How it must feel to be king of all you survey

It’s hard to imagine how it must feel to be king of all you survey. To look out from the palace walls as the sun dips behind the silhouetted hills, and know that everything you see from horizon to horizon is yours to rule. 

Short of a marrying a monarch, daydreams are probably the closest most people will get to the extravagant existence enjoyed by the rulers of India’s princely states, but behind the whitewashed walls of Hyderabad’s Falaknuma Palace, you can get just a taste of this life of lavish luxury.

Run as one of India’s most nostalgic heritage hotels, the Taj Falaknuma Palace serves up a perfect introduction to Hyderabad, city of palaces, perfumes and pearls. From this hilltop vantage point, the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad – once the richest man in the world – looked out over the rolling hills of India’s wealthiest princely state, worth more in its heyday than many European nations.

In fact, living the royal life in Hyderabad is easier than you might imagine, thanks to the thriving traditions that persist from the Nizam’s time. Even if you can’t afford to stay in the Falaknuma, you can swing by for high tea or haggle for pearls and ittars (Islamic perfumes) in the same bazaars as generations of Hyderabad royals.

 

Sleeping with royalty

My own brush with royalty began with an almost absurdly ostentatious arrival at the Falaknuma, rolling through gardens teeming with peacocks in an open, horse-drawn carriage, before climbing the palace’s marble steps beneath a shower of crimson rose petals. It was a wonderfully theatrical introduction to the former palace of the enigmatic (and succinctly named) His Exalted Highness Nawab Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan Siddiqi, Bayafandi Asaf Jah the VIIth, last Nizam of the princely state of Hyderabad Deccan.

Laid out in the shape of a scorpion, with two wings embracing the Palladian central hall like protective claws, the Falaknuma is an elegant sprawl of staterooms, courtyards and formal gardens, and a splendid clash of East-meets-West ideas. While the Islamic star and crescent rises proudly from the rooftop, the stained glass windows depict Beefeaters, kings and cavaliers. For every Indo-Saracenic turret and Mughal arch, there’s a nude-crowned marble fountain or a neoclassical colonnade.