Located in south central India, Hyderabad is a study in the country's ancient and modern influences. Founded by Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah more than 400 years ago, the city has long been an important intersection of trade routes. Although landlocked, Hyderabad’s history as a pearl processing hub earned it the nickname “City of Pearls.” But pearls aren’t the city’s only source of bling. Nearby diamond mines have unearthed some of the world’s greatest glitter. These gems helped fund the city’s stunning architecture, most notably the breathtaking Chowmahalla Palace. Today, Hyderabad is home to a new source of riches. Amazon, Google, Facebook, and other tech behemoths have set up gleaming offices in an area known as Cyberabad. November-March is the best time to visit. The temperatures are milder (although still quite warm at around 85 to 95°F) and the rainy season has passed. Here are a few other shining examples of why Hyderabad is one of the best places to travel to this winter:
Paris has the Eiffel Tower and Hyderabad has Charminar, a massive square structure at the center of the Old City. The ruler Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah built the now iconic landmark in 1591 to commemorate the end of a plague. Hewed from limestone and granite, the intricately carved monument and mosque has four tall archways facing the cardinal directions and minarets at each corner. Climb to the top for panoramic views of the labyrinth of markets and shoppers below.
Head to the Laad Bazaar, near Charminar, and stroll through shops stacked floor-to-ceiling with sparkly lac bangles. For some 200 years, bargain hunters have come here to score deals on the city’s trademark bracelets, pearl jewelry, and other handcrafted wares.
In the Old City, sip Hyderabad’s signature brew, Irani chai. Brought to India by Persian immigrants, this sweet, milky tea is often served with Osmania biskoot (sweet and salty biscuits). One style of Irani chai, called khade chammach ki chai, includes a layer of sugar at the bottom so thick it can hold a spoon upright.
Once the 19th-century home of Hyderabad’s sixth Nizam (ruler), the Taj Falaknuma opened as a 60-room luxury hotel in 2010. With its hand-painted ceiling, chandeliers, and sumptuous dining and billiard rooms, the palace offers a peek into the city’s opulent past. Perched on granite hill above the city, the hotel is surrounded by 32 acres of manicured gardens. Step onto the Royal Terrace for spectacular city views or peruse the Palace Library, which holds nearly 6,000 rare books and manuscripts.
Hyderabad is the capital of Tollywood, India’s other film industry. Not as well known in America as Bollywood, but nearly as large, Tollywood produces films and TV shows in the local Telugu language. To get a taste of the cinematic magic, Tour Ramoji Film City, a Disneyesque theme park and the world’s largest film studio complex. The 1,666-acre site spans more than 500 different sets, including permanent replicas of railway stations, temples, and city streets.
In 1750, the Nizam family commissioned the Chowmahalla Palace, and in 1869 — more than 100 years later — workers finished construction. Modeled after the Shah’s palace in Tehran, the restored UNESCO World Heritage Site is a maze of elaborate courtyards, gardens, and rooms filled with the family’s lavish furniture and clothing. Be sure to visit the jaw-droppingly ornate Khilwat Mubarak, a marble ceremonial hall with intricate wall carvings and 19 Belgian crystal chandeliers. And check out the Nizam’s vintage car collection, which includes a 1911 yellow Rolls-Royce. Reserved for special occasions, the 106-year-old car has only traveled 356 miles.
“The Chowmahalla Palace is probably one of my favorite places,” says Cocoflosser Esther Huynh. “It’s located in a busy area of Hyderabad and it’s absolutely beautiful! The palace has gorgeous facades and wonderful designs, which showcase a time in history that had princes, princesses, and Indian royalty at its finest.”
1. According to one story, _________ munched their way through some $30 million in rupees stashed between newspapers in Chowmahalla’s basements.
2. Tepidophobia is a fear of badly made _________.
3. India has the largest community of _________ outside of Iran. This group first immigrated here at least 1,300 years ago when followers of the Prophet Zarathushtra moved here.
4. Originally built in the 13th-century, the Golconda Fort has housed both the famous Kohinoor and Hope _________.
5. The seventh Nizam had more than 100 _________.
6. The Nizam reportedly used the 187.75-carat Jacob diamond (the world’s fifth-largest diamond) as a _________.
7. Before his death in 1967, the seventh Nizam employed 6,000 workers at Chowmahalla. Twenty-eight people were hired just to fetch _________ 38 more dusted chandeliers, and several others were there to grind the Nizam's walnuts.
8. In 1973, the current Nizam, Mukarram Jah, moved to a _________ in Perth, Australia.
9. With a height of 59 feet and weight of around 450 tons, the _________ that sits in the middle of Hussain Sagar lake is the world’s largest monolithic statue carved from a single block of white granite.
