The rich tradition of hospitality in Jaisalmer

New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANSlife) For centuries, Rajasthan tourism has been synonymous with imperial luxury, cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, making it a jewel in India's tourism landscape. In this vibrant tapestry, Jaisalmer has beckoned travelers for centuries, its wind-swept sand dunes and majestic forts weaving tales that endure through time. Vinay Khosla, MD, Fort Rajwada speaks with IANSlife about the rich tradition of hospitality in Jaisalmer.

In what ways has Fort Rajwada honoured and sustained the rich tradition of hospitality in Jaisalmer?

Vinay: The renowned slogans 'Padharo Mhare Desh' and 'Atithi Devo Bhava' have originated from the vibrant state of Rajasthan, and are reflective of the ingrained hospitality that still permeates the region. Even today, the people of Rajasthan uphold the tradition of considering guests as equivalent to God, providing them with exceptional service.

Amidst this historical backdrop, Fort Rajwada proudly stands as a torchbearer of Jaisalmer's hospitality legacy. With roots in Rajputana royalty, the fort seamlessly intertwines the essence of Jaisalmer's hospitality into its narrative. Nestled within the Mahal, the luxurious premises of the property boast a range of accommodations, comprising 4 suites, 4 junior suites, and 90 rooms, including 6 with exclusive weather-controlled plunge pools. This luxury resort and spa provide an unparalleled opportunity to personally experience the Golden City and savor the unique charm of Jaisalmer and the Thar Desert.

Located just five minutes away from the iconic Jaisalmer fort, Fort Rajwada invites guests to partake in the regal lifestyle that has endured for centuries. Nestled in the tranquility of the Thar Desert, Fort Rajwada is surrounded by wind-sculpted dunes resonating with the melodies of desert tribes, creating an exclusive oasis. Through its commitment to preserving Jaisalmer's heritage, Fort Rajwada encapsulates the genuine spirit of Rajasthan's hospitality.

What attributes contribute to Fort Rajwada's popularity among young travelers, making it a desired destination in Rajasthan?

Vinay: Established in 1998, Fort Rajwada stands as a luxurious haven in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, known for its personalised experiences catering to international celebrities and dignitaries. The resort caters to the preferences of young travelers and families, offering activities ranging from croquet, badminton, cricket, weather-controlled plunge pools, a courtyard featuring a musical fountain, private lounges, a fully equipped gym, and a spa offering yoga, steam, sauna, a spacious swimming pool with a toddlers’ pool and jacuzzi, along with various other indoor and outdoor options. Evenings at Fort Rajwada undergo a magical transformation with the presence of skilled folk musicians and dancers, puppeteers, magicians, pottery artisans, bangle makers, and various other local craftspeople. Fort Rajwada, adorned with handcrafted paintings and murals by local artisans, serves as a vibrant living canvas, turning the property into an immersive art gallery, inviting guests to appreciate the desert's texture, gaze at the expansive horizon, and indulge in a sensory experience under the starlit sky.

The property seamlessly integrates tranquility, opulence, and adventure, offering camel safaris, explorations of Jaisalmer Fort, royal cuisine, and diverse indoor and outdoor pursuits. Beyond its walls, guests can explore historical landmarks like the Longewala War Memorial, the Pokhran fort, and the haunted village of Kuldhara.

In essence, the property emerges as the quintessential destination for young travelers, inviting them to immerse themselves in the spirit of Jaisalmer amidst unparalleled style, extravagance, and comfort.

What distinguishes Fort Rajwada as a highly desired wedding venue? Looking into 2024, what strategic plans or initiatives is Fort Rajwada considering to elevate guest experiences and meet the changing demands of the wedding market?

Vinay: Modern couples today seek intimate, regal wedding experiences, envisioning ceremonies amidst the Thar Desert's sunset or beneath starlit skies within the grandeur of a historic fort or palace. These weddings, now transformed into multi-day extravaganzas, embrace pre-wedding adventures and bespoke ceremonies, incorporating eco-friendly themes and luxurious experiences. Wedding planners weave fairytale settings, emphasising sustainability, organic decor, and locally sourced cuisine.

In India, destination weddings have become lavish celebrations with private jets, helicopter transfers, and menus crafted by celebrity chefs. Fort Rajwada stands out as a coveted wedding destination, cherished for its all-encompassing offerings and flawless coordination of matrimonial festivities. What makes it special is its role as a one-stop hub, simplifying the entire wedding planning journey into a seamless and stress-free experience. This holistic approach ensures that every aspect -- from accommodations to ceremonial venues, catering, and more -- is seamlessly integrated, allowing the couple and their families to enjoy the celebration without the hassles of planning and execution.

