This Summer, enjoy Dubai at Hotel City Max for 04 nights from USD 455 per pax on Double/Twin Sharing with Breakfast#adlertoursadler-tours@hotmail.com, adlertourssafaris6@gmail.com

180 Passengers Australia-New Zealand #Jain Yatra & Hoiday Tour starting on 1st and 3rd Nov. 2016 Contact #adlertours 

Mombasa style “Kachri Bateta”


Binny's Kitchen & Travel diaries

Growing up in Mombasa, Kachri Bateta was one of myfavourite street foods to indulge on during trips to town from Nyali, where we lived. It can nowsometimes also befound in Lighthouse, a popular social spot to eat street food and socialise whilst enjoying the sea views.

Kachri batter translates into crisps and potatoes. I know you are thinking potatoes and potatoes? Trust me it tastes REALLY good.

Kachri bateta is besteaten in the evening as a light dinner or snack with a cold drink to accompany it. It is also perfect as a starter when you have guests over for dinner.

What I love most is the coastal influence of raw mango and coconut as ingredients and the fact that it is a Kenyan/Indian fusion dish, well known in Mombasa. It is one I grew up with and still continue to love when I go back home.

It is simple…

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Padhaaro Mhaare Des…


…or ‘welcome to our city’ exemplifies the spirit of Jodhpur — a canvas of Rajasthani culture

Ever thought the colour used by locals to paint their homes — in a bid to ward off insects —would become synonymous with the city? In the past, Jodhpur suffered from a major termite problem —so the residents started adding copper sulphate to their whitewashes, which lent the city its pristine blue-indigo hue. The Blue City is really blue!

Modem Jodhpur stretches well beyond the city walls, but it’s within the walled city that you find the Rajasthan of your imagination – the hustle-bustle, the colours, and the larger-than-life Mehrangarh Fort At the base of the mighty fort is a jumble of blue cubes that stretches out to the 10 km-long, 16th-century city wall. Inside are vibrant, entangled and bustling medieval streets — all of which never seem to lead where you want them to… The shops sell everything from vintage home decor items and temple decorations to colourful clothes and accessories. The colourful rickshaws here are super slim since they have to squeeze through the narrow streets. They make for a great travel option.

RAJPUTANA SPLENDOUR

The colossal and grand Mehrangarh Fort, which rises 400 sq ft above the city, looks nothing less than a page out of a fairy tale. The imprint of Jodhpur’s erstwhile royal family, built by Maharaja Jaswant Singh in the 17th century, it is the defining feature of this otherwise low-rise landscape. If you aren’t visiting Jodhpur in winter, make sure you reach the fort early to skip the midday sun. You don’t need a ticket to enter the fort; only the muse um section requires one. Packed with history, Mehran- garh Fort houses one of the best- kept collections of regal parapherna lia in the country. What you see is a mag nificent collection of silver elephant how dahs, gilded palanquins, carved ivory, weapons inlaid with gold and jewels, rare pieces of textile, and some of the world’s finest miniature paintings. You’ll be amazed to see elaborate cradles of infant princes and the extensive zenana (where maharanis lived) with dainty filigree win dows. Make sure to hire a guide to take you through the palatial labyrinth, great hall ways and long corridors and hear fascinating stories about the heroism of the leg endary Rajput warriors of Marwar. You can also consider spending the afternoon in its small cafe, sipping chilled beer or wine, lounge under shady trees reading a book or simply enjoy the spectacular views of the city. There are some curio shops too; you can take back valuable merchandise like a Jodhpuri earring or a maharaja pen as memento. For adventur seekers, there’s the flying fox zip- 1 line tour, which runs below the fort.

jashwath thada jodhpur

When in Jodhpur, a visit to Umaid Bhavan is a must. If your budget doesn’t permit you to stay there, go for dinner or drinks at its scenic restuarant where the verandah of fers a lavish view of the palace gardens. Indulge in some Rajasthani delicacies (ker sangri and laal maas) generously spread on silver platters. Visitors aren’t admitted dur ing all seasons, so call in advance to make a reservation. Again, casual visitors are not allowed inside the palace as the current royal bearer Gaj Singh II still lives in the premises. But you can certainly visit the museum by paying a nominal entry free. Pictures of artistic palace interiors, a collection of antique clocks and the maharaja’s vintage cars are eye-catching.

