As we approach the Fairmont Jaipur in darkness, I spot a giant fortress lit up in the hills. “Is that the Amber Fort?” I ask the driver. “No ma’am, that is the hotel.” We enter through an arched gateway with towering wooden doors that are opened for us, into the courtyard of a -re-imagined 16th-century Mughal fortress. (One day, there are trumpeters in a tower to welcome us but, out of courtesy, they’re quiet for night arrivals.) The lobby in the grand hall is through another set of silver-coated aluminium doors and an entrance where there’s usually a minstrel sitting cross-legged on a daybed, playing a flute or sitar. We’re shown to the Fairmont Gold reception area for check in; when I return to my room, my marble bathroom floor is decorated with marigold petals, and there’s a hot bath in a giant soaker tub waiting for me. Hard to beat that kind of welcome.
Perched in the Aravalli Hills, off a long and winding road, the Fairmont’s first hotel in India is like a resort in a world of its own. Far from being marooned, the -concierge can organise everything from elephant polo to a visit with India’s only Unesco-certified falconer. The hotel has a sweeping view of the hills, with lawns leading out to domed pavilions.
My Fairmont Gold room is almost as opulent as the rest of the hotel, with a four-poster bed, arched doorways and windows with hand-embroidered gold silk curtains, and a bathroom big enough to do sprints in. A handcrafted wooden parrot sits on a swing in each room, a nod to the Mughals’ fondness for the creatures.
Expect the service Fairmont is known for: quietly and graciously efficient, with attention to detail – rushing to pick up something I’ve dropped and remembering my morning coffee order. The Gold rooms have a butler service, and the cleaning staff leave sculptural towels on my bed: not just the usual swan but an elephant holding a flower in its trunk with petals for eyes.
The hotel, which opened in August, was relatively quiet before the Diwali holiday, save for a large conference group and a handful of well-to-do Indian and Western tourists, both couples and families. Its business is likely to pick up when it opens its villas and spa next autumn.
While Zoya, the all-day dining restaurant, serves a variety of cuisine, from European to Chinese, it specialises in Indian cuisine. Both here and at a special lunch on the lawn, I enjoy some of the best food I’ve had in India, including some dishes I’ve never encountered before, such as atta chicken, a whole chicken cooked in a dough shell, and laal maas, a Rajasthani lamb cooked hunter-style over charcoal. Breakfast eggs or idlis are made to order in the Gold lounge. Tea is served up with chocolate jewels in Anjum.
The craftsmanship is spectacular: everything is hand-made by local artisans. The walls and ceilings are hand-painted with Rajasthani frescoes, arched doorways and windows are framed with carved jali screens, and alcoves are decorated with thikri glasswork.
My Gold room on the first floor was a little too close to the ground. Although it had a great view of the hills overlooking the pavilions, one morning I woke up to a group of tourists taking photos below me as I gazed out the window in my robe.
Want to feel like a Mughal prince or princess in a five-star hilltop fortress, catered to in every way? This is the place for you.
The bottom line
A Gold room costs from 18,900 rupees (Dh1,270) per night, including taxes. The Fairmont Jaipur, 2 Riico Kukas, Jaipur, India (www.fairmont.com; 00 91 142 642 0000).
* Mo Gannon