The Cholistan Desert, also locally known as Rohi (روہی), sprawls 30 km (19 mi) from Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan, and covers an area of 26,300 km2 (10,200 sq mi). It adjoins the Thar Desert, extending over to Sindh and into India.
The word Cholistan is derived from the Turkic word chol, meaning desert. The people of Cholistan lead a semi-nomadic life, moving from one place to another in search of water and fodder for their animals. The dry bed of the Hakra River runs through the area, along which many settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization have been found. The desert also hosts an annual Jeep rally, known as the Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally. It is the biggest motorsports event in Pakistan. In a harsh and barren land where rainfall is very sparse and unreliable, Cholistanis rely mainly on their livestock of sheep, goats, and camel. However, on cold nights of winter, they huddle indoors and engage themselves in various arts and crafts such as textiles, weaving, leatherwork, and pottery.
Derawar Fort (Urdu: قلعہ دراوڑ) is a large square fortress in Ahmadpur East Tehsil, Punjab, Pakistan. Located approximately 100 km south of the city of Bahawalpur, the forty bastions of Derawar are visible for many miles in the Cholistan Desert. The walls have a perimeter of 1500 meters and stand up to thirty meters high.
Derawar Fort was built by Rai Jajja Bhatti, a Rajput ruler of the Bhatti clan. The fort was built in the 9th century AD as a tribute to Rawal Deoraj Bhatti, a Rajput sovereign king of the Jaisalmer and Bahawalpur areas who had his capital at Lodhruva. The fort was initially known as Dera Rawal and later referred to as Dera Rawar, which over time came to be pronounced Derawar, its present name.
In the 18th century, the fort was taken over by Muslim Nawabs of Bahawalpur from the Shahotra tribe. It was later renovated by Abbasi rulers, but in 1747 the fort slipped from their hands owing to Bahawal Khan’s preoccupations at Shikarpur. Nawab Mubarak Khan took the stronghold back in 1804. 1,000-year-old catapult shells were found in the debris near a decaying wall in the fort.
This historically significant fort presents an enormous and impressive structure in the heart of the Cholistan desert, but it is rapidly deteriorating and in need of immediate preventative measures for preservation. Derawar Fort is an important tourist place, it’s a beautiful desert tourist place for safari. Recently the off-road Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally also known as “TDCP Cholistan Jeep Rally” The rally initiated near the Derawar Fort in Ahmadpur East Tehsil.