4 March 2015
Hyderabad? Why Hyderabad?
A good question, and one asked numerous times prior to my departure, usually followed by a question as to its location.
I initially thought, “Well, it’s home to the famous Hyderabad biryanis and the wealthy Nizams of Hyderabad.”
I promptly committed myself and travelling buddy to the flights – and then did the research.
[By the way: Hyderabad’s location. On the map of India, it’s kind of in the middle and down a bit.]
My research came up blank. No tourist hotels, and no real tourist website either. Hyderabad is a commercial capital. Not really designed for the happy-go-lucky tourist.
“Oh well”, I exclaimed to my companion, “We can sit around the pool, rest from our longish flight and drink gin and tonics.”
Although he seemed slightly convinced, he did point out several concerns. Firstly, “sitting around a pool” really isn’t our thing; Secondly, Hyderabad is a Muslim-dominated city and might limit our access to G&Ts. And, most significantly, the last time I organised a rest and relax in India, it was in a vegetarian-only alcohol-free holy city (refer Pushka entry!). Clearly, he still hasn’t recovered from that holiday paradise.
However, we were committed and ready for what morsels Hyderabad threw our way.
Admittedly … I’m writing this entry while sunning myself around the pool at the Radisson, with an icy Kingfisher beer in my hand (while my gluten free other half savours his lime juice… still waiting for that G&T…).
We are Day Two into the eight centuries of history Hyderabad has to offer. The highlights being … (I promise there aren’t many, so don’t even think about diverting your attention…):
Charminar. Hyderabad’s nod to the Arc de Triomphe. The innovative Indians came up with the idea of putting a mosque on top. However, as Charminar was built several hundred years prior to Paris’ centrepiece it would seem the French are not all that original.
Chowmallah. Now this is a palace, in fact FOUR palaces within the Nizam family compound, each reflecting the Nizam of the times’ taste. Starting with one that was built to out-do the Shah of Iran’s domicile (the Nizams having originated in Iran). A carved marble edifice, complete with coloured Venetian chandeliers, and a throne that appeared to be built for ten royal posteriors (either that or the Nizam had quite a large bottom – a diet of biryani will do that to you). The most recently-added palace also a marble behemoth, but strangely with an interior straight from Downton Abbey.
This family got around in style, with a collection of vehicles to protect their silk-slippered feet ranging from horse-drawn liveried carriages to a limited edition canary yellow Rolls Royce designed especially by Mr Royce for the Nizam of Hyderabad. Commissioned in 1911, it has only 365 miles on its odometer…
Golkonda Fort. This is an impressive fort built in the 16th century that now lies ruined and abandoned. Massive blocks of red granite underpin this forted city that is spread over 11 square kilometres, leading up to a lofty palace resting on a rocky peak that is the highest point in the region. A city for 3,000 (married) people (the singles slummed it outside the main gates), all there to protect, pamper, administrate and entertain the extensive royal family.
Not saying that this was one paranoid Shah (King) … but he cleverly designed a sonic feature for his highly polished white domed chambers and meeting halls throughout the city, an acoustic marvel where every sound echoed around the finely-polished walls and curved ceilings. He could hear whatever was said; every conspirator’s whisper, the rustle of a concealed weapon being unsheathed, and every courtesan’s indiscretion.
So, so far it’s been lots of walking around Palaces, Mosques and Forts. Which is a good thing as our biriyani consumption is out of control.
Architecturally, Hyderabad is influenced by the Persian style; or, to describe it on a more basic level, “I Dream of Jeannie” style. [I acknowledge that not everyone is an Architecteophile such as myself. Like that word? Don’t bother to Google it, I just made it up.]
We covered all of the major sights in Hyderabad, finishing off our visit with a walk around Lake Hussain Sagar with its giant Buddha floating in the middle, an Indian Statue of Liberty. Judging by the garbage bobbing in the scarily green water, I’m sure Buddha was pleased he had a podium to protect his white marble robes. It was a short visit to the lake due to the brazen way the rats failed to react to us, and because of the CMP Communist Rally consisting of thousands of ‘red shirts’ that we seemed to be caught in the middle of.
After some monumental walks around Hyderabad, covered in exhaust fumes, building dust, and general pollution, I would have to say, personally, I’m not a Hyderabad fan.
But then what would I know? The Times of India reported today that Hyderabad beat Mumbai and Delhi in the liveable city stakes. Hyderabad came in at #138 of the most liveable cities in the world. I don’t think you need to get too nervous, Zurich or Vancouver.