Thursday, May 06, 2010

24 By City Hyderabad

On the one hand, Hyderabad is steeped in the culture of the Nizams. This is evident in the monuments, the cuisine and even in the hint of Urdu that has found its way into Telugu, the local language. On the other hand, the city is a major Information Technology and Pharmaceutical hub. It prides itself on a swank new airport that has been declared by the Airports Council International as the best in the world in the category 5 to 15 million passenger capacity. Hyderabad is one heady mix of tradition and technology.
Built by Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah in 1591, the Charminar (literally, Four Minarets) is considered the symbol of Hyderabad. The structure has four minarets at the corners and four arches between them. It is now a major intersection. Visitors can climb up to the first level and view the surrounding bazaars, palaces and mosques.

On weekend mornings, Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation conducts heritage walks from the Charminar to the Chowmahallah Palace at 7.30 a.m.. Do see the website and contact locally for more details.
If visiting later in the day, stroll around the area, see the Unani Hospital building, pick up the famous Hyderabadi lac bangles at the Laad Bazaar and snack on street food.
Chowmahalla was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. With its elegant courtyards, darbar halls, palaces and gardens, it is considered a replica of the Shah's Palace in Teheran, Iran. It has recently been restored and is used as a grand party venue. However, visitors are welcome to see the palace between 10am and 5pm on all days except Fridays and National Holidays.
A major part of the collection at the Salar Jung Museum was acquired by Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, popularly known as Salar Jung III. The collection, sprawled across thirty eight galleries consists of art, sculpture, manuscripts, clocks, porcelain and other artefacts from India and across the world. The Veiled Rebecca by Italian sculptor Giovanni Battista Benzoni is one of the most famous exhibits at the museum. So is the two-sided wooden sculpture called Mephistopheles and Margaretta by an unknown French sculptor. The museum is open to visitors between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on all days except Fridays and holidays. Do check website for list of holidays.
The Golconda Fort was the original capital of the Qutub Shahis. A water shortage compelled the shifting of the capital to Hyderabad. The Golconda area, has long been renowned for its diamond mines - the Koh-i-noor and the Hope Diamond are believed to have been excavated here. The fort is touted to be an engineering marvel with a single clap from a particular point at the entrance being audible at the upper reaches of the fortification. This fort is well constructed to hold out against intruders that Aurangzeb's armies took nine months to seize it. The Qutub Shahi tombs are about a kilometre from the fort. Do carry a hat and water for this outing and visit closer to dusk when there is a Sound-and-Light show (son et lumière) that takes place here. Do check locally for the timing and dates of the show
- RAMOJI FILM CITY – A sprawling movie studio that provides various in-house locations to produce movies.
- SHILPARAMAM – An arts and crafts village
Hyderabad is famous for its pearls. While the bazaars around the Charminar are replete with shops selling them, it is advisable to buy them from a reputed retailer like Jagadamba Pearls. In addition to white pearls, you will also find pink and black pearls available here. Lepakshi is a government-run store that houses a range of handicrafts indigenous to the state of Andhra Pradesh like leather puppets, Bidri silver ware, Nirmal Painting, Ettikopaka toys and Kondapalli toys. APCO is the government-run fabric outlet where you will find cottons and silks in various textile traditions – Pochampalli (Ikat), Kalamkari and Dharmavaram to name a few. Visit Joshi's for local masalas and pickles.
Hyderabadi Biriyani is considered quite the delicacy and Paradise in Secunderabad, Hyderabad's twin city, is touted as the best restaurant for its authenticity of flavour. A word of caution – Hyderabadi food tends to be fiery.
Among side dishes for Indian breads, do taste the Dalcha (a mutton and lentil stew), Baghare Baingan (Hyderabad-style stuffed aubergines) and in the winters, the Nihari (a spicy breakfast dish made with goat shanks). Among desserts, don't miss the Qubani Ka Meetha (Apricot Pudding), Double Ka Meetha (bread pudding) and Falooda (an exotic vermicelli beverage of Persian origin). Lukhmi (filo stuffed with a mutton-mince) is a popular snack.
Hyderabad has a profusion of Irani cafes where the Irani tea and Osmania biscuits are much favoured. Visit Pulla Reddy Sweets for authentic ghee-based confections.
The Hussain Sagar Lake is a favourite evening hangout for the people of Hyderabad. The main attraction is the giant statue of a standing Buddha. The lights along the lake look akin to a necklace of diamonds and Necklace Road is meant to highlight exactly this effect. From the Lumbini Park jetty, one can take boat rides around the lake.Hyderabad has its share of malls, movie theatres and sports stadia. Do check local listings for events.
NOTE: In recent months, Hyderabad has had its share of unrest owing to communal tension and the claim for a separate Telengana state. Do keep abreast of the situation before visiting the city.
(An edited version appeared in Culturama's May 2010 Issue)

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