Mihir Garh sits on a six-metre-high sand dune—the highest point in the area and offers panoramic views of the open desert
About 50 km from Raas, in a lonely corner of the Thar Desert, dotted with shrubbery, another experience awaits in the form of a luxurious faux fortress. The 10-room all-suite Mihir Garh hotel sits on a six-metre-high sand dune, which is the highest point in the area and offers panoramic views of the open desert. Unlike many of Rajasthan’s most famous hotels, Mihir Garh wasn’t built centuries ago.
“There was this burning desire to create something special,” says Sidharth Singh, who built the hotel with his wife Rashmi between 2007 and 2009. One of only nine Relais & Châteaux properties in India, the hotel looks almost surreal with its smooth curved lines, battlements and turrets, one of which actually houses a jacuzzi.
Sidharth Singh’s forebearers were awarded the ‘Rohet Jagir’ under the Maharaja of Jodhpur in 1622 for bravery in battle. He was one of the early entrants into the heritage hotel space in Rajasthan, with their first hotel, Rohet Garh. “It is a heritage hotel in the classic sense of the word,” he says. Rohet Garh has been in operation since 1990, before which neither Sidharth nor his wife had any professional experience of running a hotel. “We lived and learnt,” says Sidharth, “and grew with the hotel.”
The 23-acre plot of land on which it stands today was asking for a hotel to come up on it, he says. By 2007, they began work on it and unlike most people, the couple wanted to do it all by themselves. The role of the professionals was limited to the broad structural aspects of the building. “We literally drew it out for them,” says Sidharth. With Mihir Garh, the couple wanted to pay tribute to the region of Marwar in Rajasthan, which consists of Jodhpur and the region to the west of the city. “Everything from the rugs, the furniture, the furnishings, fabrics, everything is from Marwar,” he says. So much so, that the couple did not even go to Jaipur for the material. The suites at the hotel measure about 1,700 square feet. “There are courtyards and terraces, with little plunge pools or jacuzzis with each suite,” says Sidharth.
At first glance, Mihir Garh looks like a sand castle. The mud finish that gives the sandy texture to the fort is applied using the same technique that is used on the huts in the nearby villages, says Sidharth. Women from the neighbouring villages helped make the fireplaces for the hotel using the same dung and clay methods that they use in their homes. Mirror-work, commonly seen in the region, was also used to adorn these fireplaces.
“It was a labour of love for my parents,” says Avjijit Singh, 23, the Rohet scion who has recently returned after graduating from the École hôtelière de Lausanne. It is no coincidence then that his father’s love for horses also finds place in this new adventure. Sidharth Singh’s Marwari horse stables, located next to the hotel, are an important part of the Mihir Garh experience, but with a caveat. “We have a brilliant equestrian programme and we offer some of the best riding in the country. But for that, I need experience,” says Sidharth. He has been a longtime proponent of the conservation and protection of the rare breed of Marwari horses, distinguishable by their inward-facing ear tips. For experienced riders, the hotel offers a village safari on horseback, complete with a ‘royal picnic’ en route. Madonna reportedly took one of these horse safaris during her stay at Mihir Garh.