Travel: Head to the City of Pearls this summer
Shwetal Rai who lives in Hyderabad says her city is where you can experience real Indian summer. So what's keeping you from visiting it?
Set foot in Hyderabad and you'll be amazed at its many different faces. If you step out of its swanky international airport -- adjudged one of the 5 best in the world -- you'll drive past a city high on development -- skyscrapers with glass skins and metal spines, India's longest flyover spanning a whopping 11.6 km and numerous shopping malls. If on the other hand you prefer to chug your way into the city, the bustling Secundrabad railway station welcomes you. Navigating through the wide roads made narrow by the street-side shops and uncouth traffic, you'll see a city that is torn between maintaining the old world charm and adapting the new age demeanour.
The sun loves to shine down upon Hyderabad. In the summer months from March-June, it beats down relentlessly as temperatures reach a high of 43 degrees Celsius in May. So, if you are headed for a vacation, brace yourself for hot days with both scheduled and unscheduled power cuts. The evenings however, are very pleasant and make way for a maze of entertainment. Here's a list of to-do's and places that you simply cannot miss:
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Image: The Charminar built in 1591 is the most famous monument of Hyderabad.
Photographs: Savita Kirloskar/Reuters
A confluence of culture
Hyderabad is a city with a rich history that is evident in its many monuments, mosques, temples and varied heritage in arts and crafts. At the famed Charminar, one can see a confluence of this culture.
The calls of street hawkers, the myriad lanes, pearl dealers, glittering bangles in many colours and hues, the azaan and the clang of temple bells- overlooking all of this, the Charminar standing tall with its four elegant minarets. Not too far is the Salar Jung Museum -- a delight to children and adults alike.
The museum is amongst the oldest in Hyderabad and the third largest in India. It houses the largest one-man collections of antiques in the world, belonging to different civilisations dating back to the first century.
A visual delight is the musical clock from England, a virtual mechanical marvel. Every hour, a timekeeper emerges from the upper deck of the clock to strike a gong as many times as it is the hour of the day.
Image: The market area near the Charminar
Photographs: Rudolph A Furtado/Wikimedia Commons
The Golconda Fort is a must visit
The Golconda Fort is another must visit. Among the many fascinating features of the fort is the perfect acoustic system by which a clap sounded at the fort's main gates, the grand portico, can be heard at the top of the citadel, situated on a 300-foot (91 m)-high granite hill.
One of the newer additions to the Fort is the daily sound and light show educating visitors about the history and culture of Hyderabad, voiced by Amitabh Bachchan.
Another laser show worth a watch is at the Lumbini Gardens. Located within the city, these gardens host a 1500-seater Laserium, the first of its kind in Hyderabad.
The adjoining NTR Gardens are every child's delight. With joy rides and even a cruise in the Hussain Sagar Lake, both these gardens are definite must-dos especially if you are holidaying with children.
Image: The 400-year-old Golconda Fort is located about 11 km from Hyderabad city
Photographs: GENIUSTECHIE/Wikimedia Commons
A fine blend of old and new
Hyderabad is also home to the country's largest film city -- the Ramoji Film City. The Film City is the world's largest integrated film studio complex spread over 2,000 acres of land.
A popular tourism and recreation centre, the film city houses a Japanese garden, the ETV planet (a multi-purpose editing suit), a pool, artificial waterfalls, breathtakingly accurate airport terminal, shopping plazas, palace interiors, chateaus, rural complexes, urban dwellings, and a winding highway among other things. It will take you an entire day to visit the Film City but it is worth every minute spent there.
Hyderabad also has palaces galore, each unique in its architecture and style.
The Chowmahalla Palace, a stone's throw away from the Charminar, was where the Nizam entertained his official guests and royal visitors. Built over 200 years ago, Chowmahalla is renowned for its unique style and elegance. A synthesis of many architectural styles and influences, the Palace Complex has been meticulously restored. (Chow means four. And Mahal means Palace. Chow-Mahalla therefore means four palaces).
The Falaknuma Palace is another of the finest palaces in Hyderabad. Falaknuma literally means "Star of Heaven" in Urdu. Since the palace was the private property of the Nizam family until recently, visitors weren't allowed. The Taj group has taken over the palace now, to convert it to a five-star hotel.
Image: The 77-year-old tea brand hoarding stands proudly next to the seductive Katrina Kaif.
Photographs: Abhishek Mande
Don't miss the Hyderabadi Biryani!
Just as famous as its art and culture is Hyderabad's cuisine. From the Hyderabadi Biryani and Haleem to the Karachi Biscuits and Putharekulu, the entire platter is lapped up with fervour. If you are in Hyderabad -- a Biryani at Paradise, Haleem at Pista House, Putharekulu (Paper Sweet) from Pulla Reddy, Peserattu with Upma at Minerva or Chutneys are must-haves.
Another great option to beat the heat is to gorge on the ice cream from Famous Ice Creams at Moazzam Jahi Market -- thick slabs of ice cream will be set upon a small steel plate and every summer evening, people are seen thronging in huge numbers.
And when you finally set out to shop on a full stomach -- head to Begum Bazaar, General Bazaar, Moazzam Jahi Market, Abids and Shilparamam (a smaller version of Delhi Haat). Hyderabad is famous for Kalamkari work, Venkatgiri cotton sarees and work done on stone- the government-owned Lepakshi stores are a good place to head to shop for all of these.
The summer months normally see the much awaited cotton saree sale at Lepakshi. For those who aren't the street shopping types, the air-conditioned environs of GVK One Mall, Hyderabad Central, InOrbit Mall etc will satiate the brand thirst.
This summer the Buddha stands tall, waiting to smile upon you in the midst of the cool waters of the Hussain Sagar Lake. The City of Pearls with its new age demeanour, ancient culture and distinct lingo calls out to you.
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Image: The Buddha statue at the Hussain Sagar Lake.
Photographs: Alosh Bennett/Wikimedia Commons