It is hard for me to imagine that I have been living in India for four months now. During this time I have successfully traveled to dozens of cities where I immediately dove in to the culture and lifestyle of each. I have learned so much about the people, traditions, food, and much more in which each city holds dear. With that being said, my host city of Hyderabad has easily become my home; it is where I feel most comfortable, relaxed, and it is the only city in which I have had the opportunity to find a few hidden gems.
It is important to understand the vibe of Hyderabad. It is fair to say that Hyderabad’s economy is rapidly growing. There is a lot of land available for building, the international airport brings in a large number of travelers, and its prime location in the South is a substantial target for investors. On the other hand, nestled in the bustling cities north of Gachibowli (the section of Hyderabad in which I live) you will find shops and street vendors that have been there for decades. This drastic split between the new and old cities of Hyderabad is what makes it such a wonderful city to live in and explore.
The new city, also called Hi-Tech City, includes large shopping malls, towering billboards, and headquarters of many worldwide companies. Large office buildings belonging to Google, Microsoft, Verizon, DLF, and Infosys (just to name a few) create a breathtaking skyline similar to that of a growing city in the United States. My friend Sujith, originally from Kerala, has been living and working in Hyderabad for the past six years. We were discussing the Hi-Tech City and he mentioned to me how much it has changed even within the past six years. He said that Hyderabad never used to be a landmark city, it was just full of the boulders and no one would stop when passing through. The new city truly is new; it has only been developed within the past ten years. With this being said, it will be interesting to come back to visit Hyderabad in ten years from now. Everywhere you turn, construction sites are bustling with workers and large blueprints of hotels, offices, and businesses cover the entry way. My projection is that Hyderabad will eventually be equivalent to the atmosphere and population of Bangalore with a little more natural influence given the hills and humongous boulders that paint the city.
Hyderabad’s old city is the purest taste of what to expect when traveling to India. Speedy rickshaws, street vendors, bangle shops, street performers, and breathtaking architecture surround you and easily fill you with joy. In the old city, Charminar “Four Towers” is the Eiffel Tower of Hyderabad. It was built in 1591 and consists of two clocks, four pendants, and the top floor shows a great view of the oldest mosque in Hyderabad. I must admit, at times it is a lot to take in because Charminar is so fast paced especially during the afternoon. There is no real direct flow of traffic, meanwhile push carts of fruits and vegetables weave in and out and people try to cross to get to the tower. Other components of the old city include Golkonda Fort, Birla Mandir, Hussain Sagar Lake, and the Buddha Statue.
The reason I bring up both the new and old cities is because it is a key point in understanding Hyderabad. Both cities work so well together and form this wonderful atmosphere. The traditional forms of dance and music are showcased in performances all around Hyderabad in order to keep them alive during these changing times. In particular, even though there are huge malls with luxury jewelry stores, most women will travel to the old city to purchase their wedding bangles and wedding accessories.
The Hidden Gems of Hyderabad:
Hyderabadi Biryani – You will not find Biryani like this anywhere else! In fact, many cities throughout the country have Hyderabad Biryani on their menus as well as restaurant’s devoted to the art of this delicious dish. For those of you who visit Hyderabad, be sure to stop at Paradise Restaurant (the most well-known chain located in hi-tech city, Secunderabad, and Tolichowki ) and Shadab (local favorite – located in the old city, about two km from Charminar ) Biryani costs about 200 rupees and it serves three to four people.
Haleem – Being a vegetarian, I have not tried Haleem, however, word of mouth has made me believe that this great city has a nice selection of Haleem restaurant’s. Haleem is porridge of wheat, oats, ghee, chicken or mutton, fried onions and, oftentimes, dried fruit, eaten plain. ISA student Gabe Fox informed me that the all-time top place for Haleem is called Rumaan, located in Tolichowki. He said that it can be very busy simply because of its profound stature. Haleem costs about 90 rupees per meal.
Chai Stands – This is the main amenity that I wish the United States had. Americans are so hung up on their coffee that they miss out on the spicy chai tea leaf that pairs up so greatly with fresh milk. Not only the taste but the creativity and skill that go into making and pouring chai are phenomenal. The aromatic scent that the leaf gives off mixed with the sweet sensation on the tongue is a must-do every day between the times of 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. The best chai in town is at the front of the University of Hyderabad – North Campus (also known as Main Gate). There is a small bus stop across the street which is placed right beside a samosa and chai shack. Be prepared to indulge in the steaming hot, 5 rupee chai that will change your life.
Biodiversity – Beginning on October 1 and ending on October 19, the UN Convention on Biodiversity was held in Hyderabad at the Novotel Convention Center. About 194 countries attended (approximately 8,000-10,000 people) and discussed funding for India and African countries striving to preserve the land and materials around them. Hyderabad has recently become the Biodiversity Capital of India which clearly shows through the amount of vegetation and preservation tactics in this city. This article on biodiversity is from a local newspaper, The Hindu.
Ramoji Film City – Have you ever dreamed of being in a Bollywood film? Hyderabad is the home to the largest film studio in the world and in 2005 it was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records! Ramoji has hundreds of film sets and scenes that you can take pictures at and enjoy the Bollywood feel. When visiting, you are also invited to attend the opening ceremony, stunt show, as well as other individual performances throughout the city.