- Desert dotted with blue
- Country life
- Mighty forts, mediaeval lanes
Rising from the edge of the Thar Desert in western Rajasthan is the beautiful blue city of Jodhpur. The horizon is dominated by the mighty Mehrangarh Fort, a 15th-century clifftop palace that towers above the mediaeval skyline.
Beneath this imposing presence wind the narrow, crooked streets of Jodhpur's charming old town, which weave past crumbling havelis (Maharaja's mansions), lively markets, elaborate temples and modernist Brahmin-blue houses that shimmer in the sunshine. Today the city spreads far beyond the reach of the Clock Tower and the ancient town's thick stone walls, but it's within this crowded space that Jodhpur's magic lies.
Timed to coincide with the brightest full moon of the year, the Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF, www.jodhpurfolkfestival.org) is one of India's most vibrant festivals. The five-day musical jamboree is held in the Mehrangarh Fort in October, and showcases local and regional musicians, as well as big-name stars from India and abroad. Patrons include the current Maharaja of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh II, and Mick Jagger (they were school buddies, apparently) and you'll regularly spot members of the Indian royal family in front-row seats.
- Tuk tuks are inexpensive and plentiful, but if you’d rather air-conditioned comfort, ask your hotel to organise a car for you.
- Tipping culture
- Tipping is appreciated, and sometimes expected. In hotels and restaurants you'll often see a 10 per cent service charge added to the bill, so an additional tip is optional. Carry small notes with you; amounts up to INR50 are fine.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Life is leisurely in Jodhpur, especially within the walls of the old town. Locals lunch between noon and 3pm, dinner starts from 7pm, and bars call last orders around 11pm. The Mehrangarh Fort and other attractions open their doors from 9am until 5pm, and shops start trading from around 10am.
- Packing tips
- Jodhpurs in Jodhpur may not be de rigueur, but you'll definitely cut a dash. If you don't think you'll be playing that much polo, lightweight cottons and linens will keep you cool and a wide-brimmed hat will ward off the harsh desert sun. Throw in something semi-smart for restaurant dining and flat shoes for touring.
- Recommended reads
- Packed with old photographs from royal archives, Polo in India by Jaisal Singh is a sleek coffee-table book that charts the history of polo, chukkers and all. For a peek at the life of Jodhpur's royal court during the 18th and 19th centuries, pick up the beautifully illustrated book, The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur, by Debra Diamond and Catherine Glynn.
- The city's savoury specialities include mirchi vada, a green chilli dipped in chickpea batter and deep-fried, and pyaz ke kachori, a spicy, onion-filled snack. These eye-watering dishes are a breakfast favourite, washed down with a makhania lassi, a delicious saffron-flavoured yoghurt drink. Jodhpurians are known for having a sweet tooth and traditionally tuck into dessert before carrying on with the rest of their meal.
- Indian Rupees (INR).
- Time zone
- GMT +5.30.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for India: +91; local code for Jodhpur: (0)291.
- Do go/don't go
- Jodhpur is best enjoyed during the cooler months, from mid-October to March, when the days are sunny and temperatures reach a maximum of 27°C. From April onwards, temperatures soar to a mind-boggling 45°C and beyond. July and August bring the welcome monsoon rains.
Don't go home without...
taking tea with the Maharaja at Umaid Bhawan Palace. This opulent art deco palace is now a high-end hotel, but the royal family still live in one wing. It's also the setting for celebrity weddings; this is where Liz Hurley got hitched (pre-Shane Warne) Bollywood style. Non-resident guests can come to eat and drink but are required to pay a cover charge of INR2,000 each.