British supermodel Naomi Campbell – a regular fixture at such glamorous party hotspots from Las Vegas to Sardinia – chose the Indian city of Jodhpur as the setting for a very special celebration.
The tempestuous Streatham-born model chose city to celebrate the 50th birthday of her boyfriend, Russian billionaire Vladislav Doronin, flying in celebrity pals including Demi Moore, Kate Moss, Bob Geldof and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York to the ancient city.
Also known as the ‘Blue City’, Jodhpur is the second largest in Rajasthan, after the state capital Jaipur, and has attracted visitors for centuries.
With a rich history, imposing fort and colourful streets and bazaars, there’s never a dearth of things to do.
So whether you’re a backpacker or a supermodel with a spare few millions in the bank, here are some highlights of a fascinating city.
Many call this India’s most impressive fort, and in a region bulging with similar locations, that’s a lofty claim. The monolith looms over the city of Jodhpur and is soaked in legend. Built in the 15th century by Rao Jodha, the founder of the city, the fort contains seven ornate palaces and courtyards and an extensive museum.
The Blue City
The city proper, in the shadow of the fort, is a photographer’s dream. A trip around the old town is a must. Houses here are mainly painted in shades of blue although no-one really knows why. Some say it is a way that members of the Brahmin caste have traditionally distinguished themselves; others say it’s all about protecting buildings from irritating insects. What’s certain is that it creates an impressive visual effect. This is also a great place to be nosey – homeowners often leave their doors open, providing the curious traveller with some sneaky views of Rajasthan family life.
A desert safari
Jodhpur is the starting point for the well-regarded Bishnoi village safari, an alternative trip through the sands of Rajasthan to the settlements of the Bishnoi community. These are people who treasure nature and live in isolated hut villages. Though founded in the 1400s, their aged principles seem pertinent to modern times: they forbid the destruction of the natural environment, including the felling of trees, and champion good health. Smoking is frowned upon. The journey there takes in wildlife such as black bucks, foxes, partridges and nilgai (known as blue bulls).
Enjoy a surfeit of sweets
Jodhpur is renowned for its sweets. It’s common in the city to begin a meal with a ‘sweetmeat’ dish, a tradition known as ‘mithi manuhar’. And the Jodhpur streets are blessed with countless sweet shops, often packed with sweet-toothed customers. The local speciality foods to ask for are Mave ki Kachori, Besan ki Chaaki and Maakhan Vade. Some dishes even include unusual desert roots that are believed to have medicinal properties.
Shopping is a favourite pastime for many Jodhpur visitors, mainly because of the sheer quality and range of handicrafts found here. Fabrics, carpets, jewellery, leatherware, art and, famously, antiques are all in abundance. Sardar Market is a whirlwind of trade that centres on the city’s clock tower, but you will no doubt stumble upon smaller bazaars as you walk the streets. Kapra is popular for fabrics.
See the gypsy snake dance
Kalbeliya is an entrancing Rajasthan folk dance performed by the women of the Kalbeliya gypsy community. Where once they were on hand to entertain the Maharajah, now they are commonly found in hotels and at festivities, where they mesmerise to a percussive beat. Known as the ‘snakecharmer tribe’, the story of these proud nomadic people is fascinating and troubled. Take a chance to see their Flamenco-esque twirls while you are in Jodhpur; in other spots in Rajasthan, including Pushkar, they have been moved on by authorities.
Follow in Lord Mountbatten’s hoof tracks
It’s not something many of us get to see on a regular basis. But as Jodhpur is home to a popular polo ground and gave its name to those infamous riding trousers, what better way to end your trip then with some horseplay? The season has a narrow timeframe, taking place in December only. There are agents locally who can advise you on attending a match. But if you know how to ride a horse, it’s even possible to take a short course and play the game yourself at most other times of the year.