The Jewels of Jaipur
Rajasthan: a land of sand dunes, gilded palaces and brilliant swirls of colour. Here, the state’s capital city of Jaipur sparkles like the glittering jewels for which it’s known. All of its building façades were painted pink, the traditional color of welcome in India, to honor the visiting Prince of Wales in 1876. And today, it offers a trove of cultural treasures and architectural marvels. One such gem is the Fairmont Jaipur. Rising from the cloud-kissed Aravalli slopes, it’s reminiscent of a 16th-century Mughal palace. And a blast of traditional trumpet and gong herald your entry into its frangipani-filled courtyard. Deftly blending ancient traditions with modern comforts, this royal refuge provides a perfect base from which to explore the Pink City’s historic gems.
A great way to start exploring is to have your concierge arrange a private tour to see the Amber Fort and Jal Mahal, two of Jaipur’s greatest historic treasures. From the base of a hill near Maota Lake, you ride an elaborately decorated elephant to the top and begin your guided tour of the Amber Fort. This 16th-century structure is an artistic blend of Hindu and Rajput architecture. Witness its ornamented halls and sumptuous Sheesh Mahal (the palace of mirriors). Built as the bedroom chambers for ancient Rajput queens who were not permitted to sleep out in the open air, its walls and ceiling are covered in painstakingly detailed frescos, highlighted by hand-cut flowers and mirrored glass. As the royal consorts retired for the evening, light from a profusion of candles danced off the surfaces, creating the dreamy illusion of a starry sky.
From the higher terraces, one can view the legendary Jal Mahal. Currently inaccessible to visitors, this 18th-century Water Palace stands in the center of the sapphire-blue Man Sagar Lake. Although it appears to only be one-story tall, there are four more levels beneath the water’s glassy surface. Its original purpose remains a mystery, but the popular belief is that it once served as the maharaja’s retreat and hunting lodge.
Elegance to Elephants: Lifestyles in Jaipur
Rather than a standard tour of the City Palace, have the Fairmont Jaipur concierge arrange a private dinner for you there. As you approach the sprawling complex, note the exquisite fusion of Rajput, Mughal and European architectural styles. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II built the palace between 1729 and 1732, entrusting its design to chief architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, who designed it in accordance with ancient Hindu texts. Pass through the ornate gates in a procession of horses, elephants and musicians. After viewing the sumptuous courtyards and extensive museum collections, you’ll move into the exclusive chambers of the current Maharaja of Jaipur to enjoy a royal feast, the ambiance enhanced by the music of sitar and tabla.
In contrast to royal style, explore rural life with a day-trip to Rusirani Village. With no electricity or running water, the inhabitants have maintained their centuries-old Rajasthani ways of life. Bounce along unpaved roads on your way to the village, taking in unexpected vistas, such as lakes and inviting clusters of Kikar trees that dot the arid desert landscape. The Rusirani natives greet visitors warmly, allowing you to lend a hand in chapati-making for lunch (a round hand-patted Indian bread, cooked over an open fire), teaching you traditional song and dance, and offering puffs of flavored homemade tobacco on a hookah. Visit their local market showcasing handmade products and unique artwork. And when you bid farewell at the end of the day, you’ll return with unforgettable memories of life in provincial India.
If you’ve ever wondered what a day in the life of an elephant is like, try a hands-on Elefun excursion. Upon arrival at the sanctuary, you’re introduced to the domesticated elephant you’ll care for during the course of your visit. Stand still as your new acquaintance uses a trunk to greet you. You’ll learn to communicate with these timid beasts, as you feed them bananas, sugarcane and giant chapatis. Laughter abounds as you decorate your moving canvas with safe, vibrant watercolours, before taking a dip together in a nearby lake. Experience the power and grace of your gentle giant during a bareback elephant ride through emerald-green jungle environs.
When it comes to shopping, there are plenty of modern boutiques. But make time to explore the city’s medieval-style bazaars that evoke bygone days when the ruling Mughals enticed artisans from across the globe to Jaipur. The celebrated Johari Bazaar (market of the jewelers) in the Old City contains more than 50 market stalls, showcasing an unending variety of near-extinct handiwork. You’ll find yourself moving in time with the city’s vivacious pulse as you jostle among the crowds and bargain with shopkeepers for Jaipur’s signature glittering gems, marble carvings and local Bagru fabrics. A short walk further brings you to the smaller Bapu Bazaar where you can choose a pair of the embroidered, pointy-toed shoes known as jooties (a form of traditional Indian footwear).
When your energy begins to wane, stop in at Indian Coffee House, serving up strong cups of coffee and sweet treats like gulab jamun (a donut drenched in rose-scented syrup). For breakfast one morning, visit Rawat Mishthan Bhandar’s tiny shop tucked between the railway and bus stations. Order a pyaaz ki kachori (deep fried sour dough patties stuffed with spiced onions) along with a cup of fresh, warm milk. If you don’t want to battle the crowds, arrive early and savor your kachori while watching the city come to life.
At the end of the day, toast the mesmerizing ruby-red sunset with champagne from Fairmont Jaipur’s rooftop restaurant, Aasma. Then head back inside for dinner at Zarin. The name means “gold” in Persian, and you’ll understand why when you enter and gaze up at its intricately carved golden ceiling. Teakwood tables set with fine crystal, silver and brass tableware provide a luxurious setting for Executive Chef Manpreet Singh’s menu of Indo-Persian fare. Dine on mahi zameen doz, freshly caught fish marinated in aromatic Persian spices and gently grilled then baked to bring out the delicate flavors, or try nadru ke gullar, stuffed lotus-stem dumplings. For a truly memorable experience, reserve a seat at the emperor’s table in the center of the room to savour a seven-course meal of authentic dishes once served to the Mughal monarchs.
After dinner, stop by Aza, the hotel’s Library Bar. Reminiscent of an emperor’s hunting lodge, the intimate space offers shelves of leather-bound books, in addition to a cellar full of rare single malts, vintage cognacs and an extensive wine selection. From the exclusive whisky appreciation station, select one from the maharaja’s private collection then sink into a deep, leather wingback chair to enjoy it. As you sip your drink, silent black-and-white films roll in the background. You breathe deeply, savouring this classic, old-world ambiance.
There are endless riches to discover in this ancestral home of the royal warriors of the Rajputana and the art connoisseur Mughals. Delight in its villages full of warm-hearted people and marvel at the city's craftsmen whose techniques have endured from the days of the first maharajas. For your customized Jaipur experience, contact Fairmont Jaipur today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holly Bowne is a passionate travel writer and photographer. Her journeys have carried her from the Champs Elysees of Paris to the cenotes of Mexico and beyond. Her work has appeared on FairmontMoments, You Go, We Go, and publications for luxury travel companies.
Woman in Amber fort by guillermo1956
Jal Mahal (Water Palace), Jaipur, Rajasthan, India by Elena-studio
Yellow sandstone temple on the bank of lake in desert by Tarzan928
Rich hand made Fabric by galaxyindia