Jaisalmer was the highlight of our time spent in Rajasthan. We found a fantastic hotel with a beautiful view of the fort. They only charged us ₹100 per night as it had recently opened and needed customer reviews before the season started so we were given an awesome discount. Amer, the restaurant owner was in charge while his boss was away and was really accommodating. We easily became friends with him and he told us how he was originally from a small dessert village named Antra and asked us if we would like to visit his family with him. There was no catch involved, all we needed to pay for was transport to his village where we would have a unique opportunity to spend time there with his family. It sounded like a rare opportunity not to miss so we arranged a jeep and driver to take the three of us there. The experience was incredible!
We arrived at his home to meet his Sunni Muslim family who were very welcoming and beautifully dressed. They spoke no English so we relied on Amer to translate while we did a lot of gesturing. We went on a tour of the area by tractor, visiting the school which was closed because it was a weekend but many local people joined us as we went through the classrooms and courtyard. As we drove the tractor away from the school towards the nearby sand dunes, hordes of men and children clambered onto the back of the tractor holding onto any available space they could. Everyone was super friendly and intrigued by us being there.
Later in the afternoon I spent time with Amer’s mother, sisters and cousins. We couldn’t vocally communicate but we tried our best to sign and point at things. I ended up being Barbie for the kids, they painted my nails, combed my hair and gave me a hand full of block henna. Traditionally henna was applied to the palms of hands and bottoms of feet as the henna acts as a cooling agent.
It was lovely being able to spend time with them in a personal setting and we all seemed to enjoy ourselves, having big smiles on our faces . When Damian arrived back with the men they had bought a goat which they were going to kill and serve us for dinner. We contributed half the money for the goat and watched his father slay it in front of us. It was a great honor to eat the meal they had prepared and at the end of the evening we all slept on raised plastic woven beds under the stars out in the open dessert. Our time spent with Amer and his family couldn't have been a more authentic experience, it gave us a true insight into their lives and culture.
The camel safari has to be one of the best value excursion we have been on costing ₹1,500 for us each to ride a camel for 3 hours through the dessert, camp in the middle of sand dunes, then back to Jaisalmer the next day. There were only four of us on a camel each with two young guides leading us through the dessert. We had chance to explore the area before reaching camp where three guys were making a fire and preparing food. The experience was rustic and simple as we all slept on blankets on the sand under the stars. We were a little freaked out by the scorpion we had just seen and put on the fire but there were no dramas during the night other than dung beetles crawling into our covers! Overall we loved the ruggedness of the trip and the intimacy of only two other people on the trip.