Hyderabad doesn’t get much attention, but it has just as much going for it as any other Indian metropolis. The city manages to seamlessly blend its traditional Indian heritage with its technology-driven present. An increasing number of tech titans are opening shiny offices here, which stand in stark relief with its centuries-old forts, regal residences and old-style bazaars.
The currently under construction Hyderabad metro system will make things a whole lot easier when it is brought into operation during 2016 and 2017. Until then, travellers will have to make to do with infrequent suburban trains, buses or – probably the easiest option – autorickshaws, though be prepared for gridlock as traffic can be a problem here.
For travellers with an interest in history, Hyderabad is a city that never bores. Among the unmissable attractions for first-timers is the Salar Jung Museum, which is packed to the rafters with an eclectic assortment of Eastern and Western art, furniture, glassware, bronze, manuscripts and weapons. Also deserving of some time is the well-preserved 17th-century Golconda Fort, which owes its existence to the Muslim Qutb Shahi dynasty. The fort covers an area of around four square kilometres, so budget ample time to explore its many bastions and palaces.
Hyderabad is twinned with the adjacent city of Secunderabad – the two are divided by a man-made lake called Hussain Sagar. At the centre of the lake, a giant Bhudda statue stands on a small island, surveying the surrounding cityscape. Lumbini Park, which borders the lake’s edge, is a popular hangouts and the departure point for boats out to the big Buddha.
While Hyderabad is predominantly Hindu, the Old City area is a distinctly Muslim enclave. Spreading across the narrow streets here is the atmospheric Laad Bazaar, where burqa-clad shoppers rub elbows with out-of-towners who come to gawp at the bejewelled bangles for sale. From here, it’s just a short stroll to Charminar, the city’s famous minaret-topped monument.
Curious about Tollywood (the Telugu film industry)? Take a daytrip out to Ramoji Film City, about 25 kilometres outside Hyderabad. Many regional TV and film productions are shot here at the complex, and the tour offers a glimpse into the movie-making processes as well as film-themed rides and attractions.
Further north of the city, the quiet area of Moula Ali makes a welcome change from the clamour of central Hyderabad. Climb 500 steps up Moula Ali hill to see what many believe to be the handprint of Ali, the son-in-law of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. Even for non-believers, the far-reaching views from the top of the hill are life-affirming.
Most, though not all Hyderabad dishes are meat and rice-oriented while tomato, tamarind and copious spices are common additions. Biryani, a combination of rice mixed with spices, meat, and vegetables, is ubiquitous. Other Hyderabadi specialties to look out for include maghaz masala (a fiery curry with chunks of lamb or goat brain), khatti dal (a soupy lentil dish made with lashings of tamarind) and luqmi (mutton-filled savoury pastries). If biryani is too tame for your taste buds, upgrade to the blazing hot Andhra-style mutton curry. Majjiga (spiced buttermilk) is a good accompaniment and can help counter the effects of spice should things get too intense.