DREAMSCAPES FALL 2019
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TAKE OFF TO HOT HYDERABAD
 
(2019 - Fall Issue)

Writer: ILONA KAUREMSZKY



Hyderabad sizzles on any given day.

This capital city of the southern state of Telangana offers exotica-seeking travellers a manageable, stress-free experience of India, where food, culture and original treasures come together as shining gems in a country fuelled by extreme contrasts.

I had left behind the whirring din of Delhi’s cacophony, where I had luxuriated in splendour at the palatial ITC Grand Bharat Gurgaon, fit for the wellness and golf gods, to seek out rich urban pleasures in one of India’s fastest evolving cities: Hyderabad. It wasn’t easy.

Despite the fine amenities at my regal retreat located outside New Delhi’s southwestern border, the otherworldly experiences of India called out to me. I was off to encounter a fabled city, dubbed Hyberabad for its profusion of tech heavyweights. Google, Amazon and Facebook have headquarters in this city, which offers a slower pace of life compared to Delhi’s maelstrom. 

A CITY OF CONTRASTS

After a two-hour flight from Delhi on board a new airline, a pace of life far different from Delhi’s blurring blare presents itself. Situated along the Musi River surrounded by hilly terrain and man-made lakes, the historic city is gifted in contrasts. The Old City dates back over 400 years in a new state that was only formed in 2014. The capital is the fourth largest city in the country and comprises folks from a rich melting pot. While the majority are Hindu, there is a strong Muslim population due to its history as well as pockets of other minority communities. Describing the area’s religious tolerance, a great Nizam of the region once famously quipped, “Hindus and Muslims are like my two eyes . . . how can I favour one eye over the other?”

Boasting a Nizam empire-rich past and once the largest princely state in India, this city attracted many Muslim writers and artists from Delhi who sought patronage from the mighty Nizam of Hyderabad. The dynasty ruled for two centuries until Indian independence in 1947. According to legend, the earliest ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty chose the location and named it “Bhagyanagar” after a Bhagmati queen who was an amorous dancing girl. She converted to Islam and took the name Hyder Mahal. The city was renamed Hyderabad in her honour.

On the outskirts of Old Hyderabad, |amid IT firms and large-scale business developments, one of the snazziest newest grand lodgings of HITEC City stands out: the city’s first eco-luxury business hotel, the ITC Kohenur. Part of the ITC Hotels Luxury Collection, the new LEED Platinum hotel bursts from the stark horizon like a dazzling diamond. The shape mystifies with its angular cuts, geometric windows and ribbons of vertical green walls, all of which are patterns inspired by the world-famous Kohinoor diamond widely believed to have been mined nearby. 

I finally have arrived. However, despite the temperature of 24 to 28 C forecasted for my late-spring visit, a full-blown heatwave limits sightseeing excursions to morning hours only. “You can cool down in the spa or by the pool later,” suggests a staff member describing a popular hotel pastime. 

CULTURAL TOURS

Another pastime is enjoying Hyderabadi hospitality. The hotel has a concierge service for local activities and guided tours. One morning I am off on a cultural tour to the Old City. The enchanted Chowmahalla Palace was home to the last Nizam monarchy who used it to entertain guests. You can view the marble throne and interiors bedecked in a collection of oddities ranging from glass-enclosed antique cars to Nizami princess’ gold- and silver-threaded khara dupattas worn at royal receptions.

We later scour an old street market, Laad Bazaar, for bangles, another highly revered item unique to Hyderabad. Hyderabadi bangles are handmade from lacquer, glass beads and sparkling stones rolled using traditional techniques practised in sidestreet studios.

Another morning, I sign up for a Food Sherpa trail, a curated guided foodie tour approved by the hotel. For newcomers who are apprehensive about the local street food scene, this culinary tour is highly recommended. No regrets. The city is known for biryani and haleem, and its blend of Mughlai and Arab cuisines.

By the Charminar, a city icon often compared to Agra’s Taj Mahal, we hobnob at an Irani chai fixture, Nimrah Cafe and Bakery in the shadow of the landmark, which towers over the bustling foot traffic. The family business is now run by son Aslam, whose entrepreneurial spirit is evident at the patron-packed teahouse. “Every day people come to see our service and quality,” he observes in English as he describes his Iranian tea method while I sample his melt-in-your-mouth shortbread-style Osmania biscuit. 

At Chicha’s, the lunch atmosphere is subdued. That’s because the casual diner in the Lakdikapul area only intensifies late at night, which is another popular Hyderabadi pastime. “People dine late here,” laughs a local on the food scene. Here the decor is unfussy but the cooking concentrates on original Hyderabadi dishes. I dive into the Shaadi Ka Red Chicken in a spicy tomato sauce with the house specialty, a mutton biryani in a satiating combo.

Then it’s back to the hotel with the infinity pool, which seems to call out my name.  Glancing at the evolving landscape that morphed from an old dustbin into a hot IT bastion, I take the ultimate dip.

The new hot Hyderabad sizzles with possibilities.

Travel Planner

Air Canada (aircanada.com) and Air India (airindia.com) offer scheduled services between Canadian gateways and Delhi. For domestic departures to Hyderabad, the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi opened the new Terminal 3, said to be the eighth largest in the world. I flew on the full-service Vistara Airlines, rated the best airline in India by TripAdvisor.

For customized land tours of Hyderabad and India, contact a Toronto-based Travel Industry Council of Ontario-registered travel consultant at Travel Pals India (travelpalsindia.com).

Canadians require a visa to visit India and can apply online for an e-Tourist Visa at indianvisaonline.gov.in.

For more information, visit:

India Tourism Office: incredibleindia.org

Telangana Tourism Office: telanganatourism.gov.in

 
 
 
 
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