Shekawati is a rural area in Rajasthan a couple of hours north of Jaipur. It’s defined by dusty tracks, quiet villages, camels, acacia trees and a few small towns. It’s slightly famous for it’s havelis - beautiful painted houses built by rich merchants in the late 19th century. The merchant families now live in the major cities of India and rarely return to the houses, maybe for a wedding every few years. They’re maintained by caretakers who’ll aften allow you to look around, though nowadays any repair work won’t include restoring the paintings which are starting to get covered by cement.

You can drive from Delhi in five hours (head for Jaipur and turn right somewhere) or catch the night train from Delhi to Jaipur which stops in the major town of Jhunjhunu at 7 in the morning. In Shekawati you can cycle between the villages in a matter of minutes. It’s quiet and sleepy and if you had the inclination you could easily drift around for a week or two.

At Nawalgarh we stayed at the delightful Eco Lodge. One morning I walked out early and heard of a camel fair a few fields away. In Jhunjhunu we stayed at a new hotel with mirrorwork decorations on all available surfaces and paid two visits to the wonderful stepwell which had failed to attract world heritage status and was falling into disinterest. Although it was the main ‘attraction’ in town none of the taxi drivers seemed to know about it and we had to explain the way.


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