Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel: Live like a modern maharajah

Experience the legendary service and stunning décor of Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. (Supplied)
Updated 01 November 2019

Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel: Live like a modern maharajah

MUMBAI: You might have heard of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. In 2008, it was the center of a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai by members of the Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The pictures of smoke coming through the massive red Florentine Gothic 240 feet central dome of the hotel became the symbol of India’s commercial capital being under siege.

In April this year, “Hotel Mumbai” — directed by Anthony Maras and starring Dev Patel — chronicled the courage of the hotel’s staff during those horrific events (the staff’s selfless service has also been the subject of a Harvard Business School case study). The hotel is an emblem of Mumbai’s heritage and resilience.




The hotel is an emblem of Mumbai’s heritage and resilience. (Supplied)

According to legend, the industrialist J. N. Tata decided to build the hotel early in the 20th century when he was refused entry at The Watson Hotel, then the city’s grandest. The Taj Mahal Palace was constructed in 1903, and is still considered the grandest hotel in India.  It sits across from the Gateway of India (although the hotel actually predates that iconic monument). It was from the steps of the hotel that Lord Mountbatten announced India’s independence.

Following the 2008 attacks, the hotel underwent a reported $30 million refurbishment, reopening in August 2010. And the improvement work didn’t stop there; a new spa and modernized gym were unveiled last year.




The industrialist J. N. Tata decided to build the hotel early in the 20th century when he was refused entry at The Watson Hotel. (Supplied)

But the hotel remains instantly recognizable as the “Grand Old Lady of Mumbai.” With its Oriental, Florentine and Moorish architecture — complete with alabaster ceilings, onyx columns, silk hand-knotted carpets and marble floodways — it really does feel like a palace. On its walls are some of India’s most important artworks; its Belgian chandeliers are priceless; and the Edwardian-Gujarati trellises are crafted with precision. It has hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Oprah Winfrey, Mahatma Gandhi and Bill and Hilary Clinton. Ruttie Jinnah — the wife of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah — had a permanent suite at the Taj.




With its Oriental, Florentine and Moorish architecture, the hotel really does feel like a palace. (Supplied)

In the 1970s, the Tower was added so that the hotel could accommodate more guests and business-friendly facilities, but the Palace (referred to as “The Heritage Wing”) is the one to stay at.

The Taj, as it is fondly called, is where locals go to celebrate special occasions — its ballroom is still the most prestigious wedding location in Mumbai  — and where tourists come to experience Indian hospitality. All of the generously sized rooms in the Heritage Wing enjoy  butler service, and comprehensive attention-to-detail — for example, leaving a bookmark next to your current bedside read.




The hotel reopened in August 2010. (Supplied)

The regal poolside (on the lobby level) is a great place to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner, but for afternoon tea the Sea Lounge is a must. Its art deco furniture and views of the Arabian Sea will transport you back to the days of Colonial India. 

The hotel has several restaurants (warning: they are, unsurprisingly, among the most-expensive in the city) including Mumbai’s finest Japanese venue in the city, Wasabi by Morimoto, and Masala Kraft, which is all about modern Indian cuisine.




The hotel has hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton. (Supplied)

But since the hotel is located in the wealthy residential area of Colaba, many of the city’s best eateries are within walking distance. As, indeed, are some of Mumbai’s best shops, from lifestyle store Good Earth, to the by-appointment-only jewellers, Gem Palace. Plus the city’s art district Kala Ghoda is just around the corner.

Any stay at this Indo-Saracenic beauty, with accommodation straight from the days of the Raj, and its deservedly world-famous hospitality, really will leave you feeling like royalty.


Australian-Lebanese model Jessica Kahwaty urges fans to help Lebanon

Updated 12 min 24 sec ago

Australian-Lebanese model Jessica Kahwaty urges fans to help Lebanon

DUBAI: Model and philanthropist Jessica Kahawaty has taken to social media to raise awareness about Lebanon’s deepening economic crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to reports, the economic crisis coupled with the health pandemic can lead to a famine in the Levant country. 

Kahawaty, who is part Lebanese and part Australian, took to her Instagram Stories to explain the seriousness of Lebanon’s worsening economic crisis and hyperinflation. 

“For non-Lebanese to understand the severity of what’s happening in Lebanon: $100 used to give you 150,000 Lebanese Liras,” she wrote. “Due to the deteriorating state of the country, $100 gives you 900,000 Lebanese Liras. If you’re living and working in Lebanon and your salary a year ago was 4.5 million Liras per month, today that salary is worth $450. Severe inflation is reflecting an increase in prices in the supermarkets,” she added, before urging her followers to donate to different organizations helping on the ground in Lebanon. 

“If you know of more organizations, please DM me so I can share,” she wrote alongside links to several Lebanese NGO’s and charities that provide assistance to Lebanese families struggling to put food on the table.

The 31-year-old also shared a past shoot, which was orchestrated by a team of Lebanese photographers, stylists and makeup artists . “It pains me that this shoot was done by one of the most talented teams of Lebanese creatives, whose dreams are being shattered day-by-day along with the rest of the country due to the careless behavior of the leaders,” she captioned the black-and-white shot.

“Lebanon is known to produce such incredible talent especially in the fashion industry. It devastated me knowing that as soon as they somewhat had their feet on the ground, something close to what our parents experienced may happen again. From hyperinflation to the imminent risk of a civil war, once again the country and people are taken back many steps and many generations.” 

A few celebrities and figures have stepped in to offer their assistance to Lebanon amid its unprecedented economic crisis, including Hollywood power couple George and Amal Clooney who donated $300,000 to the Lebanese Food Bank in April.