India: Pushkar Camel Fair

After our harrowing experience getting to the Pushkar camel fair, the festival itself was quite an experience. It featured various events like camel races, horse dancing, turban-tying and mustache competitions, a circus, an amusement park, and traditional dance and music performances. The grounds were full of snake charmers, dyed cattle, horses, and of course, tons of camels, dressed to the nines, complete with nose rings and shaved fur designs. The camel owners stayed in a designated campground that was at least as large as Pushkar itself. The tourist scene there was fascinating. During the rest of the year, Pushkar is an Israeli tourist stronghold and it’s quite clear when you’re in the city. There are tons of signs in Hebrew and many of the the locals say “shalom” as they pass you. During the festival, that all changes. The Israeli tourists mostly disappear and are replaced with tourists from all over the world. There were tourists from countries that are not known for traveling (especially in the Indian backpacker scene), like South Africa and Slovenia. They were of all ages–in additional to the typical backpackers, we saw several in their 40s, 50s, and 60s traveling both in groups and on their own. On top of this, there were lots of Indian tourists from all over the country, including many from the area who had never seen the festival before.

We went to a number of the festival events. My favorites were the camel race and the mustache competition, in which men with elaborate mustaches tried to impress the judges by stroking their facial hair and laughing maniacally. There were contortionist acts, which we enjoyed until we started noticing that the contortionists were all girls preteen and younger, following the orders of an older gentleman in the background. There were also a lot of women dressed up in traditional clothes, asking for money to have their picture taken. At the same time, many of the Indian tourists were taking pictures of the foreign tourists (white people are rarely seen in many parts of the country). Something tells me it would have been inappropriate for us to ask the Indian tourists taking our picture for money.

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Filed under Animals, Culture, Festivals, India

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