Nothing else in India is remotely similar to Jaisalmer. This captivating sandy outpost has been dubbed the golden city because of the honey color imparted to its stone ramparts by the setting sun. its desert fort, which resembles a gigantic sandcastle, is straight out of The Thousand and One Nights .
Providing perhaps the most dramatic approach to any city in Rajasthan, the golden Jaisalmer fort rises above the desert welcoming weary travelers numbed by the endless sea of scrub. The “Golden City” of Jaisalmer in the heart of Thar Desert, 285 km west of Jodhpur and 100 km from Pakistani border, is named for the color diffused through its sandstone skyline by the setting sun. The labyrinthine streets of the old city are filled with scores of breathtakingly carved havelis (royal mansions); and then of course there’s the heart and soul of the Jaisalmer tourist industry: the camel safari.
Centuries ago, Jaisalmer’s strategic position on the camel train routes between India and central Asia brought it great wealth. Today, tourism rivals the military base as the pillar of the city’s economy. The presence of border security force hardly impinges at all on the life of the old city and only the occasional sound of war planes ever disturbs the tranquility of this desert gem. However, there is a down side to Jaisalmer becoming one of Rajasthan’s most popular tourist destinations. The number of hotels in the fort has significantly increased over the years and a major concern is that the poor plumbing and open drains have saturated the foundations, causing subsidence and collapse in buildings. The old open drains were created to take a limited amount of water and waste, and cannot cope with the pressure being placed upon them today.
After the dark medieval period characterized by Mughal sieges and dramatic jauhars, the city enjoyed a “golden age” (16 18th centuries), during which art and architecture flourished. Under the British, sea trade eclipsed the desert routes, and in 1947 partition cut them off altogether, diminishing Jaisalmer’s wealth and importance. With rising indo-Pakistani tensions of the 1960s, Jaisalmer once again become a military outpost. Today, the heavy army presence provides a source of income rivaled only by the booming tourism industry
Jaisalmer fort is the most alive of any museum, fort or palace that you are likely to visit in India. Built in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Jaisala and reinforced by subsequent rulers, the fort crowns the 80m high trikuta hill. About a quarter of the old city’s population resides with in the fort walls, which have 99 bastions around their circumference. The fort is entered through a forbidding series of massive gates leading to a large courtyard. The former maharaja’s seven storey palace fronts onto this.