A Whole New World…

The other day someone asked me what my favourite Disney movie was. I was torn between the Lion King and Aladdin. The Lion King is so familiar to me, filling me with a warm homely feeling. I can relate to everything and feel so proud of how my continent, Africa, is portrayed. On the other hand Aladdin appeals to me for exactly the opposite reason… it is so completely foreign. Transported, momentarily, out of one’s comfort zone and into an entirely new life.

Next on my agenda in India was a visit to the Thar Desert. Scrublands, camels and sand dunes reaching out as far as the eye can see. A golden fort aging over 850 years stands tall above the city. Unlike most of the forts in India, this one is still very much alive. Over 4000 locals live inside its walls and ply their trade. Merchants pass through flogging their wares for next to nothing. Textiles, carpets, shoes, incense, jewelry, paintings and everything else one could imagine. Every rupee is negotiated and the delights of a purchase are tangible. A maze of tiny streets, rooftop restaurants, temples and hidden treasures can be found inside the sandstone walls.

A view of the outside of the Golden Fort
A view of the outside of the Golden Fort
Filming inside the forts walls
Filming inside the forts walls
The man with 'the longest mustache in the world' lives within the walls of the fort
The man with ‘the longest mustache in the world’ lives within the walls of the fort
Little bits and pieces draped over and attached to any surface. It is incredible
Little bits and pieces draped over and attached to any surface. It is incredible
The Thar Desert sand creates the most wonderful of natural patterns
The Thar Desert sand creates the most wonderful of natural patterns

On the outskirts of the city one finds Kuldhara, the desolate shell of a stone town abandoned in the early 18th century. Thus far, Jaisalmer has been my cultural highlight of India. I have seen Delhi, Jaipur and Jodhpur, but to me this place sits so sweetly. A working city moving forward, but still so deeply rooted in its own origins. My eyes have been stretched open, exposing a whole new world: one, which previously existed only in movies and glossy magazines.

Filming in the deserted city was a surreal experience
Filming in the deserted city was a surreal experience

After a morning of exploring we head back to The Serai, our lodgings for the next five nights. In all my travels I have never come across anything as stylish, clean cut and restful as this lodge. 21 superb white tents dotted throughout the desert scrubland. The main crystal-clear infinity swimming pool is a sight to behold. A sun-seekers Mecca seems best fitting to describe this serene camp, which has been so lovingly crafted into the landscape. It truly is the ideal setting to lose oneself in a good book, whilst sipping on a colourful cocktail. The only work one should be doing here, is working on one’s tan…

 

The main tent at The Serai
The main tent at The Serai
The Serai Team
The Serai Team
One of the most beautiful swimming pools I have ever seen
One of the most beautiful swimming pools I have ever seen

But then again, I guess making a video on this beautiful paradise cannot truly be counted as work!

At work, filming the sun rise over the central swimming pool of The Serai
At work, filming the sun rise over the central swimming pool of The Serai
The shot I got from this low angle.
The shot I got from this low angle.
Showing the team a few of the clips I have managed to capture for the video.
Showing the team a few of the clips I have managed to capture for the video.
A typical dinner scene
A typical dinner scene
The famous Manganers perform around the campfire. To hear this style of music, played with such authenticity and passion was truly wonderful.
The famous Manganiyars perform around the campfire. To hear this style of music, played with such authenticity and passion was truly wonderful.

Have a look at the short video that I produced whilst staying at this lodge. It just touches on a surreal feeling of relaxation, twinned with an overindulgence of ancient culture which one feels when at The Serai. Enjoy, and please feel free to leave comments below.

Written, filmed and photographed by Adam Bannister

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