As you can see from the title, I’m not at all snobbish when it comes to traveling, and statements like “I’m a traveler, not a tourist” are not about me 🙂 Although I like to go off the beaten path, there is nothing wrong in exploring popular touristic attractions. After all, they are popular for a reason! As usual, it was a one day trip (here I’ve explained my decision to explore India this way), so the journey was carefully planned to make the most of it. But before I start on touristy things to do in Hyderabad, let me tell you about an unpleasant incident in the train that overshadowed the whole trip.
I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the class of train accommodations (we were traveling by a sleeper) and whether it’s safer in 3AC and 2AC trains, but the experience was shocking, to be honest. A lady in my compartment was robbed at night – a thief pulled away her mangalasutra (for those who’re not aware, it’s a special necklace worn by married women in India) and one more golden chain. After that he quickly jumped out of the moving train. The majority of people in India are so nice and friendly that a person tends to relax and forget of possible dangers. So be careful and travel safely!
Needless to say, poor thing was very upset and so were we. The incident kept coming back to my thoughts all through the day. Anyway, after 17 hours of the train journey from Mumbai there I was, in the City of Pearls.
Visit the Qutb Shahi tombs
At the railway station we took a rickshaw to The Gutb Shahi Tombs, a large archeological park close to the Golconda fort.
In the park there are various mosques and tombs of the kings from Qutb Shahi dynasty. We arrived early in the morning, so some of the monuments were still closed (timings are from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm). But exploring the rest of them was rewarding nevertheless – majestic domes, elegant pillars, beautiful archways and intricately carved stonework went well together with surrounding greenery and flowering trees. In spite of the early hour, there were quite a lot of people – jogging, playing badminton and doing their morning exercises. Seeing them trying to keep their bodies healthy and young among the last resting places of long-gone kings added a bit of surreal favor to the place.
See the biggest baobab tree of India, or Hatiyan Jhad
After Qutb Shahi Tombs we intended to go straight to the Golconda Fort, but our rickshaw driver offered to show us “the biggest hollow tree”. Intrigued by the description, we agreed. And what a tee it was! Originated form Madagascar, it was planted by traveling friars several centuries ago. The circumference of the giant baobab is around 25 m and it’s really hollow – I climbed the tree and saw the opening. According to the legends, thieves used to hide inside the tree trunk during the day, and then come out at night to do their mischief. Our rickshaw driver mentioned there could be snakes inside the trunk, so as a responsible mother of three kids I refused to put my life in danger. But my adventurous brother-in-law (remember him taking photos on the top of the Adalaj Stepwell?) thought it was highly unlikely and climbed inside. It was dark and full of insects.
Now, I’m not sure whether this area is open to the public – the tree is situated on the territory of the Hyderabad Golf Club, and our rickshaw driver had a word with a watchman to let us in. But I suppose for the small fee they won’t stop you from seeing the biggest baobab of India.
Explore the Golconda Fort
The Golconda fort need no introduction. The massive structure looked really intimidating – this is what a capital of a medieval sultanat should be like! Every bit of it is full of history and grandeur – Fateh Darwaza, or the Victory Gate, clapping portico, Akkana-Madanna offices, steps leading to the top, Ibrahim Mosque and so on. And the view from the top is the ultimate reward.
Feel the vibe of the Charminar area
The Charminar (Four Minarets) is undoubtedly most recognized landmark of Hyderabad and one of the most popular touristy places in India. Built in the end of the 16th century, the monument represents Islamic architecture at its best. Don’t forget to climb the steep spiral staircase (and be careful!) to enjoy the architectural details and the views of Hyderabad from above.
The bustling market area provides a lot of places to eat and buy jewelry and perfumes. And pearls, pearls, pearls… I’m not interested in jewelry, but if I were, this place would have been a shopping paradise. What I really wanted to buy (and bought) were the fruits. Somehow in the market area of Hyderabad they looked more tempting than anywhere else.
Enjoy the serenity of Makkah Masjid
I suspect the place is not always so peaceful and could be quite crowded (the main hall is big enough to accommodate 10 thousand worshipers) , but when we visited the mosque, its tranquil atmosphere was perfect for sitting down quietly and sorting out my impressions. Makkah Masjid is one of the oldest mosques in India, and it features a lot of interesting architectural implementations (monolithic octagonal pillars, arched balconies, domes with spires, floral motifs to name a few).
Sitting at the water tank of the mosque, I could observe the prettiest views of the city.
Admire the collections of the Salar Jung Museum
Ah, that museum! It was a place where I regretted having so little time in Hyderabad. Yes, those two hours I spent in the museum was catastrophically little!
The exhibits were collected by Nawab Mir Yusuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III (a former Prime Minister of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad) during 35 years of his life, and it’s the biggest one-man collection of art objects in the world. In the numerous galleries of a massive building one can find Indian sculptures, textiles and glass objects, ivory carvings, armors, far-eastern porcelain, manuscripts, carpets, jades, coins, Egyptian and Syrian art objects, toys and dolls, western furniture, glass and clocks, European paintings, French art objects and what not. The grandest exhibit is Veiled Rebecca, the world famous statue by an Italian sculptor G. Benzoni. Described as a melody in marble, Benzoni’s sculpture is undoubtedly a real gem of Salar Jung museum. And it’s definitely appreciated by the visitors, judging from the number of people taking selfies with it 🙂
Buy some pearls! 🙂
Apparently the City of Pearls doesn’t like to let its visitors go without some pretty shining beads in their pockets 🙂 After we successfully left the Charminar area without buying anything, our encounters with pearl sellers were not over. On the way to the railway station the rickshaw driver suddenly stopped and asked us to enter some jewelry shop “just for a few minutes”. The owners of these shops pay auto drivers a commission for bringing tourists, I understand, but I still hate it when they do this, because I definitely know that I won’t buy any sarees, carpets or golden necklaces. It’s only waste of time for me and equal waste of efforts for the business owners. So, my mom and mother-in-law went in, and I stayed outside waiting for them. To my surprise, they took really long, and when I entered the shop, my mother-in-law was actually buying a couple of pearl earrings and a necklace. It was pretty and reasonable priced (I guess) – around $12 for everything.
As my mother-in-law was rather happy with the service, I’ll include the card of the shop:
Take a relaxed walk in The Public garden
Known as Bagh-e-Aam, this historic park is a nice recreation area with well-maintained alleys and beautiful flowering plants. We walked a little bit in this garden before catching our train back to Mumbai.
Where to eat in Hyderabad?
In the small eateries around the Charminar you’ll find Irani chai, Osmania bisquits, Rose falooda and otehr treats. People especially recommend to visit Nimrah Cafe & Bakery .
For famous Hyderabadi Biryani, visit Paradise restaurant. I couldn’t make it there, but quite a few locals advised to do so, and I don’t have any reasons to distrust them.
Where to stay in Hyderabad?
- I’ve heard a lot of chaotic traffic in Hyderabad, but to be honest, nothing is chaotic after Mumbai 🙂 I found it quite manageable. However, in the evening the roads can be tightly packed, so remember that to avoid stress when reaching to the railways station or airport.
- November to February is the best time to visit the city. During summer, don’t forget a hat, sunblocks and a bottle of water. I got badly sunburnt when climbing to the top of the Golconda Fort. Serves me right for being so arrogant and considering myself completely acclimatized after 9 years in India 🙂
- If you’re planning to visit mosques, dress accordingly. I was wearing jeans ans t-shirt, thinking that a dupatta over my head would be sufficient. But the security staff lent me two more dupattas to wrap around my shoulders and waist. When I wore salwar kameez in Ahmedabad, by the way, there were no problems.
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