12 Hour Guide To Hyderabad
The city of steaming biryani, vibrant anarkalis, stunning mosques and polite people- the old capital of Qutubshah is perfect for a royal holiday.
Remember in history class we learned about the formidable Kingdom of Persia? Our teachers taught us about the expansive gradens dotted with exquisite fountains and lined with exotic flowers. We imagined enormous white marble and red sandstone buildings with tall and circular domes which distribute sound waves equally across the room. We imagined pristine lakes surrounded by the most immaculately carved walls with sculptures and verses from scriptures sprawled on them. That delightfully dreamy paradise- once upon a time- was the Qutub Dynasty’s capital of Hyderabad.
The Nizams were the Mughals who had originally migrated from Persia and who brought along with them an extensive wealth of architecture, history, cuisine and off course the religion of Islam. They settled in the state of Andhra Pradesh around the city of Hyderabad. In those days India was divided in several princely states and Emperor Nizamshah was responsible for the development in Hyderabad. Immediately mosques, palaces, market-places were built for the royals and people alike and original Indians began converting to Islam. After the British took over, all princely states were united and Hyderabad lost its royal beauty. But even today, Hyderabad is still a shadow of the time when Sultans lived in it.
What to see:
The enormous buildings constructed during the reigns of Qutub Shah and Nizam Shah were designed in unique Indo-Islamic architecture inspired by Medieval, Mughal and European styles- no wonder Hyderabad is called ‘Best Heritage City of India’. Here is a short 12 hour guide in order to cover as much of the city’s beauty as possible.
• Golconda Fort– Start your morning with a slice of violent wars and bloody power struggles. This formidable structure overlooking the sprawling city of Hyderabad was the ultimate seat of power ages ago. It consists of four different forts, four drawbridges and eight gateways housing palaces, mosques and stables. Spread across a staggering 11 KM the Golconda still has many hidden apartments and passageways covered by the sands of time. Every nook and corner of the fort screams a story of war, religion and power but it also exudes a sense of dignity. The gardens built 400 years ago may not be in their prime anymore but a stroll through them is relaxing.
• The Tomb of Qutub Shah- Situated in the stunning Ibrahim Bagh Gardens, the majestic tombs of seven royals from the Qutub dynasty who ruled Hyderabad for centuries is a must visit sight. The burial vault surrounded with extensively carved sarcophagus and intricately designed galleries are the most appropriate resting place for emperors. The gardens around the tombs filled with detailed fountains and exotic flora are mesmerizing and perfect spot for an afternoon stroll.
• Char Minar– Located at the heart of old Hyderabad this iconic monument consists of four spectacular arches (minarets) facing a road. The building was designed in classical Persian architecture and is one of the most prominent Islam-inspired monuments in the world. The surrounding area around Char Minar is packed with shops, locals and tourists walking around the busy market place or navigating the confusing roads in their vehicles. The perfect place to enjoy an evening out in the city, gorge on some nearby street food or head into one of the five-star restaurants nearby to taste authentic Hyderabadi cuisine.
The above sites have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites and therefore should be the top items on your bucket list for Hyderabad. But there are also plenty of other places to see if you have time and energy left.
• Charkaman– While travelling around the city you will naturally come across four immaculately designed enormous gates placed in strategic locations around the Char Minars. Built in 1592 these gates were built alongside the Minar to add an aesthetic appeal to them. But over time they have become landmarks of their own.
• Mecca Mosque-The fifth Emperor Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah started the construction of a mosque for which he specifically imported brisk from Mecca, thus its name. Today this spiritual heaven is one of the oldest and largest mosques in India crowded everyday with devoted Muslims.
• Laad/ Choodi Bazaar or Bangles Market- Located in one of the four main roads surrounding Char Minar, this market place is world renowned for bangles made from lacquer. Shop till you drop for artifacts, accessories, jewellery, handicrafts and souvenirs in this kilometer long vibrant maze.
• Chowmahalla Palace- This is the royal palace where the Nizams (the dynasty to rule Hyderabad after the Qutubs) resided. Today belonging to Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah, the heir of the Nizams it was honoured with the Asia-Pacific Merit Award by UNESCO in 2010.
There are plenty of exciting things to do in Hyderabad apart from simply visiting places. The mughal cuisine is found on every street here so you must try the world famous ‘Hyderabadi Biryani’- richly prepared colourful rice along with saffron, dry fruits and generous pieces of chunky meat. Also try the assortment of ‘kebabs’ (spicy meat skewers) along with ‘tandoori roti’ (buttery flatbread which is the best thing after sliced bread). Drink the sweet and savory ‘Shirkurma’ a sweet dish had on special occasions. Buy vibrant ‘anarkalis’ or ‘patialas’ for women and sparkly ‘sherwanis’ for men- the traditional robes of Muslims in India. It is relatively simple to navigate the above spots and do the activities because they are all located and centered around the Char Minar. You will certainly have a wonderful time in Hyderabad if you are curious about history and religion but you will also enjoy it if you are an adventurous tourist looking for something new.