Saturday, January 8, 2011

Is this the best the New York Times can do?

The lead in this week's Sunday New York Times travel section is The 41 Places to Go in 2011, and my beloved Hyderabad made the list (number 19). Sadly, the meager two paragraphs (about 200 words) by travel writer Gisela Williams focus only on modern and commercial interests, and say almost nothing about the real reasons to visit Hyderabad. It's next to impossible to excerpt passages from such a short piece, so I'll risk the wrath of the copyright gods and include it verbatim:

Even in the 16th century, Hyderabad, in southern India, famous for its diamond trade and sultans’ palaces, was a city with serious bling. In the last decade, a new sort of wealth has arrived — the outsourcing of international companies, which has inspired a boom of sleek cafes and restaurants such as Fusion 9.

The latest buzz is the debut of two five-star hotels, both connected to the Nizam family, rulers of Hyderabad for the two centuries before India’s independence. The first, Park Hyderabad, is a futuristic structure designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with an aluminum and glass facade inspired by the settings and metalwork found in the Nizams’ jewelry collection. The new Taj Falaknuma Palace, on the other hand, is a window into the past. It’s a wedding cake of a building that still belongs to the Nizam family, and it took the Taj Hotels group 10 years to renovate the European-style castle. “The Falaknuma Palace will complete the Indian palace tour for the south,” said Shanti Kohli, of New Delhi-based Amber Tours. “It makes a trip to Hyderabad worthwhile just on its own.”

Diamond trade, not pearls? Nothing about Golkonda, the Qutb Shahi and Paigah tombs, Charminar, Mecca Masjid, Birla Mandir, or the Salar Jung Museum? A little more research might be in order - such as reading this 1990 article from, er, the New York times travel section.

Here, let me take a stab at this:

Nowhere are India's contrasts more vivid than in the southern city of Hyderabad, where high-tech modernity meets a thousand years of history. Brightly painted Hindu temples share its narrow streets with the minarets of Muslim mosques, the arches and domes of Sikh gurudwaras and the more recent spires of Christian churches. From the marble decks of the beautiful Birla Mandir temple you can see a 55 foot statue of Buddha on an island in Hussain Sagar, Hyderabad's central lake.

Just a few miles from the gleaming new towers of India's software outsourcing giants you'll find the 16th century walls of Golkonda Fort and the Qutb Shahi tombs. Visit the old city center at Charminar (literally "four towers") and shop in the ever-busy Laad Bazaar. Splurge and stay in the newly renovated Falaknuma Palace, build by one of the last ruling Nizams and now a magnificent Taj hotel. Ramoji Film City, a sprawling 2000 acre studio complex and home to India's Telegu-language film industry (aka "Tollywood") lies nearby. Excellent restaurants abound, from the eclectic fare of Ohri's in Banjara Hills to the homey vegetarian delights of Chutneys at Nagarjuna Circle. What you won't find is a lot of western tourists; Hyderabad is one of India's best-kept secrets.

But, since this is a blog, I can do even better and provide some pictures and links.

Golkonda Fort, the Qutb Shahi tombs

Charminar, Mecca Masjid, the bangle merchants of Laad Bazaar

The Buddha Statue, Temples and Idols


1 comment:

  1. Hello Jerry,

    Interesting take on Hyderabad. the following blog on Paigah Tombs has a lot of images and details.