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Taj gets Ready for Obamas


US President Barack Obama and wife Michelle will be the first guests to occupy the post-26/11 renovated presidential suite named 'Tata Suite' in the heritage wing of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which is now almost ready to host the American first couple.

A rigorous daily security drill is being maintained in South Mumbai for the high- profile visit, and the entire business district is being decorated with welcome arches, posters and huge placards carrying pictures of Obama, the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

The security is so tight as can be imagined from the fact that when the Air Force One lands at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on November 6, only a few senior police officials like the state director general of police and the Mumbai commissioner may get a glimpse of him.

As part of the security arrangements for the US President's visit, the precincts of the Gateway of India, where the Taj Hotel is located, is being turned into a fortress.
The hustle-bustle of the Gateway of India with its tourists, hawkers, photographers and urchins will just disappear from the night of November 5 and remain out of sight till Obama leaves for Delhi the next day.

For two days, all the ferry operations from the Gateway will also come to a halt. Ships of the Indian and the US Navy will jointly patrol the coasts of Mumbai.

The presidential suite where the Obamas will stay is on the sixth floor of the Palace wing of the seafront hotel which underwent a massive Rs 175 crore refit after it was damaged by fire, smoke, bullets and explosions during the 60-hour siege that began on November 26, 2008.

The heritage wing of the 107-year-old hotel has 285 rooms, including 42 suites, 19 of which feature different themes such as Dolphin, Coral, Marathas and Dutch.

The suites in which the Obamas will stay offer a panoramic view of the Arabian Sea and the Gateway of India. Former US President Bill Clinton, too, had stayed in the same suite.
The entire hotel will be taken over by the presidential entourage and no other guests will be allowed to stay in the hotel during that period.

Obama will be served food made by his personal chef, although the hotel management is making all preparations to treat the president with its own delicacies, if he so desired. Six massive food containers have already reached the hotel for the purpose.

What the management has does is to pack Obama's mini-bar with the most exclusive and expensive wines in the world, some of which cost more than Rs 3,000 a glass.
There's Moet Champagne and Bourgogne Pinot Noir and Scotch among others. The Glenfiddich scotch, which is one of the world's finest, will be there for the president to relish.

Obama's stay at the Taj Mahal hotel is a gesture of solidarity with India's fight against terrorism. He will, in fact, begin his official visit by paying homage to the victims of the 26/11 attacks at a special function to be held in the hotel where the Tata group chairman Ratan Tata will brief him about those horrible 60 hours.

He will be given a tour of the Heritage Wing which has been restored. The fifth and sixth floors house the presidential suites which were severely damaged in the fire the terrorists set off on 26/11. The per-night tariff for the presidential suite is around Rs 10 lakh.

Source: DHNS , Nov 2 , 2010