can start any business virtually any where. In the case of Jaisalmer this means that the fort is so chock-full of hotel and restaurants that the ancient plumbing system and foundations of the fort are buckling under the massive visitor numbers and the fort is slowly but surely crumbling.
Right outside the fort the commercialism is an even greater eyesore. All the historical shop fronts now bear brightly coloured signs advertising hotels, internet cafés or restaurants serving steaks and banana pancakes. There is nothing Indian left about this city and all local life seems geared towards making as much money from the visiting tourists as possible. This was such a difference from the centre of Jaipur!
This is not saying we didn't enjoy ourselves. We paid a nice visit to a 300-year old Haveli (mansion) and the tour through the Maharajah Mahal, the main palace inside the fort, was another one of those audio-guide affairs, but the city itself just lacked atmosphere and character, in my opinion.