Guests arrive at the palace complex by horse-drawn carriage, just as they did back in the palace’s heyday. Cars go no farther than the large gated arch that’s located midway up the hill. Horses take it from there, arriving in front of the palace beneath a shower of rose petals.
The 60-room palace serves not only as a hotel but also as a museum. Much of the furnishings are original to the palace, which was built in the late 1890s. “Is it really OK to be sitting in this chair with this orange-coriander mojito in my hand?” I keep asking myself as I’m slouching into an elaborately carved armchair upholstered in Damask silk.
The former saloon, now the Hookah Lounge, is no longer reserved strictly for men, and it looks pretty much the way it did when the Nizam entertained here, except that the billiards table has obviously been refinished with new green felt. The sweet smell of hookah shisha hangs lightly in the air, mingled with blooming jasmine and Old World dust. The cocktails here are incredible, especially the jasmine sour martini and the oriange-coriander mojito.
It’s also important to note that Taj has opened one of its signature Jiva Spas here. And as you might expect, it’s a blissful retreat within the palace grounds. The pool is a bit rustic, in a decadent, carefree sort of way, rimmed with grass (trimmed by hand) and flowering trees, which provide plenty of shade for comfortable chaise lounges.