ALL THINGS ETHNIC

You’ll find steps leading to the marketplace all around the Ghanta Ghar. The area somehow creates an aura that is hard to resist. Though loud, dusty and a tad dirty, the bylanes sell wares, spices, metal bangles, Jodhpun jootis, Rajasthani turbans, and loads of mithais and snacky items you can munch on during a shopping spree. The city is popularly known for its antique fur niture emporiums. There are a few near Ghanta Ghar too. If you love investing in retro, unique home decor pieces and fur nishings in Indian prints, it’s impossible to leave empty-handed. From coloured-glass lanterns and vintage posters to jaali-work wooden frames and quirky painted metal trunks, you’ll find them all. As a souvenhi you can pick a signature Jodhpuri re versible block-print quilt that is known to have a cooling effect in summer and acts as an insulator against the cold in the harsh winter cold.

village market jodhpur.jpg

Village market, Jodhpur

FESTIVAL ALERT!

Lose yourself to the sacred sounds and dance performances by the best artiste line-up from across the globe at Mehrangarh Fort that is lit by the sparkling incandescence of a thousand candles.

World Sacred Spirit Festival (Feb 26-27, 2016); Flamenco & Gypsy Festival (Mar 18-20, 2016)

MUST-EAT

Your trip would be incomplete if you leave Jodhpur without biting into the fiery mirchi vadas (king-size green chili stuffed with spicy potato filling, dipped in gram flour batter and fried), kachoris and makhaniya lass!. The busy area around the Clock Tower market has a number of street stalls offering freshly-fried versions of the eatables. Try Janta Sweet Home at Na! Sarak, a favourite among the locals.

 

Fairmount Jaipur Package Vaild from 7 to 15 Nov.

#Dubai Sightseeings – Important updates


IMPORTANT UPDATES:

Miracle Garden shall be open until the end of May 2015

Dolphinarium is closed from 15 June until 16 July

Burj Khalifa Prime Hours: 17h30 – 18h30 Hrs

At the Top, Burj Khalifa during Ramadan

10h00 – 01h00, Prime hours will be limited to 17h30 – 19h00 inclusive

Note on Ramadan

===============

This year, we are expecting  Holy month of fasting “Ramadan” to be from 17 June to  17 July (approximate dates, / actual dates to be announced closer to the date only, as this will depend on moon sighting).  During this month, eating, drinking, smoking etc in public areas during day time i.e from sunrise till sunset,  will not be allowed .

There won’t be any entertainment during Desert safari or onboard dhow/night clubs may remain closed and parties with loud music / dancing etc will not be allowed. Hotels may serve alcohol in their outlets after sunset only. In general, hotels will have 1 main restaurant open for breakfast & lunch. Standalone restaurants (which are outside hotels/ or in shopping malls) will remain closed during day time and will open after sunset only

Khijadia ( Jamnagar, Gujarat, India ) aims for global site status


After Nal Sarovar( A Ramsar Site ), the state forest department wants Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary in Jamnagar districts as a Ramsar site. For this, it has sent a proposal t the Union Ministry of environment (MoEF). Till now, Nalsarovar is the only site which has been recognized as a Ramsar site in the state.

The World Wetlands Dat was observed on February 2. For the past couple of years, the department had been working on the proposals for Ramsar recognition for Khijadiya, Marine National Park in Jamnagar, and Thol Bird sanctuary in Ahmedabad, said officials.

The convention on Wetlands of international importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a wetland ecosystem. The treaty was adopted in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971.IMG_8252

Once recognized as Ramsar Site, the wetland will be given funding. Besides, the state and the international body will work towards the wise use of all their wetlands through national land use planning, appropriate policies and legislation, management actions, and public educations. They will also ensure their effective management. According to officials, so far there are 2170 odd Ramsar sites in the world. And Nalsarovar has been listed at 2078. According to the proposal, Khijadiya is home to the globally threatened black necked stork, which is a resident species of the wetland declared as a Sanctuary in May 1981. Apart from the black necked stock, other globally threatened species such as Dalmatian pelican, dater, and Asian open bill stork, black necked stork, black headed ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, Palla’s Fish eagle, pallid harrier, Indian Skimmer, Osprey are also found here.

Khijadiya sanctuary is spread over just 6.05 sq. km. However, the sanctuary and its adjoining areas habe a diverse habitats and ecosystems which include marine habitat, fresh water habitat, marshy lands, mangroves, prosopis areas, salt pans, open mud flats, intertidal mudflats, creeks, scrubs sandy beaches and adjoining farmlands. Because of its high diversity of landscapes, the sanctuary has a rare distinction of having maximum bird species density in the state with more than 220 species in a relatively very small area, the proposal  states.

