The Mirror of the Sky – Taj Falaknuma Palace

I was finally there at Taj Falaknuma and I felt like a royal from day one. From the taxi cab that had come to escort me to the two-horse carriage that took me to my room area, the grand welcome with rose petals and scents, I was transported to another era – the era of the Nizam. After all, Falaknuma Palace was the royal residence of the Nizams and was built in 1894. This place is opulent in all its glory and so is the price of its room. Rs 20,000 a night is a bit steep for normal budget travellers but the experience is worth it.

I was helped into my luxury room by the many pleasant and helpful attendees of the palace. I instantly had a hot rose-scented bathtub ready for me to soothe my aches and pains from the flight that I had just taken from Delhi. The palace has a central courtyard with fountains and green carpet grass lawns all across. On either side are galleries with huge white pillars. Behind them are the guest rooms. Each room reeks of luxury and grandiose. The staff are so perceptive and treat you not as a guest but as a family. I had cut my chin while shaving and a staff noticed that the cut was bleeding. She instantly called for first aid and applied an ointment to seal the wound.

Next day, when another staff member brought me my dinner, he noticed I was coughing due to excessive smoking and instantly asked me if he could prepare hot toddy that would soothe my throat at night and heal my discomfort. Within minutes, herbal hot toddy arrived and I was relieved of my throat ache. I have never seen this kind of attention to detail and attention to the guest, even in posh hotels abroad. The level of service and attention to the guest really left me spellbound. However, this was just the beginning.

In the morning, I woke up late and wrapped myself in a fluffy bathrobe to take a dip in the pool enjoying a beer at the same time. The Hyderabadi cuisine was something I really enjoyed. The mutton and chicken biryani, qubani-ka-meetha, haleem – oh! All of it was finger-licking good and served piping hot – a treat for the kings.

The evenings would be ushered in by the royal qawwals and this time, I was filming them through my Mark IV as they sang a famous qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Then it was up a flight of marble stairs to the royal billiards room where I played billiards with a few foreign guests and sipped Bourbon. The night was my favourite time as the whole palace was lit up. The sapphire red of the glittering chandeliers complemented the green emerald light that shone from the doorway. The palace was like a museum frozen in time. Huge portraits of the Nizams and many other dignitaries from around the world adorned the walls on either side of the stairways. King George V and Czar Nicholas II of Russia – they were all there adding to the mystique of the palace reminding us of its great heritage and prestige.

Some of the guests took a guided champagne tour of the palace where they were acquainted with the history of the place. I, for one, skipped that session. I walked instead to the Jiva Spa for a haircut. I also coloured my hair. All rooms are non-smoking zones but one can step out for a smoke.

The place is full of white marble statues of Greek Gods and little angels with replicas of many masterpieces from around the world. I, for one, found a startling resemblance between Taj Falaknuma and the Mezhyhirya Palace that I had visited on my trip to Kiev. The opulence, the lawns and the marble statues along with the water fountains had a striking resemblance to the Mezhyhirya Palace.

Well, its lights out for now. Enjoy the night photographs from Falaknuma.

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