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Bollywood actress Dia Mirza's Hyderabad travelogue

From its vibrant local bazaars to its mesmeric dargahs and buzzing food scene, Hyderabad has something for every traveller. In our new section, My Hometown, where celebrities share about the place they call home, actress and social activist, Dia Mirza takes us through this heady maze

Why Hyderabad?
Hyderabad with Dia MirzaHyderabad is a confluence of different cultures and is rich in arts and crafts that still survive in the city. There are night clubs, great malls to shop at, small eateries which have now become chains, and still serve great food. In spite of the change, the old markets, tiny, several year-old stores still survive.

The influence of history of the city is visible even today. I remember my childhood spent at different clubs such as the Sailing Club in Hyderabad, Kathak performances at the Qutb Shahi Tombs and music performances at Golconda Fort.

A bangle seller arranges bangles in front of Hyderabad’s symbolic monument, Charminar. Pic/AFP
A bangle seller arranges bangles in front of Hyderabad’s symbolic monument, Charminar. Pic/AFP

What to see?
The best time to visit Hyderabad is during Ramzan when the city and its streets are alive. There are many monuments in Hyderabad that are commonly visited by travellers, and are must-visit sites. Some of these are:
>Charminar
>Qutb Shahi Tombs
>Golconda Fort
>Mecca Masjid
>Salar Jung Museum
>Hussainsagar Lake

There is a lot of unexplored heritage in the city, such as the dargahs of Nampally. Even though I am from Hyderabad, I only found out about them while doing the location recce for Bobby Jasoos (co-produced by her).

The tomb of Quli Qutb Shah
The tomb of Quli Qutb Shah

These dargahs include Dargah Yousufain, and Hazrat Shah Mohammed Hasan Sahab Dargah that has chandeliers that are like museum pieces. These dargahs hold so much history and it is good to see them being run by families.

Goshamahal, which is close to Nampally is also worth a visit. It is home to old stores where you can buy food items, antiques, artifacts, furniture, gramophones and cameras.

The Charminar at night
The Charminar at night

Where to shop?
Hyderabad is a shopper’s dream-come-true. When we were in college there were only a few stores and tailors where we could get our western outfits stitched from. Today, every brand is available in Hyderabad thanks to several malls. Apart from these, the Charminar leads to various tributaries, and each of these lanes are divided into organised markets.

Sevaiyan being dried at a local market
Sevaiyan being dried at a local market

There is a copper market, there is a lane where you will find zardozi products; there is a market for pearls, an attar bazaar, furniture market, another area where you will only find filigree, cutwork nakashi work, an antiques market and much more. The most popular one is Laad Bazaar where you get fashion jewellery and bangles.

The Hussainsagar Lake is a huge tourist draw
The Hussainsagar Lake is a huge tourist draw

Shop owners will know in an instant if you aren’t from the city from your accent, so you have to bargain. You can buy bangles in jodas; these are a set of 22 to 48 bangles that are made of chandbai (thin silver bangles), sonabai (thin gold bangles) and kadas, which are made with coloured stones.

One can buy traditional handicrafts from Lepakshi (various outlets), saris and silver products from Kalanjali, real jewellery from Tibarumal Jewels and pearls from Mangatrai. Tutu Taneja is a veteran designer from Hyderabad, who makes beautiful vegetable dye handblock prints, badla work.

You can buy cloth and salwar kameez too. There is Suraiya Hasan Bose, lovingly known as Suraiya Apa, who is about 85-years old and is a textile revivalist. She runs a school near her unit in Raidurg called Safrani Memorial School.

Where to eat?
Shah Ghouse Cafe serves the best biryani. They also do a very good Hyderabadi Haleem. Another place that I frequently visited was Southern Spice and Rayalaseema Ruchulu that serves good seafood, biryani, and even Chettinad cuisine.

I used to also visit Chutneys (they have various outlets now) that serves great idli, upma, tamarind rice, lemon rice, wada and dosa. Their speciality is that they serve a variety of chutneys with their food. In Sultan Bazaar, there was a stall where we could eat Mirchi Bhajji and Pani Puri. I have heard he’s become big now.

Tank Bund Road that connects Hyderabad to Secunderabad also has street food stalls. For sweets, contact Farzana who makes traditional Badam ki Jali, Kaju Laus, and Ashrafi (with Urdu text on it), which I took to Delhi for my wedding, for a Hyderabadi touch.

Like Mumbai has Natural’s ice cream, Hyderabad has Famous Ice Cream. They are known for their handmade mango, chickoo, sitaphal and other ice creams. My father (Ahmed Mirza) used to visit the court regularly for his work, and it was a long drive, so he would bribe me with Famous Ice Cream to accompany him.

Insider tips
Talk the talk: Hyderabad shared borders with Maharashtra for a long time so you will find a lot of Marathi words in the dialect, which is called Dakhini or Deccani Urdu. The Hyderabadi way of speaking is famous world over. Three words you should know, especially while bargaining are hau (yes), nako (no) and kaiku (why?).

Like Mumbai uses ‘boss’, you can call everyone ‘bhai’ there. You should also say ‘phir aayenge’ to please the shopkeepers. And, never trust the word ‘parso’ because for Hyderbadis it can mean day before yesterday or even 20 Fridays ago!

Safe for all: The markets are buzzing till late in the evening. Hyderabad is quite safe for women. One can travel by autorickshaws around the city.

Read more about Hyderabad: The Essential Andhra Cookbook by Bilkees Latif is a great book to learn about Hyderabad’s food.

Hyderabad
From Mumbai 706 km

How to reach:

By Flight: Take a direct flight from Mumbai to Hyderabad, a journey of around 1 hour 30 minutes. Hire a cab or rent a car from Hyderabad airport to travel to the city, which takes about 30 minutes. It is comfortable and time saving for family and group trips.

By Train: There are number of direct trains available from Mumbai to Hyderabad. However, you can take express or superfast trains from Mumbai to Hyderabad Station, which takes roughly 10 hours. You can hail a cab from the station to reach the city centre. Ideal for families and senior citizens.

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