Obama, Michelle given traditional welcome at ITC Maurya

The Obamas were a given a "nice, warm traditional" welcome -- the trademark Maurya welcome termed 'Brides of India' -- as shehnai played in background.

"Two girls dressed in traditional bridal dress -- one in a lehenga and the other in a Bengali saree -- welcomed the dignitaries. They enjoyed the warm welcome," a senior hotel official said.

The US President and First Lady were received at the hotel, located in a 5.5 acre plot on Sardar Patel Marg, by ITC Chairman Y C Deveshwar.

The lobby of the hotel has been decorated with flowers while the premises have new saplings, flowering plants and a green carpet of grass.

All the 440 rooms, including the 29 uniquely-designed suites, of the hotel have been booked by the US authorities for Obama's delegation even as US Secret Services have secured the facility for the stay of the President.

Obama is the third US President to stay in the ITC Maurya in the past 10 years. Earlier in 2000, then US President Bill Clinton stayed at the hotel, while six years later, George W Bush also chose the same facility.

One of the reasons why the hotel is a favourite among high profile dignitaries is its three accommodation wings which make it more secure. Given the fact that all the three wings have their own elevators, receptions and kitchens makes it difficult to guess where the dignitary is actually staying.

The restaurants -- DumPhukt and Bukhara -- in the hotel are also making arrangements for treating the US President.

This time around, the 'Obama Platter' is expected to have fish on it, besides 'murgh khurchan' among other things.

Besides working on various delicacies for the US delegation, the hotel is also preparing to treat them with traditional Indian therapies at their exotic spa. "The spa managers at Kaya Kalp are working on this," the official said.

Elaborate security arrangements have also been made at the hotel. The ITC Maurya has been made out of bounds for the public with Indian and US security agencies taking over the building after sanitising the facility.

Around 2,000 police and paramilitary personnel will guard the hotel and its surroundings. The Ridge area opposite the hotel has been lit up while personnel from Indian and US agencies have checked the manholes and sewer lines on the routes Obama is taking.

Security concerns have forced authorities to disable the "virtual tour" section from the hotel website.

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