G20 Lowdown: The most glamorous hotels of Delhi that will host premiers over next weekend

- September 4, 2023
| By : Mohd Shehwaaz Khan |

The Australian PM will stay at the hotel, which was inaugurated by an Indian Viceroy, at whose bar India’s partition plans were finalised

AMERICAN HOST: The ITC Maurya will host the US President, Joe Biden, and the American delegation. The American heads of states usually stay at ITC Maurya

Even as Chinese premier Xi Jinping has officially cancelled his visit to the national capital, where arrangements had been made for him at the Taj Palace at Sardar Patel Marg, ITC Maurya is decked out to host US President Joe Biden from September 7 to 10. “Perhaps US Presidents have developed some kind of liking for this hotel. They love to stay here,” says Rajan Dhawan, who visits ITC Maurya often.

Biden will stay at the two-bedroom Grand Presidential Suite, ‘Chanakya’. It has hosted several heads of states in the past. It has a private drawing room, a private terrace, a gym and a dining area, a private entrance, a parking boulevard, a high-speed elevator, elaborate security systems, and a butler.

According to sources, security personnel have cordoned off the floor where the Grand Presidential Suite is located. The entire hotel will be out-of-bounds for other guests as all the rooms have been booked for the American delegation. A three-layer security will be put in place at the five-star property.

It is said that when former US President Barack Obama stayed at the same suite during his visit to the capital in 2015, he was served food from the hotel’s rooftop European restaurant West View, where he had dined with the top CEOs from India and the US. Obama had also used the private gym at the suite.

ITC Maurya and Maurya dynasty

The ITC Maurya is named after the Maurya dynasty, which oversaw a golden era in Indian history. Art, architecture and culture were widely celebrated in the third century B.C. The nod to the era and art is apparent upon arrival.

PICTURESQUE: The ITC Maurya (above) and Taj Palace (bottom) offer a panoramic view of the city’s verdant, protected greens

British residence

For Rishi Sunak, the Indian-origin Prime Minister of Britain, the forthcoming trip to Delhi to take part in the G20 summit has a very special significance.

After all, he is visiting the country of his wife, Akshata Murthy. Sunak will stay at Shangri La on Ashoka Road in the heart of New Delhi. Built on the space where the first-ever international book fair was held in 1971 and later hotel Kanishka was built, Shangri La has made a big name for itself over the last couple of years thanks to its brilliant service, world-class restaurants and premium location.

“There is every possibility that Sunak would host his in-laws NR Narayana Murthy and Sudha Murthy at the hotel. They are among the most accomplished couples in India,” says veteran foreign affairs expert Shashi Kumar Jha.

Shangri La will also host the Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz. Indeed, it is an honour for Shangri La to simultaneously host heads of two states.

Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will stay at The Imperial on Janpath, just a shouting distance away from Shangri La.

The Imperial was built in 1936. It was New Delhi’s first grand hotel. Designed by FB Blomfield, the Australian premier would greatly enjoy his stay there as it is full of palm trees. The Imperial was officially opened by Lord Willingdon, the Viceroy of India from 1931 to 1936. Also present at the opening ceremony was the Viceroy’s wife, Lady Willingdon, who chose the hotel’s name and conferred the lion insignia upon it.

Louis Fischer, author of Gandhi’s biography ‘The Life of Mahatma’ stayed here in 1946. It is said that the hotel has the largest collection of colonial and post-colonial art and artefacts in Delhi. It also has a museum and an art gallery.

The Imperial is well known for its heritage and legacy. It has a well-known bar called ‘Patiala Peg’. It was this hotel and the bar where Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten met to discuss the Partition of India and the birth of Pakistan.

While the summit is scheduled for September 9-10, the Saudi crown prince’s state visit will take place on September 11. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his delegation will stay at the Taj Mahal Hotel on Man Singh Road. Situated close to India Gate, the hotel offers a unique vantage point with views of the leafy boulevards of Lutyens’ Delhi.

It is said that the Crown Prince will stay at the Lutyens’ Grand Presidential Suite.  It has a collection of Signature Suites like Rambagh, Maharaja, Versailles, and Tanjore, designed to cater to the needs of state heads, dignitaries, business leaders, celebrities, and leisure travellers, providing a secure and opulent environment.

A Taj staff member said the hotel has hosted several Israeli Prime Ministers. The reason behind this could be due to its vicinity to Delhi’s only synagogue, Judah Hyam Synagogue, which is just a five-minute drive. Delhi-based Jews visit the temple for prayers.

End of the road for Ashok Hotel

Meanwhile, the big-ticket G20 Summit will mark the end of an era for The Ashok Hotel (The Ashok since 2006). It was here that the heads of states of over six dozen countries stayed when Delhi hosted the Non-Aligned Summit in 1983. The Ashok Hotel was among the first major buildings that came up in the capital after Independence. Designed by E.B. Doctor, a Mumbai-based architect, the Ashok Hotel is spread over 25 acres of space.

It was built in 1955 when the entire Chankayapuri was a jungle full of thick bushes. Undeterred, the Parsi architect Doctor created a masterpiece. Impressed with the work of the likes of Edwin Lutyens and Harbert Baker, Doctor gave space for Jharokhas and jaali-work. He had also created a massive pillar-less convention hall, 550 guest rooms and landscaped gardens.

Before the Ashok Hotel, the capital had The Imperial, Janpath, and Hotel Oberoi Maidens on Alipore Road. Once the Ashok came up, it became the favourite destination for Presidents, Prime ministers, and great revolutionaries. On his only trip to Delhi in 1959, Che Guevara stayed at the Ashok Hotel. Cuban president Fidel Castro, too, stayed there in 1983.

HOSTS: The Shangri-La Hotel located on Ashoka Road will host two heads of states, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz

It is said that when Castro was there, the security had three Castro lookalikes at the hotel to confuse potential attackers. The burly Prabhakaran of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka stayed here in 1985. In the 70s, Dhirubhai Ambani used to stay at the Ashok Hotel and always ensured that he got a room facing the lush green Nehru Park. Those were the early days of his mind-boggling journey in the world of business. It is a different matter that now his family has a major share in the Oberoi hotels, too.