In the Land of the Nizams
The benefits of having grown up in Dubai and graduating from a boarding school in India is that you have friends in the four corners of the world. The downside is that you don’t get to see them regularly and when you do decide to meet, you have to use sacred leave days to travel somewhere you may have been umpteen times. Of course, the point is to catch up with friends after months or years apart, but still… I’ve always tried to put as many eggs into my basket as I can and so my friends and I try to meet in a place we’ve never been before thereby fulfilling the old saying “two birds, one stone.”
I’ve known R since we were in kindergarten. She is currently based in the US, and I’m on the other side of the world, so meeting up can be a tad bid difficult. Although social media and modern methods of telecommunication allow us to stay in touch, it’s not quite the same as seeing each other in person. Now we try to catch up once a year when she transits in Dubai on her way to India. Last year however, we decided to change things up a bit. I told R that I would meet her in India and that is how Hyderabad happened.
Hyderabad is NOT one of those cities that comes up on the top 10 places to visit in India. So I didn’t have a lot of expectation, apart from the fact that I wanted to pack in as much Hyderabad Dum Biryani as I could. What happened though, for reasons I can’t quite explain, is that Hyderabad enchanted me. Those of you who have been to Hyderabad will think that I’ve gone mad. Words that come to mind when one tries to describe Hyderabad is dirty, crowded, smog and haze. Definitely not enchanting.
What captured my attention was the architecture and as I like to do when I visit places with rich history, imagining the city during the time of the Mughals and Nizams. That image in my head was further enhanced when we dined at the Taj Faluknama Palace on our second night in the city. The palace was something out of a fairy tale, with an aura of peacefulness to it. Words cannot quite explain how utterly charmed I was by the palace, so much so that I am determined to return to Hyderabad for the sole reason of spending a couple of nights there.
Next stop, Old City. This is a predominantly Muslim area of Hyderabad with iconic attractions such as the Charminar and Makkah Masjid and really comes to life after sunset. Be weary of pickpockets though. Many of the main tourist attractions are in the Old Walled City of Hyderabad. Nearby is the Salar Jung Museum which is an impressive monument from the outside with an even more impressive collection of artefacts. My only disappointment was that the Museum was not better maintained and that the collection did not look as though it had been properly looked after. The museum holds one of the largest one-man collections in the world. Be sure to look out for The Veiled Rebecca, an artistic masterpiece.
One of the biggest sources of Indian pride is the Kohinoor diamond, which fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, is in the hands of the British and forms part of the Crown Jewels. The Kohinoor diamond has a bitter and bloody history and the Indian Government has been trying for many years to have it returned to India. Why do I bring this up? Well, a little known fact is that this diamond, as well as the Hope Diamond, was mined in near the site of the Golconda Fort. The fort itself is an impressive structure, with very unique sound engineering. It is said that ruler at the time was so paranoid about that his subjects might be conspiring against him that certain parts of the fort were built in such a way that anything said in one room could be heard in the other because of the acoustic design.
Not too far from the Golconda forts are the Qutub Shahi Tombs. Another notable sight is the Chowmahalla Palace . If you like architecture then pay a visit to the high court and the Omani hospital building. Unfortunately, due to the limited time I had, I wasn’t able to visit these places, but caught glimpses of them as we were driving around Hyderabad.
All in all, three days is definitely not enough to see all of Hyderabad. If you want to fit in some shopping (Hyderabad is better known as the City of Pearls), then I would definitely recommend 4 – 5 days in this City.
- Organise a car for the duration of your stay. It is much easier to get around the city this way rather than have to rely on public transport. That being said, Uber is also a very handy way to get around the city.
- When visiting the Mecca Masjid, ensure that you are dressed appropriately. I had mistakenly assumed that we would be provided with an abaya or the like, as is the practice in Abu Dhabi or Dubai when visiting a mosque. So, I was only able to catch a glimpse of the masjid from the outside.
- Chutneys – For breakfast.
- Adaa – At the Faluknama Palace, great place for dinner
- Paradise – This came highly recommended as THE place to go to for Hyderabad dum biryani. Unfortunately, it did not live up to its mark. I would NOT recommend eating here.
- Niloufer Cafe – DO NOT leave Hyderabad without stopping by this cafe for its famed biscuits and tea. The biscuits I carried home were so popular that it was Gone in 60 seconds. Be careful, directly across from NIloufer Cafe is a restaurant named New Niloufer Cafe. We popped in there at the beginning because we wanted somewhere to sit. This was a farce as the restaurant had clearly ripped off Niloufer’s trademark. Fortunately, we realised our error when we went to buy biscuits to take home. Niloufer Cafe has to branches very close to each other, one just further up the road from the other.