Christmas in the desert


The night train to Bikaner wasn’t that bad at all. I actually managed to get some sleep even if I was a bit cold. We arrived in Bikaner early in the morning and went straight to the hotel to leave our bags and freshen up. The hotel was simply an architectural jewel, a haveli belonging to the Prime Minister of Bikaner from 1916, Maharaj Bhairon Singh Ji. The property was transformed into a unique heritage hotel and it’s run by Maharaj Bhairon Singh Ji descendents.

We had breakfast and before noon we boarded 2 jeeps and headed for the outskirts of Bikaner, where our desert overnight adventure would start. On the way there our driver managed to hit two cows mating in the middle of the street. That was quite a sight. Then, right after we entered the village, I could see another cow stealing food from inside a shop. A thing to mention about India’s roads is that except the so called highway maybe, there are cows running free everywhere, so seeing them in the middle of the road is something normal.

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Once we got to the village I met Raj, the creamy colored camel that was my ride for the day. Now let me tell you, it might seem easy but riding a camel for 4 hours it not at all comfortable for your knees and bum. But it was a lot of fun.

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Half way we stopped for a “home-cooked” delicious lunch and a couple of beers before heading further to our camp. The camels seemed to enjoy rolling in the sand, under our amusement.

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We reached our camp just before sunset so we enjoyed a nice cup of masala chai sitting on top of a dune and watching how the sun was going down. With the sun, also the warm weather went away and it was replaced by a freezing cold. We had dinner and then gathered around a big camp fire, singing and dancing when our hosts entertained us with traditional Indian music. At midnight Cleo, our guide, came out with a cake! In the middle of the desert, in India, we had Christmas cake! It was awesome!

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Inside my sleeping bag, covered with a thick blanket, the night wasn’t that bad in the tent I shared with Emily. The next morning, when i got out of the tent, the fog was so deep that I couldn’t see where the bonfire was, where we had a yummy omelet for breakfast. And masala chai, of course, this delicious sweet potion (ginger spiced tea) that got us going throughout the Indian cold. On our way back to Bikaner we spotted wild antelopes and some sort of desert rats, which was pretty cool.

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We returned to Bhairon Villas to enjoy the rest of the afternoon, before going to the rat temple, a high rated attraction situated at 30 km of the city (that’s over 1.5 hours by car). Even if not a touristic attraction, I have to show and tell you about our amazing hotel, which looks like a proper museum. Each room is colorful and decorated different and the furniture is actually antique. The gardens are amazing, they have flower filled fountains, they even have singing birds. But I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

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Together with three girls from my tour we ventured on the streets of Bikaner for a couple of hours. The highlight of the trip was a dentist on the side of the road that had very old pliers and a big collection of teeth on a blanket in front of him. Later that afternoon he had dinner at another beautiful haveli, before heading to the rat temple.

The rat temple, or Karni Mata Temple is famous for the approximately 20,000 black rats that live inside and people come from all over to country to worship them.

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Being a temple, you have to take your shoes off. The feeling of a furry rodent going over your foot is bizarre at least. But the legend says that if you see a white rat you will be lucky, as there are only a few wondering about. And guess what color was the first rat I’ve seen: white! 🙂

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Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.


  1. HAHAHA the camels really do look like dogs rolling around in the sand. I wouldn’t have been able to take my shoes off in that temple, lol. I could only imagine what you were thinking, because I know I would have felt like I was in some kind of nightmare even if the temple was beautiful!

    1. I was debating into taking my socks off or not at the rat temple. I decided that my feet will get clean easier than the socks so I went all the way through, with my bare feet. I am not afraid of rats so for me it was kind of fun seeing everybody freaking out. 🙂

  2. wow what a great and unique way to welcome Christmas huh! This is such a wonderful adventure! I’ve been dreaming to wander around the desert when I was a kid and imagine myself riding a camel and try to seek that ‘Oasis” thing hehe…
    20,000 black rats sounds terrifying and I might freak out haha… Are they hostile?

    1. The rats are used to people, they don’t mind you being there. but from time to time they will run over your bare feet and the sensation makes you jump. 🙂

      I know what you mean with wondering around the desert, looking for the oasis. When I was little my grandma used to have a carpet on her wall depicting the “Kidnapping from Serai”, where some Bedouins kidnap a princess and walk her on a camel through the desert.

  3. I haven’t experienced celebrating Christmas anywhere else but home. That is something I would like to try. That must have been a great adventure with the camels. I have ridden one in Australia and I enjoyed it. I would like to try something like this though.

    1. I’ve spent two year now abroad for Christmas and I have to say that I like it. I get to know different ways of celebrating this holiday from around the world. 🙂

  4. Raj the creamed coloured camel and the villas, those are incredibly beautiful. If I were there with you, I would write every bit of the journey, it will be such a warm Christmas worth remembering. The word “journey,” fits so well even by just looking at those pictures!

    1. It was indeed a journey and you get to appreciate it more after it’s already a memory. While I was writing this story I was remembering more and more details about that day, it’s incredible how things that you think you forgot come back to you so fast when you write. 🙂

  5. I loved reading about your adventure mostly because there is no way I will ever go in the rat temple even if I make it over there! Your pictures paint an amazing story. What an adventure! Thanks for sharing!

    1. The rats are harmless, I don’t mind them. But I would say the same as you if we would have been talking about snakes. I am terrified of them. 🙂

  6. This is what it’s great about another culture, you always find other prespectives on things. Rats are not a beloved animal around here, I don’t fear them but I don’t love them too. The camels look like they are playing, so cute. I know that in fact they just feel itchy but they are sooo cute!!

    1. Camels are so cute, right? I wish they were treated better though. I’ve seen both in India and Mongolia that camels had their nose pierced with a big metal of piece to which their rope was tied on. Some camels were bleeding because of this. 🙁

  7. I’ve always loved camels! So much in fact that I tried to get my grandpa to buy one to hang out with our cows on the farm I grew up on. I never got my camel! haha, but I have always wanted to do an expedition on a camel! Thanks for sharing your awesome adventure!

  8. I have never ridden a camel, but I have ridden quite a few horses. I can totally understand how your bum could get sore from a camel!! But they are so stinkin’ cute!

  9. I also spent my last Christmas in India but I was not in the desert. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t feel the Christmas spirit until the D Day. I went to a midnight Mass and it was such an experience to see how people celebrate Christmas so far away from home and far from our habits..

  10. This is certainly very different to my Christmases! Not sure I could bear to have a rodent run over my foot though. The white is quite cute, I must admit 🙂

  11. I bet it was a hard ride but definitely fun to go through! I really wish to spend a holiday traveling or in an adventure how awesome that can be!

  12. Amazing post… Lovely place… but dude I know one must enter temple without shoes but rats around I think I would never dare to go ..hehe But I Surely wanna visit those places… keep enjoying 🙂

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