So I know I’ve been bad at posting… like really, really bad. Time ebbs and flows and you easily lose track. That plus a full time job can definitely keep you on your toes. And when that full time job then presents you with an opportunity to spend some time traveling for work, then sometimes the answer is nothing but हाँ (haan, Hindi for “yes”)
My company approved me to spend six weeks during the North American summer (and Indian monsoon season) in central India: Hyderabad, the Pearl City! Located in central India in the state of Telangana (though considered south India), its holds a unique culture just like every other region of India. The region has long been a Muslim first community, with the city’s creation by the Qutb Shahi dynasty and eventually becoming a Mughal stronghold. Well into the British Raj, the Nizams (royal rulers) of Hyderabad maintained their separate princely state and governed themselves. Hyderabad today remains a significant part of India’s culture, being home to Pollywood (India’s 2nd largest film industry, with being the leader in Telugu language cinema) and just like each other state, maintains its own cuisine and style of how things are done.
Muslim culture (remnant from the Mughal Empire) remains strong in Telangana and Hyderabad. You can see this clearly evident in the architecture and the cuisine.
Hyderabad’s most notable monument is Charminar. A mosque commissioned in 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shahi, Charminar has become one of the most recognized Islamic architecture pieces in India that predates the Mughal period. It was commissioned to be a symbol of celebration for beginning the 2nd millennium of the Islamic calendar and it continues to be the central point of the high Muslim celebratory holidays (Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha). Around Charminar is a bustling bazaar, filed with many hawkers selling fresh pomegranates and other fruits, wooden and metal bengals, and multitude of other wares that you can easily haggle. Nearby Charminar, you can find other important buildings and places in Hyderabad: Chowmahalla Palace, Salar Jung Museum, and Hussain Sagar. All are wonderful places to visit and you can even take a trip to Falaknuma Palace if you are in the spendy mood and want one of the best high tea’s you will ever experience.
Here, you will find more non-vegetarian individuals than many other states in India that have a greater percentage of non-Muslim populations. The famous items you see in the local cuisine is Hyderabadi Biryani and Haleem. Biryani is a fragrant rice dish made with spices and saffron and usually serviced with egg, chicken or mutton. Haleem, on the other hand, is a meat stew that has been pulsed so fine, it is basically a very thick gravy. Haleem was typically consumed during the month of Ramadan for Iftar (the post-sunset meal that breaks the daytime fast). Now you can find it year round, but you may want to limit on days when you may have already consumed copious amounts of food (dont make my mistake and eat it after stuffing yourself after kababs and Hyderabadi barbecue).
During the week, I may be stuck in the office, working directly alongside my India colleagues and we still enjoy the day by ordering multitudes of food for less than the price of a 12oz (340mL) latte in the US and talking about everything under the sun over delicious cups of मसाला चाय (masala chai). Here chai means “tea” and not the specific type of tea we Westerners have come to associate with having a Chai. For starters, Masala Chai is primarily made with ginger, unlike that Green Mermaid coffeehouse from Seattle that makes theirs way too sweet and with too much cinnamon. It has a wonderful bite to it and spice from the natural ingredients that come with ginger and other spices (cloves, cardamom, pepper and some cinnamon). The one thing though, is that coffee and tea come in the tiniest of sizes, like 150mL (5oz) — just a bit larger than the size of a Dixie cup, so you bet this boy be double fisting coffee.
So I am about 3 weeks into my 6 week assignment here and I could not ask for such an amazing experience thus far. I am happy I have this opportunity to explore for an extended period of time and take my time seeing the amazing places that you only hear about from other travel bloggers or the select few people you may know that have been there. More to come and experience, that’s for sure!