charmed by the charminar

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From a leisurely stroll in the palatial gardens of the Chowmahalla Palace to sunset at the Golconda Fort, Vijaya Pratap gives you a go-to guide for 48 blissful hours in Hyderabad

Staging an intriguing dialogue between the past and the present, the city of Hyderabad is a study in contrast and synthesis – it is a cosmopolitan body with a historic soul. When the US’s First Daughter, Ivanka Trump, plans to visit the city in November for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017, we look at how she can experience the land of the Nizams with only 48 hours in hand!

Day 1 Morning

Located at the very heart of the city, the iconic Charminar is the perfect morning muse. The roads that lead up to it are bustling with local shops, but the din dies out once you stand before the majestic structure. Built by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, it is renowned for its profuse stucco decorations and arrangements of impressive balustrades and balconies. The floral design is executed delicately and is a splendid example of the combination of Mughal and Hindu architecture, ably initiating you into Hyderabad’s rich history.

Once you’ve had your fill of the exquisite structure and the many narratives that accompany it, you can head over to Laad Bazaar, located on one of the four major thoroughfares emerging from the monument. Among the older markets in the city, it is the perfect place to shop for bangles, semiprecious stones, pearls, Kalamkari paintings, silverware, traditional khara dupattas, perfumes and more.

Afternoon

Hyderabad has witnessed several dynasties through the course of history and has, as a consequence, come to represent a unique blend of cultures, cuisines, beverages and the culinary habits. And no visit to the city is complete without a taste of authentic Hyderabadi biryani. Sample some at a local eatery in the old part of the city for lunch, and finish off the meal with a bowl of qubani ka meetha, a delicious dessert made of dried apricots.

Evening

Adjacent to the Charminar lies the Mecca Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India and decidedly the largest and most important one in the city. It can accommodate 10,000 worshippers at any time, and it is believed that bricks brought from Mecca were used during its construction.

Listening to the prayers here can be an immensely calming experience, which transports you to another world, and a walk through its arched gallery is a must, to see the tombs of all the Nizams who have ruled the city since 1803.

Day 2: Morning

Kickstart your second day in the city with the stunning Chowmahalla (Chowmohalla) Palace. Once the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, and also the official residence of the Hyderabad Nizam, the palace was honoured with the prestigious UNESCO Asia-Pacific Merit Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2010.

The Chowmohalla complex is a replica of the Shah’s Palace in Tehran, Iran and consists of two courtyards with graceful palaces and the grand, pillared Durbar Hall or the Khilwat. The sprawling gardens, too, are masterful reflections of the city’s royal heritage, and you can spend hours exploring the premises, marvelling at their lush greenery and soaking in their spirit.

Afternoon

When visiting a city as historically rich as Hyderabad, a stopover at one of its finest museums is an indispensable part of your itinerary. And the iconic Salarjung Museum, known the world over for its collections dating back to several civilisations, is as fine a repository of history as can be.

Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III, the former prime minister of the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad, spent most of his income over a period of 35 years to gather the priceless exhibits that the museum is now home to. With as many as 43,000 art objects, 50,000 books and manuscripts, a fine collection of jade, daggers owned by queen Noor Jahan and emperor Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb’s sword and more, the museum is a fitting ode to the city’s artistic and cultural heritage.

Evening

There are few better ways to conclude a whirlwind trip to Hyderabad than with a view of the spectacular sunset at Golconda Fort. Originally known as Mankal and built on a hilltop in 1143, the fort was, in the beginning, under the reign of the Rajah of Warangal. It was fortified between the 14th and the 17th centuries by the Bahmani Sultans and the Qutub Shahi dynasty respectively. Golconda was the principal capital of the Qutub Shahi kings. The inner fort is home to ruins of palaces and an approximately 130-m-high hilltop pavilion.

As you watch the sun descend to embrace the horizon, take a moment to focus on the city below and marvel at its seamless duality – historic and modern, traditional and cosmopolitan, all at once.

The author is a senior journalist and the views expressed in the article are her own

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