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Published: December 12th 2019
Neither of us slept particularly well last night, but were still up early and down for breakfast by 8.00am. Afterwards we got reception to phone us a taxi, ready to head out for a day of exploring. Charminar was our first stop -
The Charminar was constructed in 1591, and has become a landmark and symbol of Hyderabad, and is listed amongst the most recognised structures in India.
Its long history includes the existence of a mosque on the top floor for more than 400 years. While both historically and religiously significant, it is also known for the popular and busy local markets, Laad Bazaar, which sprawls out around the surrounding streets. The bazaar didn’t get underway until 11.00am so the streets weren’t busy when we first arrived. We walked around and found ourselves outside the entrance to Chowmahalla Palace which opened at 10.00am. We returned later for a wander through the grounds, the Palace, and a visit to the museum.
The construction of Chowmahalla Palace started in 1750 and is believed to be a replica of the Shah of Iran's palace, located in Tehran. It spreads over an area of 5 hectares, consisting of two courtyards and
We were among the first to arrive and enjoyed exploring in the coolness of the huge rooms with their marble floors. The admittance fee was R250 ($5) with a camera, R200 without. There was a lovely gift shop there also.
The clock above the main gate is called Khilwat Clock, and has been ticking away for over 250 years. An expert family of clock repairers wind it every week.
The grand pillared Durbar Hall has a pure marble platform on which the royal seat was laid. Here the Nizams held their durbar and other religious and symbolic ceremonies. The 19 spectacular Chandeliers of Belgian crystal were installed within the past couple of years, to recreate the lost splendor of this regal hall.
After leaving here we headed to Mecca Masjid, which is just around the corner and closer to Charminar. This is a congregational mosque and one of the largest in India with a capacity of 20,000 devotees. The mosque was built between the 16th & 17th centuries by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. He commissioned bricks to be made from the soil brought from Mecca, the
The mosque area is circular and this was taken looking across to the opposite side, including the roof detail
holiest site of Islam, and used them in the construction of the central arch of the mosque, thus giving the mosque its name. The mosque itself was fenced off, obviously undergoing renovations so we were unable to go inside. We walked around the grounds and left.
By this time Laad Bazaar was well underway the streets filled with stalls selling a colourful array of products including fruit and veges, cheap jewellery, clothing, shoes, and the sparkly resin bangles the bazaar is famous for. All the shops were open too by this time and we enjoyed browsing. Everything was incredibly cheap, we could have bought a new wardrobe for $3 a piece. A lot of people have approached us, mobile phones in hand, asking if they can have their photo taken with us. I don’t get it, why would you want to have your photo taken with a stranger, but we don’t mind, it’s a great way to interact with the locals and everyone is so pleasant.
We paid R300 ($6) to get inside Charminar, much to the horror of the Indian boy in front of us in the queue, who paid just R25. We climbed, in single file,
up 149 narrow spiral stone stairs to the upper level where the mosque used to be. We had great views over the city and the bazaar below.
We’d bought bananas and oranges in the bazaar and sat on the stone steps in the shade under Charminar for a break and a snack. Later we found ourselves clicking photos of some of the food stalls and ended up sitting inside one eating dosa for lunch. They are a crepe spread with a thin layer of mashed veges, served folded with two dipping sauces on the side. They were hot in more ways than one, served straight off the cooking plate with a good dose of chilli. We reached for our water bottles after the first mouthful...lunch for less than a dollar.
There was one more place I wanted to visit today, I knew it was in the old town, knew what the building looked like but had no idea of exactly where it was. It was Badshahi Ashurkhana, the Royal House of Mourning, built in 1594. Strangely enough most of the auto rickshaw drivers didn’t know where it was either, the fellow who eventually got us there had to
rely on google maps for directions. I had read online that there were beautiful tile mosaics covering the interior walls. This turned out not to be true, the walls were beautifully hand painted instead, from ceiling to floor, and still well worth seeing.
Our rickshaw man was waiting for us when we left there, and drove us back to the hotel. We’re surprised to notice there are hardly any other foreign tourists in the streets, we seem to be the only ones in town.
We chilled out in our upgraded room during the afternoon, deciding to go out again at 5.30pm, to walk to Birla Mandir Temple which was located on a hill behind our hotel. This Hindu temple is one of many constructed by the Birla family, hence its name. Opened in 1976 and built from white marble, it was a bit of a climb to reach.
After leaving here we walked through a well lit narrow street lined with tiny shops, huge flagstones underfoot, which wound its way down the hill and exited onto the main road, on the opposite side of our hotel. We shared a bowl of delicious vegetarian food, bought from a
roadside stand, and ate sitting on their plastic stools, before walking back to our room.
Another busy day coming up tomorrow, our rickshaw driver is collecting us at 6.30am. Just so you know....all photos in these blogs can be enlarged by tapping or clicking on them.
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