Courtesy – Times Of India 

CHINA’S BEAR NECESSITIES


The Chinese are not known to be great animal lovers, but in stunning Sichuan province you would discover why the endangered giant panda is their national treasure. And if you can tear yourself away from all that cuteness, there are plenty of other attractions and distractions.

pandatraditional play

In the space of just a few hours, it is impressive how much a giant panda can defecate. I am inside five-year-old Yoaxin’s enclosure, using a shovel to chase enormous floating pellets of compressed orange mush around a pond.

As I skilfully scoop the mess into a bucket, I wonder if US first lady Michelle Obama, who recently visited the Sichuan province’s most famous residents, opted to roll up her sleeves to pick up panda poop as part of her official duties, probably not.

But having enrolled at the Bifengxia Panda Conservation Centre as a voluntary panda-keeper for the day, I am ready to get my hands dirty.

As one of the world’s most endangered species, whose existence now depends heavily on conservation efforts, the rarest member of the bear family has earned adoration from wildlife lovers worldwide.

Earlier this year, in Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo the resident giant panda Tian Tian, on loan from the Chinese government, was artificially inseminated, with hopes she will give birth this month or in September. But panda fans eager to see the animals in their homeland can now do so with greater ease, thanks to increased flights from a variety of different airlines to the panda capital, Chengdu.

According to a 2003 census by the Chinese State Forestry Bureau, there were 1596 giant pandas in the wild with 83 percent of the population found in the Sichuan province. (More recent figures are expected soon, but have not yet been published.) Three hundred of those bears can be found in reserves such as Bifengxia and Chengdu’s Giant Panda Research Base.

Seeing pandas in the wild is almost impossible; solitary creatures that roam in areas of 20 sq km, they are often only captured by camera traps. Plans are under way to reopen the mountain Wolong retreat, destroyed in a 2008 earthquake, but in the meantime, a good alternative are the bamboo hills of Bifengxia in Ya’an, 150 km from Chengdu.

Legs splayed like a small child, with those distinctive dark eye smudges making her look like a haggard insomniac, Yoaxin appears quite sad and helpless.

Far more lively are several baby pandas, which emit high-pitched squeaks as they tumble on top of each other and scramble up trees.

Local tourists dressed in ridiculous fluffy panda hats snap happily on their smartphones before racing off to souvenir shops to buy tat emblazoned with the symbolic monochrome bear.

Even centuries ago, soldiers would wave flags decorated with pandas, which they believed represented power. There is no doubt these creatures have become a national treasure.

However, given the country’s controversial track record for using endangered species in traditional medicine, Chinese animal welfare almost sounds like an oxymoron.

Jack, the guide said pandas are one of the few endemic animals to have survived, he partially jokes: “because they don’t taste very good!” But there is some truth to his words; history books recount tales of local people attempting to cook pandas in pots with highly dissatisfying results.

“Chinese people like to put things in their mouths, “he adds, as we drive towards the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base.

Located in the middle of the city and easily accessible, this is the most popular reserve for foreign tourists. Walkways wind around spacious enclosures, in a set-up similar to a zoo.

During the visit, the temperature is mild, but in the sticky summer months, pandas sleep on ice beds in air–conditioned rooms and eat watermelon and carrot lollies to keep cool.

Posters advertise the opportunity to hold a panda, if you are prepared to pay 1330 yuan (215 $) and dress up in an overcoat and surgical mask.

The money is needed for the expensive upkeep of the pandas and investment into the artificial insemination unit, currently the main method by which the sluggish pandas are able to reproduce.

emeishan jinding templegiant budha of leshan

Fortunately, Chengdu has much more to offer than its cute and cuddly bears. Green spaces, excellent cuisine and a strong tradition of tea houses has earned the 2000-year-old Sichuan capital a reputation for being the most relaxed city in the People’s Republic.

ram taoist templemarket

At one time, there were 10,000 tea houses in Chengdu, today, 1000 are still in operation. One of the biggest is the Hemin teahouse in the People’s Park, where groups of old men and university students gather at bamboo tables to play the traditional Chinese game, mah-jong.

Competitors are locked in serious, concentration, their expressions as blank as the flat sky overhead. (On average, the sun only shines in Chengdu 100 days per year.)

antiques shopping areamodern chengdu

Elsewhere, in the park, retired women wearing oversized glasses and pouts like a baboon’s bottom amuse themselves by parading up and down on a makeshift catwalk in a bizarre public fashion show, while others perform traditional Tibetan dances. Aside from the 17th century Qing dynasty wide and narrow alleys, now revamped as an upmarket complex of restaurants, boutiques and street food stalls, much of the high-rise architecture in Chengdu is modern.