Distinctive wedding venues at Fort Rajwada include an elevated platform in the central courtyard with a 360-degree view, the majestic chattri for the varmala, and open-air banquet halls like the spacious Fort View and elegant Ganga Vilas, surrounded by expansive gardens. The spa area features a fabulous open-sky central hall, ideal for diverse occasions. The fort provides a 1500 sq. ft. hall for ceremonies, doubling as a versatile space for green rooms and salons. Additionally, the spa offers dedicated green room and salon facilities for the bride and groom, with the enchanting Sheesh Mahal serving as a starting point for their marital journey.

Fort Rajwada's commitment to sourcing materials locally aligns with authenticity and sustainability, allowing for a tailored experience meeting the desires of the betrothed couple. Looking ahead to 2024, Fort Rajwada aims to enhance its esteemed status by implementing strategic initiatives. Innovations in customisation, technological advancements for guest convenience, and an expanded array of curated experiences are part of the envisioned strategies, maintaining Fort Rajwada's legacy as an unparalleled destination where matrimonial dreams are impeccably realised.

How does Fort Rajwada strive to offer an exclusive and opulent experience to travelers exploring Rajasthan, particularly in light of the profound cultural and heritage values inherent to the region?

Vinay: Nestled in the heart of Jaisalmer, Fort Rajwada embodies the true spirit of Rajasthani hospitality. Our dedication to delivering a distinctive and luxurious stay is rooted in a deep appreciation for the cultural and heritage values that define this region.

Beyond just a service, hospitality is integral to our identity at Fort Rajwada. We redefine traditional luxury by providing an immersive experience into royal living. The architectural wonder of our property seamlessly incorporates original balconies adorned with intricate carvings and jalis dating back 450 years, creating a harmonious blend of the past and present.

Our pride lies in honoring Jaisalmer's rich history. Each room serves as a canvas showcasing ornate interiors, vintage furniture, handcrafted paintings and murals, and traditional artwork -- a labour of love by local artisans. The walls feature meticulously crafted stucco art, and the balconies proudly display 450-year-old stone lattice work, preserving the authenticity of the era and promoting Jaisalmer's royal heritage.

At Fort Rajwada, we recognise that a genuine cultural experience goes beyond the visual, emphasising a curated journey. Our culinary offerings reflect the traditional royal Rajasthani hospitality, offering a delightful gastronomic experience that reflects the region's traditions and flavours. Our commitment to personalised service ensures that every guest experiences unmistakable majestic royalty throughout their stay.

Fort Rajwada is more than just a resort and spa; it is a living testament to Rajasthan's cultural and heritage values. We invite travellers to immerse themselves in the opulence of our surroundings, where every detail has been thoughtfully curated to provide a genuinely regal experience.

Could you provide insights into the distinctive culinary delights available at Fort Rajwada? Are there particular signature dishes or exclusive dining experiences, like private chef services or heritage-inspired meals, that guests should make a point not to miss?

Vinay: At Fort Rajwada, we extend a culinary experience that transcends the ordinary, inviting guests to savor the diverse flavours of Rajputana cuisine amidst our majestic facade beneath the starlit sky, complemented by world cuisines curated by our specialised chefs. Our signature dishes, Rajasthani Sangri and Laal Maas, showcase culinary mastery inspired by the royal kitchens of Rajasthan, offering a regal and authentic dining experience. We take pride in tailoring meals to accommodate specific dietary restrictions.

The talented folk musicians and dancers hailing from the Thar Desert, known as the 'Manganiyars', emerge on stage during sundown transforming the ambiance of the place. Infusing your dining experience with their soulful melodies, deeply ingrained in centuries of tradition, they create a harmonious atmosphere, whisking you away to an era where the fusion of music and feasting encapsulates the essence of Jaisalmer's rich heritage.

To enhance your stay, our private chef services ensure personalised culinary delights that cater to individual preferences. Recognising that dining is more than sustenance, it is an integral part of the overall experience. We take pride in crafting an immersive journey where each dish tells a story and every meal becomes an unforgettable celebration. Fort Rajwada invites you to savor the extraordinary, transforming every meal into a celebration of the regal legacy that defines us.

Fort Rajwada reflects the lively culture of Rajasthan. How does the fort highlight local traditions and customs in its hospitality and events?

Vinay: In Rajasthan, where vibrant curries and a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds redefine tourism, Fort Rajwada stands as an extraordinary destination. With forts painted in hues of sunset and deserts lit by celestial stars, the cultural narrative of Rajasthan unfolds at the fort with inviting charm and a touch of pristine nostalgia. A local artist's masterpiece, a hand-painted mural intricately depicting the Ramayana through 35 frames, serves as an exquisite introduction to the fort's rich heritage. Additional murals portraying Meenakshi Kalyanam, Shiv Pariwar, and Krishna Pariwar beautifully weave the significant narrative of matrimonial unions, providing a captivating glimpse into the fort's cultural legacy.

