Damascus, Dimashq, Syria
March 29, 2005
There is a small museum off the central courtyard, but far more enticing are the steep stone steps leading to the hanging balconies of the upper floors. From these narrow ledges there is a good, if somewhat vertiginous, view down into the courtyard and across to the domes on top of the palace apartments. Numerous apartments and terraces are accessed from these balconies, some still showing traces of the turquoise tile motifs on the walls. The rooms are all light and airy, with beautiful stone lattice-work windows giving great views over the countryside. To the west, the view is over the rooftops of the village and beyond to the Laxminarayana Temple perched on a hill on the skyline. From the eastern windows you look down on the newly restored caravanserai and out across the forest with crumbly temples dotted around. The Betwa River is a blue ribbon in the distance.
The main entrance to the palace is on the east side, but most tour groups seem to enter from the west (by the Sheesh Mahal Hotel), have a quick look around, and then exit the same way. This almost guarantees the luxury of sitting on the steps of the caravanserai with an uninterrupted view of the magnificent exterior of the palace. Two stone elephants guard the entrance (although their tusks have been knocked off), which is intricately carved, and the ceiling above the doorway has been beautifully painted. Again, there are the traces of turquoise tiles on the facade of the building that give an indication of how stunning it must have looked in the past.
Following the path behind the caravanserai there is a pleasant walk through the fields to a group of small ruins that appear to be home to the farmer and his family. The metal spokes of an umbrella used as a TV aerial is a somewhat bizarre sight on top of the monument.
From journal A Long Weekend in Orchha