Visiting For Two Days
SUGGESTED ITINERARY FOR TOURING - DAY 1
Let's now take a tour of town! Hyderabad is probably not the best city to visit in the summer and the day temperature can rise over 42C in May. If you try out this trip in the summer, you need to have resided for a few years in the mid-Sahara to finish the day in excellent form, or you need to stay in an air-conditioned car for most part of the day and seldom venture out. Its probably too late to tell you now, but the best time to visit Hyderabad is the winter - October to February. Day temperatures stay below 28C for the most part, though the nights can get pretty cold (upto 9C) in December and January.
Let's start off the day!
THE FIRST DAY
You should start with the oldest of our monuments: the Qutb Shahi Tombs and the Golconda Fort. First visit the tomb of Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth sultan, and founder of Hyderabad. (The interesting thing is that each ruler supervised the building of his eventual resting place in his own life time.) From the terrace around the tomb you will get a beautiful panorama of the Golconda fort in the foreground and the Charminar, Mecca Masjid and the Old City on the horizon. This is an excellent vantage spot for photography. On the other side of a small garden at the foot of the tomb, you will find a little museum and the ghusalkhana, which was a mortuary bath in the Qutb Shahi times.
From the Tombs, carry on to the Golconda Fort, hardly 3 kilometers away. It used to be a mud fort in the 14th century. In the 17th century it was enlarged and strengthened by the Qutb Shahi dynasty, which used it as their capital. It was in the area of this fort that the Kohinoor diamond was first unearthed. It now adorns the crown of the British monarch.
If you are feeling energetic enough, do visit the Balahissar, a delightful pavilion perched on the pinnacle of the main hillock of Golconda. In the old days the sultans would take the evening air from the Balahissar, having been carried there in elaborate palanquins! The ruins of the old palace are still to be seen at the bottom of the hill.
After Golconda, you could carry on, via Langar House, to the Old City. On the way, do stop and have a look at Toli Masjid (1627-72). Further down what is called the Karvan route, is Kulsum Begum's mosque (1612-26), built by the daughter of Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah whose mausoleum you will have visited earlier in the day. Carry on till you come to Puranapul, the old bridge across the Musi river It was built in 1578. Here you will be face to face with one of the original city gates, built at the same time as the bridge. It became a part of the city wall 200 years later. The wall, which does not exist any longer, had 17 gates. Only two remain - this gate and the Dabirpura gate.
Take the route past the City College and High Court and head for the Salar Jung Museum. This is an extraordinary collection of one man, Yousuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III. (This museum is closed on Friday.) If you attempt to see all the rooms, it will take you four to five hours. Be selective. The map in the main foyer will help you choose.
I advise my guests to see what are my favourite rooms: the Salar Jung Room, which gives you a history of the man and his ancestors; the Chinese Porcelain Room, well known for its Celadon pottery, the best preserved collection outside of China and Iran; the Glassware Room, an amazing collection of Waterford ware; and the Bidri Room, a fascinating and unequalled collection of silver and gold and gun metal ware originating from the ancient kingdom of Bidar.
Not to be missed are the Jade Room, Persian Carpets, the Kashmiri Jamewar Shawl Room, and, of course, the very interesting Manuscript Room, full of outstanding examples of calligraphy and beautifully embellished Korans from all over the Islamic world. If you have time, do visit the Miniatures Rooms, near the Exit, where you will see old miniature paintings, drawings and sketches. Don't miss out on the 19th Century British Musical Clock - a toy soldier popping out to ring a bell as many times as the hour! The charge for visiting the museum is Rs. 150 for foreign tourists and Rs. 20 for Indians.
Afternoon and Evening
It should now be about 1:30pm. Take time off for lunch at the Madina hotel or any of the surrounding restaurants. In the same area is the Badshahi Ashurkhana, one of the earliest buildings of the Qutbshahi times. It is still worth a visit. It houses the royal collection of the standards of the Prophets grandsons and family, who were martyred at, Kerbela.
By now it will be late in the afternoon. I would choose to go straight to Secunderabad, over the Tank Bund, and on to the Trimulgherry-Bolarum area. When you are there, have a look at the old Military Prison, built in British times. You should also look at the Trinity Church in the cantonment area of Bolarum. In Secunderabad proper, you will find St Mary's Cathedral (1860-65) next to St Ann's School, a landmark of the area. It's now late in the evening - you'll want to have supper and get back to your lodgings.
SUGGESTED ITINERARY FOR TOURING - DAY 2
First head for the Old City. Take the route via the Mozamjahi Market and Afzalgunj and over Nayapul to reach Patthargatti. This is an interesting area. The buildings on both sides of the road are built in stone. Make for the Charminar from here. On you way you'll pass Gulzar Hauz. Stop and look at the four kamans (arches) around you. They were part of the Qutbshahi palace complex that once graced the city, built at the same time as the Charminar (1592).
Leave your car or other means of transport at the Charminar and walk into the Lad Bazar. This is a very old, narrow street, always crowded and bustling with activity. The colourful wares you see here are amazing. Some of the studded-lacquer and glass bangles are the best in the country. They are made and sold here. If you are lucky you might actually see bangles being made. This alley is also very well known for its artisans who do gold and silver embroidery on a variety of fabrics.
Come back to the Charminar and look at the Mecca Masjid, a very important landmark of the Old City and an exquisite example of Qutb Shahi architecture. The building was started by Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah and finished by Aurangazeb between 1614 and 1693. This is one of the biggest mosques in India. A later addition is the arched pavilion with the graves of five Nizams from 1803 (the first Nizam is buried at Khuldabad and the last, Osman Ali Khan, at a mosque in King Kothi). Close to the mosque is a granite bench. Legend has it that if you sit on it, you will definitely come back to Hyderabad once again!
After coming out of the mosque, turn right and walk a few steps till you hear the tap-tapping of wooden mallets. You will come across shops with silver beaters turning lumps of the metal into superfine leaf that is used to decorate various items of food and is perfectly edible and digestible.
You will now want to get back to your transport. Carry on to the Falaknuma Palace, only to be seen from the outside, as it is private property. This palace was once the resplendent residence of the builder, Vicar-ul-Umra, and later, his brother-in-law, the Nizam. It was full of superb furniture, fittings, drapery, artifacts and a collection of jade and precious gems.
Afternoon and Evening
It's time for lunch. By now, you will be tired and hungry. There are a number of places to visit: Madina Hotel, Shehran Café, Nayaab and Agra Mithai Ghar are a few good places. I would stick to oven-hot food, with cups of tea or coffee. Try the biryani and kebabs Hyderabad is known for.
If you have time, after you have lunched, visit Monsieur Raymond's Tomb (1798) and the Shams-ul-Umra Paigah Tombs (dating back to 1786) in the Malakpet-Santoshnagar locality. In the late afternoon visit the Osmania University campus. The Arts College building is of particular interest. It is a beautiful blend of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The entrance hall is well worth looking at. It is an immense portal and chief attraction of the building.