Courtney Whitaker attends the unveiling of the breathtaking Gudliya Suite in the City Palace, Jaipur
Ever thought the royal lifestyle could be for you? Well, now you can take that lifestyle for a test run.
For the first time ever, the beautiful 300-year-old City Palace in the Pink City of Jaipur is opening some of its private rooms to the public for rent on Airbnb. This will also be the first time Airbnb has a royal host on its books and the only chance you have to live just like a maharaja (or maharani).
Historian Dr Rima Hooja gestures towards a series of beautiful, grainy, black-and-white framed photographs sitting pride of place in the Gudliya Suite's chalky blue living area: "These photographs were taken by Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh in the 1800s." Indeed, many of the suite's features are original, from the colourful hand-painted wall frescoes to the original bathroom design with it's four sumptuous day beds tucked into arched recesses (Hooja says, in times past, guests would sit on these beds and recite poetry to the person in the bath).
The vibrant colours in the suite are typical of Rajasthani design, and every room is a different hue, from the emerald-green entry room with hand-painted royal crest above the door, to the soft, rose-coloured dressing room.
Venturing further into the suite brings more surprises; cobalt-blue velvet couches, a beautiful four-poster bed (with crisp monogrammed pillows), a writing desk, a relaxing open-air courtyard and the breathtaking red-panelled powder room. But perhaps the biggest surprise of all happens at the end of the suite. Through the final archway, a spectacular private indoor swimming pool is revealed; all soft lighting, pink walls, and glassy turquoise water.
This private area of the palace has previously only been available to royal family members and honoured guests. And with a guest list including names such as Princess Diana and Prince Charles, Jackie Kennedy, and Oprah, you'll be joining an exclusive club. The Gudliya Suite comes with its own personal butler, and its exclusive access means you'll be able to explore some of the sumptuous palace rooms, airy verandas, artefacts, and the on-site Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum.
The 21-year old Maharaja, Padmanabh Singh, who succeeded his grandfather in 2011, says he is thrilled to be partnering with Airbnb, and that he is "happy that the experience of quintessential Indian hospitality will be shared with others". And it's not just the famous Rajasthani hospitality the young king will be sharing, thanks to this new venture. Proceeds from each booking of the Gudliya Suite, until January 1, will go towards his mother's project, the Princess Diya Kumari Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to supporting disadvantaged women and girls in Rajasthan. Airbnb is also adding the foundation to its list of official Social Impact Experiences, allowing you to visit the women and artisans handcrafting their goods at the foundation and learning new techniques to better their futures.
Jaipur, a fascinating destination, which this year became a Unesco World Heritage City, offers many treasures for tourists, including the centuries-old Amer Fort, the Jal Mahal floating lake palace, and the Hawa Mahal Palace, among others. Typical Rajasthani food, presented on a thali (silver platter with many different dishes) is another experience not to be missed, and neither is the shopping.
So, if you feel you might have a little blue in your blood, or simply want the experience of a lifetime, get in quick, the suite is booking up fast.
The Gudliya Suite, at the City Palace, Jaipur, is available to book now on Airbnb. Until January 1, it is available for the special price of US$1000 a night, with the proceeds going to the Princess Diya Kumari Foundation. From January 1, the price is US$8000 a night.
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