I first visited the City of the Nizams during my teenage years. My parents had decided I hadn’t travelled to southern India enough and that it was important to know the history and culture of the existing states to help understand what India truly consists of. So, there we were, travelling for a month across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and finally Andhra Pradesh. I loved biryani even then but there was something about Hyderabad which made me really like the city. Whether it was the food, the museums or rich traditions, I’m unsure, but I really enjoyed myself.
Years later I often travel to Hyderabad for work. Thanks to a hectic schedule, I don’t get time to visit or do things I love but I try to do at least one of the things I like. But, if you ever find yourself in Hyderabad, do not leave the city without trying at least one from my must-do list!
Visit Old Hyderabad for a history lesson
There’s nothing like visiting the Charminar. The symbol of the city, the structure built by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah in 1591 has people from all over the world stopping by for a visit. Yes, it’s very crowded but that makes it even more special. It has a hundred and forty nine steps that lead to the top and is beautified by many flowers and animal motifs.
But the Charminar is not the only historical spot in Old Hyderabad. If you have time, book a ticket for one of the many Heritage Walks conducted by AP Tourism to relive the glorious past. You will get to visit Kali Kaman, Mecca Masjid, Chowmahalla Palace and Jama Masjid among many lesser known sites.
Shop at Old Hyderabad
From pearls to perfumes to bangles, you need a bit of time to shop here. While you’ll find exquisite glass bangles at Laad Bazar with gracious shopkeepers making you feel special. One of them told me last time that glass bangles will never go out of fashion with women flocking to buy sets during marriages and other functions.
Then you have the Perfume street or Ittar as its commonly called. They are locally produced perfumes which are sold in various quantities in glass vials. Expertly named after a lot of tongue twisting, you often forget which one you tend to buy because you smell so many! My father gets me to buy him Musk every time I’m in the city.
How can you visit Hyderabad and not buy pearls right? A friend even went there for a day to purchase pearls for her wedding last year! Thanks to the Nizams’ patronage, pearls became symbolic. Funny but these days the pearls are imported from all over the world and drilled in Chandanpet. Prices vary according to shape, size and sheen. It’s the simply string which is most popular but I love my pearl studs. Gives you a regal feeling I tell you.
The museum/fort trail
The Salar Jung museum is probably the most famous in the state. It holds the largest one-man antique collection in the world. For scholars, its a must visit destination. Thanks to Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan or Salar Jung III, the collection includes art from India, Europe, the middle East while delicate Persian carpets and porcelain from China enthrall visitors. You will find Aurangzeb’s sword and artifacts from Jehangir and Shah Jahan’s time. Benzoni’s Veiled Rebecca will leave you breathless.
The AP State Museum is also popular. Exquisite pieces housed in a grand building, what’s not to like? From Buddhist artifacts to sculptures from the Vijayanagara period, the museum also has the mummy of Nasihu, the daughter of the sixth Egyptian pharaoh dating back to almost 2500 BC.
The Golconda Fort was one of the strongest in India. Though the fort dates back to the Yadava dynasty, it came to be during the Qutb Shahis (1518- 1687) and then it was conquered by Aurangzeb. Apparently there used to be a secret tunnel leading all the way across the city to the Charminar for the safe passage of the nobles. Oh how I wish I could go there! Take time out to visit the light and sound show in the evenings. It will be worth your time.
Eating like a royal
Biryani is food for the soul. With many versions all across India, the one found in Hyderabad is served with Raita and Salan. The fragrant rice combined with succulent pieces of meat melt in your mouth. While Paradise is the most popular joint, locals prefer Hyderabad House or Bawarchi. A friend says, “The tourists are enamored by Paradise but ask any local, they would prefer a less known eating joint any day.” Well I leave the local biryani battle to the experts.
You can’t leave the city without picking up biscuits from Karachi Bakery. They have a stall in the airport so indulge in the tasty fruit biscuits on the plane too!
For the water babies
Hussainsagar Lake connects the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. An 18m tall white granite Buddha statue stands in the middle which can be seen from miles away. Go for a walk around Tank Bund (the common name) and watch the sunset. You’ll find peace.