Nepal palace reopens as a museum

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Narayanhiti, the former royal palace in the centre of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, has been reopened as a museum, nine months after the centuries-old monarchy was abolished.

It is a sign of Nepal's huge changes that the red ribbon opening the museum was cut by a Maoist former rebel - the Prime Minister, Prachanda.

The museum has been sensitively assembled in the rooms where the monarchs, including Birendra's brother and successor, Gyanendra, lived and worked.

Some rooms are grandiose - especially the huge towered throne room behind the prominent front window, where extraordinary curved pillars with garish pictures of Hindu deities leap from the walls.

There is also a passageway lined with photos of Birendra with heads of state who visited Nepal in the 1970s and 1980s, like Presidents Tito of Yugoslavia and Mitterrand of France, and the monarchs of Britain and Spain - a reminder that Nepal used to be a destination for top foreign leaders before its descent into war and virtual pariah status.

Numbers visiting at any one time will be restricted so it is possible there will be long queues - although coverage of the event in the media has been limited and most Nepalis have plenty of problems to preoccupy them.

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