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Prayers, Flowers Mark Reopening Of Mumbai Hotel

Receptionists answer telephones at the front desk of the reopened Trident Hotel in Mumbai.

Receptionists answer telephones at the front desk of the reopened Trident Hotel in Mumbai.

MUMBAI (Reuters) -- A multifaith prayer ceremony marked the reopening of Mumbai's Trident hotel, one of the sites of last month's terror attacks, with scanners and roses greeting guests as they made their way into the gleaming lobby.

The hotel's 550 rooms, three restaurants, and the bar were opened following Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist prayers in the lobby, which three weeks ago was strewn with broken glass and streaks of blood.

Guests held pink roses and staff stood with hands folded on the staircase leading to the adjacent Oberoi hotel, which remains closed, as religious verses were chanted.

"We are feeling sad as we are reminded of the events, but we are also happy that the hotel is open again," said Rashmi Mehra, a regular at the Frangipani restaurant, who lost a friend in the Nov 26-29 attacks in which 32 guests and staff were killed. "We are going to see if we can get a table for lunch -- we were told it's fully booked."

Enquiries for rooms and restaurant bookings have been pouring in, although hotel authorities said that cancellation rates have been 30-35 percent following Islamist militant attacks that killed at least 179 people.

The nearby historic Taj Mahal Hotel, site of a 60-hour siege, will throw open its doors later on December 21 to more than 1,000 clients and guests for a gala reception.

'Welcome Home'

Newspapers carried a large advertisement with the stunning dome of the Taj Mahal and a headline that said: "Welcome home again."

Authorities at the Trident said at least 100 rooms would be occupied at the hotel, a favorite of foreign business executives, and the restaurants were expected to be full.

"A guest walking in will find no trace of what happened," Rattan Keswani, president of the Trident Hotels said. "We believe the time has come to look forward to the future. Now, the fears of travelers and governments that have issued travel advisories must be allayed so people will return to Mumbai."

Damage to the Oberoi hotel was still being assessed, and it might take six to seven months to reopen, Keswani added.

Baggage scanners, metal detectors, sniffer dogs, and armed police behind sandbags are positioned at the entrance to the hotel, with guests also being frisked.

The Trident is working with a security agency to put in place systems in Mumbai and in other locations, Keswani said. "There are all kinds of deterrents in place, but can anyone have avoided an armed assault of that nature? Probably not."

At Leopold Cafe, another of the 10 sites that were attacked, regulars and curious visitors have flocked back, despite the bullet holes that are still visible in its walls and windows.