The Great Thar Desert


jai-jig-on-a-camel.jpg The other reason why people end up in Jaisalmer is to do a camel safari – the relative isolation of the place, scarcely populated area and proximity of sand dunes makes Jaisalmer the ideal base to explore the surrounding desert on a camel.

I am not actually quite sure why people are so attracted to camel safaris. Our experience of sitting on a camel for a couple of hours in Morocco was not exactly pleasant unless you wish to emulate John Wayne’s cowboy walk! Sleeping in the desert however is fantastic; there is no better place to enjoy the starlit sky after a dinner around the campfire.

The sand dunes however are not that easy to reach. The Great Thar Desert is mostly rocky with patches of scrub which means that we need to be taken to specific parts of the desert where there are enough dunes around to feel like we are surrounded by them.

So we started our quest for a camel-safari-with-a-difference – one that would not include riding a camel! (A few raised eyebrows with this request – crazy tourists!) Needless to say, this is virtually impossible: not for the obvious contradiction, but rather because going into the desert involves staying around villages in which the main source of income is from camel riding. So they are only happy to see you come with your noisy four-wheel drive on the condition that you ride one of the camels.

jai-the-little-prince.jpg Villages here can be very picturesque. In my previous post, I mentioned the environmental impact of tourism in Rajasthan and its effect on the fort. But in the country side, people are more concerned with the social and cultural aspects of tourism. The golden age of the region was pre-18th century, when traders had to follow the long road through the desert and when the locals were fierce and independent warriors. After this period, the region was somewhat frozen in a somewhat medieval age, and cultural sensibilities are therefore quite different. Tourists need to be advised on social norms and religious sensibilities, especially on consumption of alcohol and smoking. Public display of affection, as in the rest of India, is also frowned upon.

Bearing that in mind, it is possible to spend a wonderful evening when the camels are resting and locals are singing songs in the silence of the sand dunes of the Great Thar Desert.