The near mythical Nizams of Hyderabad, who ruled the City of Pearls from 1720 to 1948 lived a thousand lives over a few generations. None more so than the 7th Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan named by Time magazine as the richest man on earth. To this lover of palaces (he owned 35 of them), the jewel in his crown was Falaknuma Palace.
Perched atop a hill with sweeping views of Hyderabad, its gardens flocked by peacocks, its entrance embraced by a custom made horse drawn chariot ride and a shower of rose petals, the “Mirror Of the Sky” was built by Prime Minister Viqar Ul Umra in 1894. The palace was laid in the shape of a scorpion with Italian marble and Tudor influences. The palace took 10 years to built and 22 years to decorate, thus bankrupting Umra in the process.
When Mehboob Ali Pasha, the 6th Nizam came to visit in 1897 he wisely offered it as a gift which he proudly bought for 6.8 million rupees. King George V, Edward VIII and Tsar Nicholas II all came through its stained glass doors and danced in the parquet floored ballroom. But just after the Independence in 1947, the palace with the Nizam being ousted by the Indian Army, the palace passed into a ghostly silence. Mukarram Jah, the 8th Nizam approached his wife Princess Ezra to rescue his childhood dream in 1996. The Princess approached the project with a characteristic aplomb and partnered with the Taj Group. Over the next 10 years with about 50 million dollars the palace was restored. Records say the upholstery was dyed 200 times to give the correct appearance. In 2010, the doors of Falaknuma Palace opened once more.
A marble staircase with statues of Greek goddesses atop the banisters leads to the dining room with the world's longest dining table, seating 101 guests. Frescoes of food adorn the ceiling so that the Nizam could decide what to eat. The Durbar Hall is a Victorian triumph with its gilt edge furniture and shimmering silks. The Jade Room (Jade being the Nizams favourite colour) is adorned with crystal chandeliers and masterfully crafted objects from around the world.
The ivory ebony cherry marquetry cues are original with the Nizams initials. The library modelled after Windsor Castle’s is lined with more than 5000 books with one of the oldest versions of the Quran and the Palace’s guest book featuring handwritten signatures of the guests.
Dotted around the tree lined courtyard, the 60 palace rooms and suites reflect the heritage and opulence in the air. Tamarind, Pomegranate, Sweet Lime and swaying date palms fill the garden, the erstwhile home to Nizam’s six trained domestic tigers. At dusk there is live qawwali, magical to say the least.
As the stars twinkle guests may indulge in a dinner fit for a king. They may choose the authentic Hyderabadi “Adaa”, the multicuisine “Celeste” or choose the magical “Gol Bungalow” terrace overlooking the city and shaded by a glass dome being the oldest part of the palace.
Heaven, indeed is found in Hyderabad. I was lucky enough to experience it. I hope you all experience it too.
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