10. There are more than 140 manmade _________ in Hyderabad.
11. Hyderabad is known for its 2.5-billion-year-old _________ formations.
12. Mostly made from wax or plastic today, lac bangles were once made from a thick, waxy substance created by an _________.
Answers: 1. rats 2. tea 3. Persians 4. Diamond 5. children 6. paperweight 7. water (or drinking water) 8. sheep farm 9. Buddha 10. lakes 11. granite 12. insect (the femaleTachardialacca)
Biryani, an aromatic blend of spices, rice, and meat or vegetables, is Hyderabad’s signature dish. Served in many parts of the country, Hyderabadi biryani reflects this trading city’s unique mix of culinary influences. You can find more than a hundred different takes on the dish here. In this recipe from Saveur magazine, the rice and meat cook together to create a version known as kachchi biryani.
1 cup canola oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 (3 1⁄2-4-lb.) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 cup roughly chopped mint
3 tbsp. garam masala
1 tsp. red chile powder, such as cayenne
1⁄4 tsp. ground turmeric
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small green Thai chiles or 1 serrano
1 (4") piece ginger, peeled and sliced
Juice of half a lemon
Kosher salt, to taste
2 cups plain, full-fat yogurt
1⁄2 tsp. kala jerra (black cumin seeds)
3 whole cloves
2 green cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
2 cups long-grain white rice
1⁄2 cup ghee, melted
Recipe courtesy of Saveur
1. Heat 1 cup oil and the onion in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring
occasionally, until onion is caramelized, about 25 minutes; transfer onion to a bowl and reserve oil for another use.
2. Cut chicken into 18 pieces: Cut chicken into 8 pieces, discarding wing tips. Cut each drumstick, thigh, and wing in half and cut each breast crosswise into 3 pieces; transfer to a bowl.
3. Purée 1⁄3 the reserved onion, the cilantro, mint, garam masala, chile powder, turmeric, garlic, green chiles, ginger, lemon juice, and salt in a small food processor into a paste; set half the paste aside. Add remaining paste to bowl with chicken. Add yogurt; toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.
4. Wipe pan clean and add cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and 6 cups water; boil. Stir in rice; cook until rice is slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Strain rice and spices, discarding water. Spoon 1⁄3 the rice and spice mixture into pan; top with half the chicken and its marinade. Sprinkle with half the remaining herb paste, drizzle with 1⁄3 the ghee, and sprinkle 1⁄3 the remaining onion over top. Repeat layering the remaining rice, chicken, herb paste, and ghee. Steam, covered, on low heat until rice and chicken are completely cooked, 35–40 minutes. Garnish with remaining caramelized onion.
It’s time to hit the mat. Taking inspiration from this issue’s Wander, we challenge you to two weeks of daily yoga. Born in India more than 2,000 years ago, yoga has been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved flexibility and range of motion, stronger muscles, reduced stress, better posture and balance, and increased self-esteem. And according to researchers, a regular yoga practice may also prevent inflammation, improve bone density, and stave off age-related mental decline. With all these benefits, what’s not to love?
One of the best things about yoga is that some of the most restorative poses, such as child’s pose, are as easy as child’s play. Anyone can practice yoga, and you don’t need to invest a lot of time to get a big benefit. Keep it simple and commit to 15 minutes a day for the two-week challenge. Even a short daily practice is better than a sweaty two-hour class once a week.
Think you’re too distracted or scattered? Perfect! Yoga helps shift your mind away from to-do lists (sorta like flossing!) and into simply feeling. Don’t worry about creating the most serene space to roll out your mat. You can practice anywhere — standing in line, on a plane, or next to a coffee table still cluttered with last night’s wine glasses. You might even want to try tree pose while you’re flossing.
As yoga’s popularity has skyrocketed, so has the number of websites offering online classes. Here are a few worth checking out: YogaGlo, YogaVibes, Dirty Yoga (nothing naughty here — just straight-forward instruction), Do Yoga With Me (a massive donation-based site), Be More Yogic (offers free classes as well as a premium membership).
Go on and get your om on!
Along with being an essential part of your daily ritual, flossing is an opportunity to slow down and relax. Consider it a mini meditative moment, or a chance to ponder some of the world’s overlooked wonders. To get you started, here are five toothsome truths to mentally chew on.
A Sumerian text from 5,000 BC blames “tooth worms” for causing dental decay. The belief that tooth worms caused cavities persisted up to the 17th century in some parts of the world.
Ingredient lists for ancient toothpaste included bones, eggshells, pumice, and myrrh.
To cure a toothache, the Roman naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder recommended finding a frog by moonlight and asking it to take away the pain.
Famous for belting out solo hits, Tina Turner sang backup vocals on Frank Zappa’s 1973 song “Montana,” which is about becoming a dental floss tycoon.
If you floss daily for a year, you'll use enough floss to wrap around a baseball diamond.