The Nizam’s city of Hyderabad is famous for many things. Biryani, Chandrababu Naidu, Satyam, the Charminar and the Golconda fort. I have visited Hyderabad several times for a day’s trip to the corporate Hitech city so aptly named for all the major IT firms that are housed there. However, I never had the opportunity to stay for more than a day at work.
The past week however, I got a chance to go around seeing this buzzing metropolis of Hyderabad and getting a feel of what it was even if it was for just a few hours in the wee morning. Hyderabad is divided into five parts – east, west, north, south and the central zone. The picturesque Hussain Sagar lake with its tall misty fountains and the Buddha statue in the middle is at the center of the city. Most affluent neighborhoods such as the Banjara hills, Jubilee hills etc. lie around the lake in the central zone. The old city of Hyderabad lies at the south of the Musi river and is vastly different from the cleaner Hitech city, Banjara hills, and cantonment part of Secunderabad.
The tranquil Buddha in the Hussain Sagar lake
For the couple of hours I had, and with the couple of foreign visitors accompanying me, I decided to go to the Charminar, the Birla temple and the Hussain Sagar lake. Charminar is much touted as the symbol of Hyderabad and is displayed magnificently on travel posters at the airport and outside. Quite honestly, as I neared it, I was totally not impressed. Apart from creating a hype about it the Andhra Pradesh government has done nothing to maintain it the way it should be. This ancient structure which was built by Sultan Qutb Shah more than 400 years ago is in the sorriest part of the town. From the outside, its walls look crumbling and dilapidated and a tiny not-very-old temple is built right adjacent to it and sadly is the cause for many riots. The market is not clean, and hawkers, and beggars throng the streets jeering at and harassing tourists. The day after my visit, there apparently were even riots and police firing happened around there. It is a pity that such a highly touted tourist spot is in such a sensitive area to scare away any tourists and is simply not secured or preserved well enough. Even taking photos wasn’t as simple as it should have been with the milling traffic and crowd.
A romanticized photo of Charminar
The market nearby, the ‘Laad Bazaar’ was just opening up when I went and I hear there are lots of bangle shops, pearl shops and in season, kite-maker shops.
The old mosque, the Mecca masjid near the Charminar looked much more ancient and charming than the Charminar itself, but again, we could not go in because of much scaffolding and maintenance work going on there.
Charminar amidst the morning chaos
Our next stop at the Birla temple was much nicer. The Birla temple in Hyderabad was built of lovely pristine white marble. The temple on a hill offered panaromic views of the city in several directions, and one could see how the city of Hyderabad had grown in size over the years.
Birla Mandir courtsy wikimedia commons
We took a final round of the city around the peaceful Hussain sagar lake before we returned to the hi-tech city.
This is what I did in the 3 hours I had at Hyderabad. If you have the same time constraints if you visit, I suggest you visit a few alternate places
- The Golconda fort – check the lights and sound show in the evening which is supposed to be quite good (and really as told by other tourists and not just as advertised). The fort will take a minimum of 2 hours to see.
- The Chowmahalla palace in the old city is a great place to see and I had many recommendations to visit this.
- If you are a museum fan, the Salar Jung museum, one of the biggest museums in India is the place to go to.
- For a whole days visit, the Ramoji film studio is a fun theme park to hang out and see different film sets from different eras. Guided tours can be booked right from the airport.
Eating options – Being a modern city, Hyderabad has plenty of places to eat for all palates. Hyderabadi Biryani is particularly very famous. To eat the best biryani, do go to the immensely popular ‘Paradise Biryani’ at Secunderabad where they even pack the biryani in special packages for travelers! Don’t forget to pack baked goodies, particularly dry-fruit biscuits from the 60 year old Karachi bakery to share back home. On the way back, I particularly enjoyed the ‘idlis’ of Idli Factory at the airport with all their accompaniments of different ‘chutneys’.
Idlis of Idli Factory
Overall, I was quite impressed with most areas I went around in. The Hi-tech city, with all its IT software parks, beautiful roads, hardly felt like the dusty, grimy India that is better known! The Banjara hills and the Jubilee hills are a verdant mass of foliage and beautiful houses. I wasn’t exactly wowed by the 2-3 touristy places I went to, but I liked the overall feel of the city to want to visit again.