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HBIn March 2011, the Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, India reopened its doors – as a high-end hotel – after nearly a century of being sealed. Renamed the Taj Falaknuma (after the Taj Hotel Group) the hotel provides visitors a chance to experience the lavish lifestyle of the Nizams of Hyderabad who used the Palace as a guesthouse.

The Falaknuma (meaning ‘mirror of the sky’) was commissioned in 1884 by Nawab Viqar ul Omra, the Nizam’s prime minister, as a residence for himself. Set on a scorpion shaped hillock, the Palace cost a fortune and took a decade to complete. The Nizam, who had a weakness for opulent palaces, eventually bought it and the Falaknuma was said to be his favourite palace. Royal house guests included King George V and Queen Mary, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The Palace has 60 rooms, every one enormous in size, exquisitely decorated and literally fit for a king. The ballroom, for example, has walls that are covered in hundreds of yards of silk and the gilt ceiling is adorned with Venetian chandeliers, while the library houses 6,000 rare books and is inspired by the one in Windsor Castle. The massive dining room has one of the longest dining tables in the world, measuring 33 metres; it is made from teak and rosewood, seats 101 guests, and at the height of the Nizam’s power, was laid with gold plates and cutlery. The vestibule is adorned with frescoes, Greek urns, alabaster nymphs and Louis XIV furniture; the landing has portraits of the Nizams hanging in Rococo frames, illuminated by Carerra marble lamps and the famous chinoserie style Jade Room is full of objets d’art. — Marylou Andrew First published in the Adbuzzzzz section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 13, 2011.