The Golden City | Jaisalmer
Due to getting a bit snap-happy in Jaisalmer, I've decided to split my time there into four posts: Lake Gadisar, the sand dunes, Bada Bagh cenotaphs and this one - the fort and haveli.
Welcome, ladies and gents, to Jaisalmer's Golden Fort! It was built in 1156 AD by Rawal Jaisal and today is one of the largest fortified cities in the world with around 3000 people still living inside its walls. Think Barcelona's Gothic Quarter but dustier, hotter and with cows.
During the medieval period, the fortified city was a major hub for international trade due to its position on the Silk Road - an ancient network of trade routes that connected countries from China to the Mediterranean. Thanks to the rather unforgiving nature of the Thar desert, Rajasthani kings made their fortunes taxing importers and exporters to use the stretch of the Silk Road that fell under their jurisdiction.
The fort itself is made of three sandstone layers - hence the 'Golden' name. Each layer, or wall, has its own gate named after a different god or thing - such as the 'Sun Gate', pictured here. A lil interesting fact about the gates: they're not aligned with each other, rather they're built in a zig zag formation: you cannot see Gate 2 from Gate 1, 3 from 2, and so on. Aside from meaning you have to walk further to get inside, the zigzag gates are actually a defence mechanism- who'd have thought. Their placement makes it nearly impossible for an enemy's elephants to build up enough speed to successfully ram the gates and gain entry. The doors are also covered in metal spikes, again to prevent elephant attack and there's a gap of about a foot at the bottom of each gate to allow for burning oil to be poured down into approaching enemies. If you manage to survive all that they also have big stone spheres atop of the walls (you can kind if see them in the photo above) that can also be pushed onto enemy troops. If you survive all that I think you deserve to conquer the fort anyway.
Back in the day, all of Jaisalmer's residents lived inside the fort's walls . . . except for the lowest caste and the prisoners. This means that you can find pretty much everything needed for life within the city's walls. The king's palace, the queen's palace, temples: you name it. We went inside two temples, both of which were carved amazingly. There are also holy men still living and working (?) inside the temples - they also beg incessantly for money, clearly unable to read the signs in English next to them telling you not to give them money, but rather put it in a donation box.
After the fort we headed to one of Jaisalmer's most impressive havelis: Patwon Ki. The word 'haveli' generally refers to a mansion with architectural and historical significance. This particular haveli is one of the largest in Rajasthan and took almost 55 years to be built.
I am also loathe to admit that in one of the streets surrounding the haveli I became one of those tourists - and became my own worst nightmare - by buying baggy elephant print trousers for the equivalent of about £1.50. I hang my head in shame.
I almost, almost forgot to mention my favourite part of the fort: these beautiful murals. You'll find them outside of most houses and they bring good luck to the married couple that reside within. Each mural incorporates the couple's names and their wedding date, and whenever a new couple moves in the mural is painted over and redone.