After two months of doing nothing, my husband and I decided it was time to explore Hyderabad. After a lot of planning for a week or so, came the much awaited weekend and thus started our 48 hours in Hyderabad.
I usually wake up with a mug full of water on my face at a count down from 10. Thanks to my husband. But today was different. There were better things to do. We had our travel bag with our favourite sunglasses, caps, sunscreen lotion etc packed the previous night itself. We took an Uber to our first destination.
Salar Jung Museum
From our place at Hitech City, Salarjung museum is 21 km far, a 1hr ride. It is in doubt, the most well maintained museum I have ever been to. The museum is home to a rare and exquisite collection of paintings, sculptures, textiles, manuscripts and arms from India, Japan, Syria, Egypt, China, Nepal, Burma, Europe and North America, most of which were the collections of the third Salar Jung, Mir Yousuf Ali Khan famously known as Salar Jung III. In a way it will take you on a tour around the world. We took an audio guided tour which consisted of descriptions of each gallery. You will also hear from the museum’s director and Nawab Ehteram Ali Khan, a descendent of the Salar Jungs talking about his ancestors and their legacy. It will take you 2 to 3 hours to complete the tour.
The Musical clock is the most striking attraction of the museum. Every hour, a mechanical toy figure, the timekeeper, emerges out of an enclosure and strikes the gong as many times as the hour and retrieves into the enclosure. My personal favourites are the Arms & Armoury, Walking Sticks, the Veiled Rebecca, Jade gallery and the Mephistopheles & Margaretta double statue.
Chowmahalla Palace is only 2.5km far from Salar Jung Museum. An auto ride will take you here is 15 minutes. As the name ‘Chow Mahalla’ suggests, it comprises of four palaces- Aftab Mahal, Afzal Mahal, Mehtab Mahal and Tahniyat Mahal. The palace was the official residence of the Asaf Jahi Nizams of Hyderabad state. In the 1940’s, the Nizam of Hyderabad was the richest man on Earth. Most of the wealth got divided among several thousand descendents of various Nizams, encroached and ransacked by a number of corrupt people and the place was left to rot. Princess Esra, first wife of Nizam Mukharram Jah is credited for the restoration and present state of the palace. The article ‘The Lost World’ by William Dalrymple will guide you through the complete story of its renovation.
Today, Chowmahalla Palace is a beautiful and well maintained museum showcasing the lives of the Nizams. The palace has stunning chandeliers which are the most spectacular sights. It also houses a Textile Gallery showcasing the garments used by the Nizams and their families, an outdoor Buggee Khana displaying an array of vintage cars, a Religious Artefacts Gallery and the clock tower. You will also see hundreds of pigeons and a few geese having asserted their royal residence in the towers and gardens of the palace. Before leaving take a picture of yourself in the royal attire. They charged us Rs100 for a picture, but it sure was a keeper.
Charminar is undoubtedly an architectural masterpiece. It is at a walking distance from Chowmahalla Palace. If you are in for a little street shopping this is quite a place for it. You will find everything from fruit vendors to pearl jewellers here. I personally feel that the traffic and the market around is a big injustice to this breathtaking structure, which made me a bit sad. I must have been stupid enough to have pictured the proud structure surrounded by wide streets and beautiful garden around, with benches where you can sit and relax and breathe fresh air as you take in the details of the magnificent, must visit milestone of Hyderabad. Let me just warn you, you will be running from one end to other. But, fret not. Our next destination is in itself the solution. Make sure you climb up the spiral stairway to get a most tempting view of the Old City of Hyderabad and do not forget to indulge in some shopping at the Laad Bazaar, mostly popular for the bangles.
Mecca masjid is largest and one of the oldest mosques in Hyderabad. It can accommodate around ten thousand people at a time. The central arch of the mosque is made of bricks made from the soil brought from Mecca and thus the name. Try to reach the mosque in time for Namaz. You will be amazed to see all those people join in for prayer. Later you can sit back and relax at the steps of the masjid and feast your eyes with the spectacular view of Charminar. Girls, you would want to avoid wearing jeans if this is in your list.
By now we were really hungry and knew it was time for our royal dinner. We knew exactly where to go, Hotel Shadab. Ask anyone for the way. The place is quite famous and the menu is full of regal names like Akbari, Shahi, mughulai etc. There is another place called Nimrah, a cafe bakery, near Mecca Masjid. They serve a huge selection of freshly baked biscuits. Treat yourself with some Osmania, Kaju or Fruit biscuits and take some home.
