Dubbed "the Blue City" after the colour-wash of its old town houses, JODHPUR sprawls across the arid eastern fringe of the Thar Desert, overlooked by the mighty Meherangarh Fort, whose ramparts rise from a sheer-sided sandstone outcrop. Once the centre of Marwar, the largest princely state in Rajputana, Jodhpur today has a population of around a million. Despite its size and importance, it's barely a pit-stop for most travellers en route between Jaisalmer and Jaipur, and only that by virtue of the fort.
It's a shame to rush the place, though. Getting lost in the blue maze of the old city you'll stumble across Muslim tie-dyers, puppet-makers and traditional spice markets, while Jodhpur's famed cubic roofscape, best viewed at sunset, is a photographer's dream. In addition, the encroaching desert beyond the blue city is dotted with small settlements where you can escape the congestion for a true taste of rural Rajasthan.
The blue wash applied to most of the houses huddled beneath the fort originally denoted high-caste Brahmin residences, and resulted from the addition of indigo to their lime-based whitewash, thought to protect buildings from insect pests, and to keep them cool in summer. Over time the distinctive colour caught on – there's now even a blue-wash mosque on the road from the Jalori Gate, west of the fort.
The bazaars of the old city, with different areas assigned to different trades, radiate out from the 1910 Sardar Market with its tall clock tower, a distinctive local landmark marking the centre of town. Most of the ramparts on the south side of the old city have been dismantled, leaving Jalori Gate and Sojati Gate looking rather forlorn as gates without a wall.