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I think I was hardly 7 years old when I first saw the sand dunes of Jaisalmer in a calendar. There were 12 pictures, of 12 things one could see there. I was instantly sold out to the place. And though I visited Jaisalmer once before, it is only during last year’s Desert Festival, when I experienced what it is like to be a part of that city. I was totally mesmerized by the entire rustic setup there. And I was there to celebrate the very spirit of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan- The Desert Festival.

Desert Festival-1 The three day festival organized by Rajasthan Tourism, began with a ceremonial procession locally called as Shobha Yatra in which local Rajputs and other clans dress up in their traditional attires. These locals carried swords in their hands riding upon horses, camels and elephants. The entire place echoed with cheers from visitors as they entered the Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium, one of the main venues of the Desert Festival. It marked the beginning of something extraordinary and the joy of festivity was in the air. The procession was attended by children & young men and women who participated in various events. The festival includes some of the most frolic and peculiar championships which one would perhaps not be able to witness anywhere. One such event that was first-of-its-kind for me too, was the camel polo which is held between the polo club and the BSF (Border Security Force).Sturdy men firmly saddled upon their equally sturdy camels captivate the audience with their camel riding skills

Desert Festival-2 One of the star attractions at the Jaiselmer Desert Festival was the Miss Moomal & Mr.Desert Competitions in which the local girls & men participate. While Miss Moomal competition is quite akin to the urban models walking on the ramp (although the dresses are ethnic), Mr. Desert is selected on the basis of interesting parameters such as the size and quality of moustache! It was entertaining to watch men from all over Rajasthan come to show off their legendary moustaches. Indeed, for them the “mard” and the “mooch” is synonymous with each other. One of the major highlights for me was the Turban tying competition. I absolutely love colors and this fun event was totally amusing to be a part oft since none of us were an expert at this. This competition was separately organized for Indians and foreigners and it was particularly interesting to see the foreigners trying their hands on it. But some events are held in competition between the two groups like the tug-of-war and Matka Race (pitcher Race). But what really was one of the major attraction, were the tall majestic “ships” you could find in deserts. The long necked beasts attracted the visitors’ attention when they were decked up in all their finery and were taken out in the field by their proud owners for numerous remarkable competitions. Camels are the pride of Rajasthan and an intrinsic part of the culture of the desert land. By the evening, I would take long rides on them, as the sun would set in the horizon. The orange sky, the sand dunes and the local folk song sung by the camel guide, is a memory that has left a lingering feeling in me- desiring the life of a nomad. A desert vagabond.

Desert Festival-3 If you ask me, whether I would go back visiting again and the one main reason I would do so, I would have to tell you that it is for the mouth-watering Rajasthani cuisine. Experiencing the mehman nawazi of the regal Rajasthani hospitality was absolutely enamouring and the taste has stayed on. The daal baati churma, the rajasthani murg tikka, I could go on and on. And finally, a visit to the Desert Festival at Jaiselmer cannot be complete without a stay at the Desert Camps at Sam Sand Dunes. Jaiselmer to Sam Sand Dunes is merely a distance of 45kms and we covered it in about an hour’s time. The tented accommodation at these deserts camps gave me an opportunity to experience the oasis in the deserts. In the evenings there were traditional folk dances by the Kalbelia dancers, and also the folk songs sung by Manganiyar and Langa Folk singer which was totally enthralling to observe. Desert Jeep safaris and camel rides rendered the stay at this place beautiful and the overall experience was so overwhelming that I even pictured myself living here for a lifetime. The mystical place of Jaisalmer was sorcery on me. I can still smell the burning angithi, see the vibrant colours, taste the food, feel the crisp wind and the grunting noise of the camel along with the local songs sung by old men as they smoke their hookahs by the evening, as I sit here, penning all of it down.
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