Taking off on a tour of old Hyderabad city was something we weren’t in the least bothered about while at the Taj Falaknuma since it was an experience in itself. But while we were staying at the Taj Krishna, we were treated to a customized tour of the best experiences and sights in Hyderabad, a tour they call the “Deccan Odyssey”.
Taking off from the hotel in two auto rikshaws (tuk tuks) that were waiting for us in the lobby, we rattled through the traffic in the streets. Our guide it seemed, knew the city and its history like the back of her hand, and has been consulting with the hotel to add to the repertoire of experiences they can tailor-make for guests.
1. Irani Chai opposite the Charminar
We started with a breakfast stop, right opposite the Charminar. The iconic Nimrah Café and Bakery has been around for as long as most old timers can remember. Catering to traders, workers, labourers, travellers and virtually anyone. A batch of biscuits is made every half an hour to ensure their freshness. Our guide quickly got the waiter to bring us a selection of the must try items on the menu. A single bite of the melt in your mouth buttery Osmania biscuits was enough proof of its freshness for us. They were ridiculously delicious and incredibly rich. It was a bit too early in the day for such an intensely rich and sweet meal, so we tried just a bite of the spread in front of us and washed it down with the decadently sugary and milky Irani Chai. We met the friendly and busy owner who shared a couple of jokes with Charles (the old part of Hyderabad is still very traditional when it comes to rubbing shoulders or shaking hands with women) and let us go only after gifting us a couple of boxes of his famous Osmania biscuits to take home to Mumbai.
Stepping out, we crossed over to the middle of the busy street to click that iconic shot of the Charminar towering over us, trying to quietly observe the beautiful details on this Hyderabad landmark for a while, with noisy vehicles zipping past us in either direction.
We then started walking down the street that is better known as Lad Bazaar. The old Bazaar of the old city, most of the old shops have since given way to new ones, with virtually anything being sold here now. Thankfully, our guide knew just the stops to make.
2. Bangle Shopping in Lad Bazaar
Pearls and Bangles made of a resin called Lac are among Hyderabad’s most famous old cultural motifs and modern day souvenirs. The city of pearls is also notorious for plenty of fakes floating around the market, something the common shopper can’t easily spot. Nayeem Bangle Shop however has been certified legit by our guide, and she definitely looked like she knew her stuff. Now I’m not really one to wear the gaudy lac bangles that were on display, but the glitter and shimmer (and unbelievably low prices) is something no girl can resist, so I found myself shopping for people back home. (Oh and I did end up buying a sparkly set for myself as well). The bangles range from as low as 20 rupees a piece to 2000 rupees a piece and more. So you’re going to find something for every pocket and wrist size here. (It’s also amazing to watch the shopkeeper take one look at your wrist and pull out the right sized bangle)
3. Zaris and Laces from Lad Bazaar
Charles, after patiently waiting outside the bangle store, taking the odd photograph or two was about to have his patience tested again at the next stop further down Laad Bazaar Street. Afzal Miyan Karchobwale Lampi Lace Centre. Rumour has it that Afzal Miyan used to supply the Princess Esra and other royal ladies with their fix of glitter and gold. Endless spools of intricate gold lace to be attached the hem of their otherwise simple and understated sarees, heavy stoles of gold work, elegant white lace and more, I could just about picture the antique and exorbitant goodies that sit at his other “by appointment only” warehouse. Going by the crowd and hordes of to be brides that thronged his little store, there’s something that doesn’t seemed to have changed about the women in the Nizam’s city, they love dressing up and they love their bling.
4. Secrets of the Biryani Masala at Lad Bazaar
Sadly our last stop doesn’t have a shop name or address, but I can tell you you walk a little further down Laad Bazaar Street on the same side of the road as Afzal Miyan’s store, just after the mosque, sits a little wooden bench outside a small stall filled with bottles of powders, spices and otherwise unidentifiable potions. The shopkeeper boasts that his secret Biryani Masala contains over 17 different spices. We tried to squeeze a few of them out of him, but were eventually unsuccessful. They wouldn’t be secret if I gave them away now would it? But I’ll throw in an extra pouch of it for free he said. We thought of him as we enjoyed a beautiful biryani a couple of months later in Mumbai, as our house filled up with the smells of a Hyderabadi Kitchen. We were lucky to get past security at the airport, but you may not be, so ensure you pack it into your checked in luggage as the security did identify that it contains red chilli powder. (One down, 16 to go)
We strolled back to where our auto rickshaws were waiting for us at the main road outside the Nimrah Café and Bakery, taking our time and taking in the sights and sounds of Laad Bazaar under the summer sun. We stopped at a wonderful stack of used and old books on the side of the road and found some extremely interesting titles. Getting out of the sweltering heat and back into the Taj Krishna’s wonderful airconditioning, we realized that while the city tour didn’t seem tiring at the time because of how fascinated we had been, we were in fact, ready to call it a night. But not before another Hyderabadi feast at the hotel’s restaurant – Firdaus.
The Deccan Odyssey is a curated tour of the city’s most interesting finds, customised exclusively for guests of the Taj Krishna in Hyderabad.Taj Krishna, Road No: 1, Banjara Hills Hyderabad- 500 034 Andra Pradesh, India Telephone: +91 40 66662323 | Facsimile: +91 40 66661313