I found myself under a shiny half moon, in the midst of a desert in Pushkar, India, surrounded on all sides by the shadows of thousands of camel silhouettes and the harrowing braying noises that these funny-looking beasts make when they’re happy, mad, or just going to the bathroom. Smoke from the fires of nomadic camel herders’ makeshift campsites floated through the air. I breathed it all in, standing as still as possible.
Of all the experiences I had looked forward to in planning my India trip, the annual Pushkar Camel Fair, I have to admit, topped the list. Oh sure, I was all, “The Taj Mahal will be great! Can’t wait to see the Ganges!” but really, deep down, I wanted to see what on god’s earth the largest camel fair in India was all about. I wanted to know what it was like to be surrounded by tens of thousands of camels at once.
And here I was.
So what was it all about? In short, the camel fair is an opportunity for folks to buy, sell and trade camels and other animals, like horses. People and their camels arrive from all over India, and converge for 2 weeks in Pushkar.
Of course, the event also includes a myriad of activities: camel races, football (soccer) matches, traditional singing and dancing, mustache competitions, street food, camel flair for sale (yes, camels have flair to wear) and other fair-like shenanigans.
There are few things that top standing on a sand hill, in the middle of the desert in Rajasthan, looking out upon a sea of camels, tents and turbans. It was one of the moments I had hoped hardest to make happen, and here I was, alive, in its absurd and perfect midst.