Gulping down litres of unhealthy soda to push down the dry, bizarrely flavoured rice that my local restaurant claimed to be a Biryani was when I decided that I will travel to Hyderabad and relish the taste of the real Biryani- the Hyderabadi Biryani. And to my great relief; the Biryani of Hyderabad lived up to its name. It allayed my hunger and with a brimful stomach and satisfied mind; I decided to explore this Pearl City of Hyderabad.
There is more to Hyderabad than its steaming, flavourful Biryanis, stunning pearls and towering tech buildings. Hyderabad is a dreamy affair; it mystifies the visitors with its miscellany- in culture and living. Today, the city is a budding cyber hub and is also known as Cyberabad given its huge cyber business and high-tech companies. The subdued ancient old city and the beaming metropolis- Hyderabad has it all!
Hyderabad has an undeniably glorious, slightly bewildering and iconic past. It was inhabited by various empires and the excavations have brought to light the sites dating back to 500 BCE. The old city of Hyderabad that can be observed today is 400 years old and was established by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah. The last rulers of Hyderabad were the Nizams and the relics of the glorious Nizam Empire are still visible in the old citys cobbled streets, towering forts and the life of the locals.
Photo by Arvind.Vindhu
I started off with taking a tour in the historic centre and Charminar was my first stop. An iconic structure with four towering Minarets, a mosque and 45 prayer spaces; Charminar was built on the spot where Quli Qutb Shah prayed when the city was hit by a plague epidemic in the 16th century. The hustle-bustle of the locals, shopping spree for traditional and bridal jewellery in the near-by Lad bazaar, and I was ready for my next sojourn. Walked a couple of minutes and passed by the enchanting Mecca Masjid. One of the largest and oldest mosques of India; the bricks embedded in the central arch of the Masjid were brought all the way from the holy city of Mecca.
Photo by mckaysavage
Lots of pictures and captured memories later, I headed off to Chow Mohalla Palace. Presenting a classic blend of Persian, Indo-Saracen, European and Rajasthani architecture; the Chow Mohalla Palace is a complex comprising four different palaces. Alluring courtyards, exquisite furniture, Chandeliers and Belgian crystals, antique cars including a Rolls Royce which was allegedly used by a Nizam as a garbage can exhibit the glimpse of grandeur of the Nizams. There was also a special exhibit on life of Zenana- the womens quarters. The Clock Tower, The Council Hall, and The Roshan Bangla are few other masterpieces in the Palace.
Photo by Arshad Majeed
Exhausted and honestly stunned with all the riches exhibited in the Palace, I decided to make myself feel rich by hogging on the spread offered by Shah Ghouse cafe and restaurant. Three generous savings of aromatic Biryani and silky feerni later, I headed off to Salar Jung Museum. The Auto-rickshaw ride with Telgu songs playing on the radio was memorable.
Housing one of the largest one-man collections of antiques by Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, Salar Jung III; The Salar Jung museum was a treat to my soul. With around 14,000 exhibits from every corner of the world including sculptures, wood carvings, devotional objects, Mughal miniature paintings, illuminated manuscripts, weaponry, toys and textiles- so much to see, so little time!
The Nizam Silver Jubilee museum was just a walk away and absolutely stunning. Diamonds, pearls, gold and silver- you need special sanity to not feel bad about your modest belongings.
The evening breeze led me to the Hussain Sagar Lake, the serene haven of Hyderabad. A boat ride later, I was away from the city chaos, admiring the Buddha standing tall and strong, feeling tranquil. The view from the lake was stunning! The necklace road, Tank Bund, Prasads Multiplex, Lumbini Park, Sanjeevaiah Park are some attractions closely located and worth a visit! In the evening, the enthusiastic auto driver (and a self-proclaimed best-in-the-city travel guide) also took me around the Falaknuma palace which is now a heritage hotel, top-notch and very beautiful!
A good nights sleep was all I needed to get back into the traveller mode; todays mission was Golconda fort. Tales enveloping this majestic fortress had risen up the curiosity around it and I was so looking forward to it. A humble guy named Javed was my guide for the day. The word Golconda originates from Golla Konda meaning Shepherds Hill. A mud fort, Golconda presents excellent acoustics, ingenious water supply systems that were way ahead of its time. The Sounds and light show is unmissable and one of the most stupendous experiences in my Hyderabad trip. The Qutb shahi tombs, Taramati bardari are some attractions located within the proximity of the Golconda fort and can be visited together.
Photo by Sandeepsea
If you are a fan of Bollywood movies, hook to the screen for the over-dramatic fighting scenes, love watching the hero-heroines (sometimes the entire cast) running around trees and shrubs singing love songs- Ramoji Film City is your Indian Disneyland! This largest integrated film city of the world is spread over 1666 acres and serves as a huge amusement park with natural as well as man-made attractions. A big movie and fun-loving buff that I am, I wouldnt miss this! A long auto-rickshaw ride took me to this wonderland. Neatly paved streets, clean and crisp lawns, tourist buses to get around the city, streets from Shanghai to Switzerland recreated to perfection, amusement rides and international cuisines- Ramoji was an astounding experience!
There are many temples, mosques and Parks in the city and being a huge metropolis, there are also a number of plush shopping malls, hang-outs and restaurants. The Birla Temple and the NTR Park are prime attractions worth a visit.
On my Hyderabad sojourn, I let myself savour the authentic Mughlai cuisine blended with Nizam specialities and topped with South-Indian flavours. The Hyderabadi biryani, Mirch ka salan, pathar-ka-ghosht, nahari, haleem, double-ka-meetha, khubani-ka-meetha, seviyon-ka-meetha and kheer are little joys that delighted me and the taste still lingers on my tongue.
My takeaways back home were gorgeous set of pearls, packets of Hyderabadi Biryani from Paradise Biryani house and oodles of memories. Rising and falling empires, glorious past, amalgamation of religions and the intermingling of the new and old make Hyderabad a place to be!
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