The 200-year-old ornate Jharokha, a living relic from the purdah era, whispers historical tales, embodying the nuanced heritage of the region. Ceiling frescoes, ranging from lavish expanses in the lobby to understated accents in guest rooms, proudly echo the Shekhawati architectural legacy


Beyond the visual spectacle, guests immerse in activities that offer a local flavor of artistry, participating in workshops that explore Pokhran's pottery culture, a government-acknowledged gem with Geographical Indication status. Amidst savoring signature spices, the air resonates with the melodies of folk artists, reliving tales of tradition with their unique instruments. A personalised embrace of “Khamma Ghani” awaits every guest, setting the stage for the grandeur of Rajasthani hospitality -- a cinematic spectacle orchestrated expertly by Fort Rajwada. It's more than accommodation; it's a cultural sojourn in Rajasthan's regal embrace.

How would you characterise the ambience and decor of your restaurants? And how do these elements contribute to the overall dining experience?

Vinay: Dining at Fort Rajwada is more than just a meal; it's an immersive experience weaving together culinary artistry and captivating ambience. Fort Rajwada’s dining settings showcase refined elegance marked by peerless heritage, setting the stage for an extraordinary culinary experience.

Roopal Restaurant, a showcase of exquisite design, immerses guests in a gastronomic journey through the rich aromas and flavours of Rajputana cuisine. The bars and restaurants, adorned with carefully curated aesthetics, offer guests a diverse selection of fine spirits, reminiscent of the royal toasts of bygone feasts.

Sonal Restaurant, an all-day summer dining venue, presents an enticing array of contemporary and regional cuisine. The food caters to discerning palates, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an ambiance that seamlessly blends elegance with warmth.

For a unique experience, our Poolside Barbeque and Cafe invites guests to indulge in a sensory delight – from a refreshing dip in the pool to the captivating local folk performances. Freshly prepared kebabs, paired with the finest local wines, with mouth-watering snacks and finger food on the side, transform the way you dine.

Pattu Bar, a lively yet intimate space, invites patrons to savour cocktails and an array of authentic Mughlai, Chinese, and Continental snacks. Set against the backdrop of the Jaisalmer Fort, it serves as an ideal pre- or post-dining rendezvous.

Atop the fort, the Roof-Top Sunset Bar unveils a panoramic canvas of the Thar Desert, complemented by the spectacle of the sun bidding adieu behind the Jaisalmer Fort. This exclusive bar, with its range of exquisite Rajasthani and international spirits and liquors, offers a romantic haven under the star-lit desert sky, making it a quaint spot for some quality time.

Whether it's a romantic dinner for a couple, a lively family lunch under the winter sun, or a magical evening beneath the chattries on the terrace, overlooking the Jaisalmer Fort, the experience is truly unforgettable and adds a touch of thrill.

For those seeking a timeless journey into the culinary traditions of Rajputana or a vibrant celebration of contemporary flavours, Fort Rajwada's dining settings offer an experience like no other. Each meticulously crafted space promises not just a meal, but a symphony of sight, sound, and taste, ensuring that every bite is a memory etched in your senses.

Are there distinctive cocktails or dishes at Fort Rajwada that have become iconic in its gastronomic repertoire? What sets these offerings apart from the rest?

Vinay: Our culinary journey goes beyond mere gastronomic excellence -- it's an odyssey of flavors, a pilgrimage to the heart of Rajasthan's old soul. Vegetarian offerings invite you with Ker Sangri's earthy symphony and the comforting embrace of Gatte ki Sabzi. For carnivorous souls, the revelation lies in Junglee Maans' fiery dance and Safed Maans' subtle ode to mastery.

Amidst this array of variety, Ghotua Laddoos and other traditional and unfermented dessert offerings deliver a sweet, lingering finale. Yet, Fort Rajwada is not just a feast for the palate; it's an immersion into Rajasthan's liquid treasures. 'Kesar Kasturi' and 'Maharani Mahansar' speak of tradition, while innovative cocktails flirt with modernity.

Here, it's not just about the food. We pride ourselves on creating a welcoming atmosphere where every staff member imbibes Rajasthani traditions. Here, you're not just a customer; you're a revered guest.

In what ways does Fort Rajwada highlight the cultural and natural abundance of Jaisalmer through the varied array of experiences provided to its visitors?

