Al Alam Palace
This royal palace in Oman is owned by the Sultan, who has retained the property through eight generations.
Amer Fort, both royal palace and military stronghold, stands on a hill over Maota Lake. Construction of the impenetrable red sandstone and marble began in the sixteenth century at the direction of Maharaja Man Singh I, a commander in the Mughal emperor Akbar’s army.
The fort rises on four levels, each with its own courtyard. Inside, among the opulent rooms are the Diwan-e-Aam, or Hall of Public Audience, resplendent with mosaic glass works, where the king met his ministers and welcomed common men to hear their requests. The Sukh Niwas, or Hall of Pleasure, even featured an ancient method of air-conditioning, where air passed over channels of perfumed water to keep the palace cool.
While the fort presents a commanding yet basic exterior, inside reveals an almost absurd attention to clever details. A “magic flower” marble panel, depicting two butterflies hovering over a flower, is meant to be spun, revealing seven possible images: a lotus, an elephant trunk, a fishtail, a scorpion, a lion’s tail, a hooded cobra, or a cob of corn. Choose your own adventure.
The fort’s most beautiful feature is inarguably its Mirror Palace, designed as a gesture of love. A queen of the fort used to love sleeping under the stars as a child. But ancient custom didn’t allow women to sleep in the open air, so her king called on the best architects in the region to deliver her the gift of the cosmos within the palace walls. Their solution was to craft gorgeous detail out of glass for the walls and ceiling. When a mere two candles are lit, thousands of stars appear to glitter beyond the ceiling.
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