The second day also started early because there was too much on our plate and very little time. Remember to take at least a bottle of water. Trust me; you are going to need a lot today. Our Uber arrived on time and thus began Day 2.
Qutub Shahi Tombs
Qutub Shahi tombs were only around 8km from Hitech City, which made us wonder what took us this long to come up with this plan. Remember Salar Jung III. He ordered for the restoration of the tombs which had been neglected since the end of the Qutub Shahi reign. There are 21 tombs, seven of which belong to the Qutub shahi rulers and the rest are of family members, courtesans, physicians and one belongs to the sufi saint Hussain Wali, who built Hussain Sagar Lake which bridges Hyderabad and Secunderabad. A golden spire was fixed over the tombs of the kings to distinguish them from the rest. The most striking of them is the tomb of Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah, fifth ruler of Qutub Shahi dynasty. He is the founder of Hyderabad City and also constructed the Charminar. We couldn’t enter the mausoleum as it was under renovation. There is an incomplete tomb that gives you an idea of the construction of the domes. Ram Singh, our guide said his ancestors had served the Qutub Shahs in the army. No wonder he was very possessive about the whole place.
We decided to walk to Golconda Fort. After one kilometre you’ll reach the Banjara Darwaza, the gateway to the fort, but the actual entrance is farther away. Several tour guides will flock around you once you are in the vicinity of the fort. It will cost you ₹750 for a human tour guide, which is a good idea if you are in a group. And mind you, this is the best time you showed your skills at negotiation. There is also an audio tour guide available just opposite the main entrance priced at ₹300. Take your pick.
The fort was constructed on a 120 metres tall granite hill. The construction was started in 1143 AD by the Kakatiya Kings of Warangal. It was handed over to the Bahmanis and later taken over by the Qutub Shahi Dynasty. All the rulers made their contribution in modifying, extending and strengthening the fort. In 1687 AD, Aurangazeb invaded Golconda Fort for the second time. The conquest lasted for almost eight months, clearly took a toll on the fort and what remains today are the remnants of this siege.
The fort comprises of a palace, a parade ground, a mosque, armoury, gardens, store areas for grains, oil and water etc. The acoustic design of various sections of the structure is very remarkable. Do not miss the view of the Qutub Shahi tombs from the top of the fort. There is also a Light & Sound show in the evening if you are interested.
After our tour of the Golconda Fort, we visited the sugarcane juice stall of Muhammed Ali and gulped down a large glass each. We sure needed it.
Birla Science Museum
The Birla Science museum is one of the busiest and best rated science museums in the world. Different working models based on various scientific principles are displayed in the museum. This is a decent place for kids to goof around. There is also an archaeology gallery which has artefacts as old as 40,000 years. The Dinosaurium is the most astonishing section in the museum, with a 160 million year old breathtaking fossil of Kotasaurus Dinosaur excavated from Telengana district. It also houses a collection of various fossilised specimens including a dinosaur egg, a giant ammonite and a fossilised tree trunk. The main reason why we wanted to visit the museum is the Planetarium. Both of us last visited a planetarium when we were kids. We soon realised that it is the best time to visit one, your childhood. Unless, you are accompanied by kids or a planetarium really excites you, it is better you skip it.
Shilparamam Arts and Crafts Village is located in Hitech City, Hyderabad. Did I mention I lived in Hitech City? My husband and I were equally taken aback once we got here. Both us have walked past this place several times before and completely ignored this place each time. A traditional, cultural extravaganza lived inside these walls and we never knew it. Shilparamam consists of a Rural Museum which portrays rural and tribal life and life of different artisans, a Rock Garden showcasing natural rock formations and manmade rock sculptures, a Sculpture Park which has a vast collection of unique sculptures by different artists and a Night Bazaar.
The Night Bazaar provides the perfect shopping experience and is the right place for you to take some souvenirs back home. While you are at it, treat yourself with the mouth-watering Kulfi, Pao Bhaji or Chaat. It is open from 10:30am to 8:30pm, while the Night Bazaar is open till 1am. You can also take a boat ride or a bullock cart ride, get your portrait made, get your name written on a rice grain, or watch a song or dance performance and puppet show. Shilparamam in short provides you a kaleidoscope of rural heritage, diversity and talent right at the heart of the city.
Later, we decided to check out this new restaurant named 100 degrees, right next to Shilparamam complex, where cowboys serve you food. The menu was filled with quite interesting names and the restaurant itself filled with steam as one steak after another found its way to different tables. And the live music is just what you need, the perfect climax for our little adventure.