The Desert Festival

The view from our hotel

The view from our hotel

A little while ago we went to Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer is a desert city in India close to the border with Pakistan. There is not much business there other than tourism and the military. It’s about a 5 hour drive away from any decent size city, like Jodhpur.

We went to Jaisalmer for the desert festival. The festival goes on for three days. For the first two days, the festival is held in arenas around the city. For the last day, it is held outside the city in the Thar desert. It is over an hour drive away from any towns.

Our good friend Punit

Our good friend Punit

On the first day we went to an arena close to our hotel. At this arena there were a lot of people. They separated us into groups. One for foreign tourists, one for Indian tourists, one for police, one for the army and so on. On this day there were a bunch of competitions: Biggest moustache, cutest couple, Mr. Desert and others. I have to admit that the competitions weren’t that much fun.

Mr Desert moustache competition

Mr Desert moustache competition

There were two things that I did find fun. The first one was the turban tying competition for tourists. Most of them didn’t do very well, but some of them nailed it. The ones that didn’t do well were really silly and funny to watch.

Foreigners trying to tie turbans

Foreigners trying to tie turbans

Turban tying Indian style

Turban tying Indian style

Our first ride on a camel

Our first ride on a camel

My second and most favourite part was when we road a camel. Camel’s get up on their back legs first. Our camel did this. Jacob and I were both caught by surprise and almost fell off face first. When our camel stood up, I realized just how tall it really was. When it started walking is was very bumpy. I didn’t think it was going to be quite the exciting ride.

Riding the ferris wheel with Punit

Riding the ferris wheel with Punit

The second day was in a bigger arena. It was a little farther from our hotel and had about double the amount of people. On that day they did some camel races, a “dress up your camel” competition, some tug-a-wars (foreigner vs. indian), a “carry a bowl of water on your head” race and a “get yourself and your camel ready to ride” race. They were so fun to watch.

The first one was the “Dress up your Camel” competition. In this competition the participants bring their decked out camel to the stage and walk around. It might sound lame but it was really cool to see all the camels fully dressed up. They had clothes, pompoms, jewellery and intricate saddles.

Dressing up your camel

Dressing up your camel

This camel is ready for a party

Running to get dressed...

Running to get dressed…

The second competition was the “Get Yourself and Your Camel Ready to Ride”. This one was funny. The riders had to start with themselves and their camels undressed. Their clothes, turban and saddle were spread out across the field. Behind their camel they put their saddle. Behind their saddle they put their turban. Behind that they put their pants and shirt and at the last stop their shoes. Then they stood their in their underwear waiting for the race to start.

When the MC said “GO!” the camel rider ran in their underwear to the first stop (their shoes) then kept going through the stops till they got to the camels and started putting on their saddle. The guy I was routing for lost because his camel was stubborn and decided to stand up while his owner was trying to get his saddle on.

Preparing for the start

The third competition was Camel Racing. I never thought of camels as being fast but they were pretty fast. They ran almost like horses, just a little slower. There were 5 camels in the race and they all came in very close but there was only one winner.

Camel racing

Next was the tug-a-war. This first two games were played by men. The foreign men were on one side and the indian men were on the other side. In the game, the foreigners won twice. Next they had the women’s tug-a-war. They played the game the same way as the men and the foreigners won again.

Tug-a-war

Tug-a-war

The last game with foreigners was “Carry the Bottle”. There were about 15 people. They had to run to this little cloth piece and put it on their head so they don’t hurt it when they put a clay bottle filled with water on their head. A foreigner won the game but a local did it the best.

Last but not least was “Camel Polo” this game is just how it sounds, people riding on camel backs playing polo. Camel Polo isn’t very fun to watch but it’s a cool experience. They played it with a soccer ball.

Camel Polo!

Camel Polo!

On the third day of the festival we went to some sand dunes. We went to the dunes late in the day because the show started at sundown.

Camel ride on the dunes

Camel ride on the dunes

Jacob and I on the dune

Jacob and I on the dune

...and here is everyone else

…and here is everyone else

Jacob and I took advantage of the dunes and set off running… Up, down, up, down. Jacob and I ran really fast down the hills and then almost toppled over trying to run up the next dune.. We fell over a couple times when we went too fast. About an hour later Jacob and I ran up the last dune breathless. With buckets of sand in our shoes we found our Dad and sat down. We grabbed some peanuts for the show and we were all set.

Soon after we settled down, they started the show. The first performance was a traditional dance with traditional music. All the women performing were wearing extravagant dresses with more colours than you can imagine. It wasn’t my favourite performance, but I did find the dance interesting. The next few performances were all traditional music and/or dancing.

Ladies dancing

Ladies dancing

Lady dancing with a sword

Lady dancing with a sword

The first act that really caught my eye was a guy with hula hoops. He did multiple acts consisting of hula hoops and balance. My favourite act of his was when he took 6 hula hoops, balanced them on different parts of his body and stood on a bed of nails. The whole time I thought he was going to drop one or goof up. He didn’t goof up at all. He didn’t even flinch when stepping onto the nails.

The hula hoop guy

The hula hoop guy

My second favourite performance was a group of 3 ladies doing a traditional dance. They wore festive indian dancing dresses that fanned out when they spun around. The lead dancer wore a gold dress while the other two wore red and yellow. They did a very lively dance where they spun around on stage dancing to the music. I thought that they were amazing. They didn’t even get the slightest bit dizzy when they spun around. When they finished they did a curtsy and headed off stage.

At the end of the performances we headed back for the taxi. We sped off into the cold dark and that was the end of an awesome day.

Sunset over the dunes

Sunset over the dunes

3 responses to “The Desert Festival

  1. Thanks for the beautiful post, Emma! I wish I could have spent the day with you guys. Unfortunately, I was tending a rather upset tummy :-(.

  2. this is the coolest post yet. wow, what an amazing thing to witness and be a part of! I think that all-dressed-up camel photo would make a great Christmas card – just what I imagine the Magi came riding on! Great stuff, Emma!

  3. Dear Sonja.
    Around noon I left from Andrea and Jeremy in Kelowna and immediately I sat down to get in contact and wish you for your Birthday lots of and all the best you desire.

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