Vinay: Fort Rajwada reveals the myriad facets of Jaisalmer through a rich tapestry of experiences. The ancient Jaisalmer Fort, home to over 1600 inhabitants and standing for six centuries, unfolds a mesmerising panoramic view of the city. Visitors have the opportunity to engage deeply with the cultural and natural richness of Jaisalmer at Fort Rajwada. This includes immersive experiences such as camel rides to the Sam sand dunes in the Thar Desert, where the Kalbelia tribe captivates with cultural performances. Upon returning to the hotel, guests can choose from enchanting evening options, including a romantic candlelit dinner by the pool or an intimate gathering at the sunset bar, all under the expansive Jaisalmer night sky.

For the adventurous, activities like sand dune bashing, Quad Biking, and Sand Surfing await. Gadisar Lake offers tranquility, and Pansari Bazaar showcases Rajasthan's craftsmanship. The mystic Tanot Mandir near the border tells a captivating story, and the abandoned Kuldhara village, left untouched for 300 years, beckons with an elaborate safari provided by the hotel. Fort Rajwada seamlessly weaves these experiences, providing a gateway to the heart of Jaisalmer and the diverse treasures of Rajasthan.

Can you elaborate on how Fort Rajwada enhances the guest experience with its rejuvenating spa offerings? What distinct spa treatments does the fort provide that make it stand out?

Vinay: In response to the evolving preferences of modern travelers seeking personalised and transformative experiences, Fort Rajwada offers a rejuvenating haven at its wellness space, inviting all to restore and replenish. The signature treatment, "The Fort Fusion," seamlessly integrates traditional Indian and international wellness sciences, creating a personalised experience for individual needs. Techniques from Reflexology, Aromatherapy, Deep tissue, Thai Yoga, Ancient Indian, Ayurvedic, Tibetan, Balinese, and Swedish treatments are combined, utilising locally grown Jojoba and Olive oils, desert Salt Poultices, and Jaisalmer earth stones. This therapeutic journey appeals to both global and local explorers, embodying a holistic approach to well-being.

The spa facilities at Fort Rajwada transcend the conventional notion of a relaxation haven; they form an integral facet of elevating guests' experiences to something truly memorable and exceptional. Blending age-old proven ancient therapeutic practices with contemporary luxury, the spa embodies a holistic approach, tending to guests' overall well-being -- mind, body, and spirit -- mirroring the fort's historic commitment to hospitality and care. Essential oils, gels, creams, salts, stones, and muds, meticulously blended by hand, offer a bespoke selection for various wellness goals, such as Harmony, Energy, Rebalance, Sleep, or Comfort. Incorporating Macadamia, Jojoba, Olive, Apricot, and Peach Kernel fixed oils as a base and blended in Indian grown and harvested pure essential oils of Rhododendron (Rhododendron arboreum) Nagarmotha (Cyperus scariosus) and Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin). Each of the blends offers a deeply therapeutic experience, which ultimately assists all who embark on this journey with us to achieve their personal wellness goals.

The spa's hallmark lies in its personalised approach, uniting mind, body, and spirit through treatments curated with ancient wisdom and natural elements. Fort Rajwada's spa stands out as an exceptional destination for relaxation, rejuvenation, and well-being amidst luxury and heritage. The experience extends to a full-fledged gym with state-of-the-art equipment, complemented by steam and sauna rooms for a complete rejuvenation of body and soul.

In what ways does Fort Rajwada actively contribute to the conservation of local heritage and culture? Looking ahead, what is your vision for the fort's future, and how do you intend to ensure the legacy of Fort Rajwada for generations to come?

Vinay: Fort Rajwada remains unwavering in its dedication to preserving local heritage and culture, serving as a sanctuary that honors the profound historical legacy of the region. Our commitment extends across various initiatives, encompassing architectural preservation, the promotion of traditional art forms, and the safeguarding of culinary heritage. Within our walls, we strive to encapsulate the authentic essence of the locale.

Looking into the future of Fort Rajwada, our vision is firmly grounded in perpetuating its legacy while embracing evolving paradigms. We envision a seamless fusion of heritage preservation and contemporary hospitality, ensuring the fort stands as a testament to the past while illuminating a path for the future. Safeguarding this legacy for generations requires a dynamic approach -- one that adapts to changing times while remaining true to its cultural heritage.

In the ever-evolving landscape of hospitality, our commitment to dynamic adaptation stands strong. Just as weddings, integral to our heritage, have evolved into a blend of modernity and tradition, we acknowledge that needs will continue to transform. Embracing these changes, our aim is to provide a refined and authentic experience that harmonises tradition with contemporary expectations, ensuring Fort Rajwada remains an enduring symbol of cultural heritage and excellence in hospitality.



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