As people from rural areas seek better health care, education and employment, the population of the city is swelling. Yet many would agree that their hearts still lie in the surrounding scenic countryside.

Used in the 1950s to carry coal from mines, the Jaiyang railroad now takes tourists on day trips through peaceful farmlands, while a separate carriage still carries locals and their livestock to market. A journey on the small steam train provides welcome contrast to the grey smog and concrete of the city; fields of brilliant yellow rapessed flowers radiate colour in a place where the sun rarely seems to shine.

Although China is a country that is rapidly industrialising, with new roads and buildings springing up like weeds and choking the environment, there is the glimmer of hope that people are beginning to appreciate the extent of what they could lose. It is true that, culturally speaking, the Chinese are not a nation of animal lovers, but efforts to protect the giant panda, their national treasure, are educating a new generation.

Courtesy by G.N.

WARSAW IN POLE POSITION


Warsaw is a city that is just begging to be explored on foot. A Warsaw tourism flyer in the plane’s seat pocket listed more than 30 must-sees in the city – from baroque palaces and cathedrals and at least a dozen museums and concert halls to glitzy modern malls and a spectacular tower, plumb in the centre of the city. One should not miss the classical music concert to get a feel of Poland. Polish co-passenger advises that classical music concert sure to be happening in any of the halls in the city.

warsawmusic and art

Warsaw is truly a fascinating ode to music and the arts. In fact, the moment you land, you will realise the importance and respect music is accorded. The airport takes its name from the city’s famous son, pianist and composer, Fryderyk Chopin, and it supports the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute and its Chopin and his Europe festival every year, as a banner hanging outside arrivals announces.

old town real feel of poland

Heading to the hotel, you will be struck by the architecture – socialist grey, drab and blocky – a throwback to the four decades of communism. On the way, you would spot one apartment that stood out due to its more modern facade. That is the Wilcza 72. It is a set of luxury condos. Notice the bullet pockmarked facade? That is a piece of wall from a building that was destroyed during the Second World War, now preserved behind glass.

Such remnants of history frequently present themselves in the mosaic of modern-day Polish architecture, giving the city a quaintly interesting mix of the old and the new. But while some pieces of bullet and bomb-ravaged walls have been neatly preserved for posterity, there are a few iconic structures of history that many Poles prefer to mask rather than exhibit.

palace of cultur and sciencesquare market

The Palace of Culture and Science that stands bang opposite the hotel, the Intercontinental, is one such example. At first glance this is simply an awesome structure that soars 231 metres high and occupies pride of place in the capital city’s square but, “it was a gift from Stalin and was used as the communist party headquarters. It was something we did not want,” says guide. The guide explains part of it was built using bricks taken from the rubble of buildings that were destroyed during the Second World War and “is a constant reminder of the devastation and of a past the Poles want to leave behind”.

The Palace also houses a clock tower that was apparently inspired by the New York Empire State Building. Stalin is said to have sent a secret team to New York to study the structure and methods employed to build it, then commissioned the Soviet architect Lev Rudnev to design a similar building, mixing it with Polish architectural building.

Many Poles at the time sneered at it because they felt it to be a monument representing Soviet domination, and the feeling still persists, with palace nicknamed, among others, Stalin’s Syringe and Pajac (meaning clown).

If you want to have the best view of the city, go to the terrace on the 30th floor, the guide suggested. It is the one place in the city where the building does not obscure the view.

Contrary to local jokes, the palace exudes an intriguing charm all of its own. The ground floor is a maze of rooms and corridors with ancient-looking lifts (and an elderly lift operator). But is also boasts cinemas, theatres, museums, bookshops, souvenir stores and a university – Collegium Civitas – spread across two floors.

The palace boasts 3288 rooms and has played host to not just communist party meetings but also some of the most famous events in Eastern Europe, including a concert by the Rolling Stones in 1967 and the Miss World pageant in 2006.

A 10-minute walk away flows one of the most famous rivers of Poland – the Vistula. Beginning its journey from the Beskidy Mountains in southern Poland, it cuts through Krakow before emptying into the Baltic Sea. “The Vistula once played a major part in shaping the history of Warsaw,” says the guide. “Stalin’s Red Army positioned itself on the right bank and waited and watched while Germany decimated the city on the left bank during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.”

For those who dozed off during the world history classes in school, the Warsaw uprising was the most tragic episode in the city’s history. Unwilling to wait out the Nazi occupation during the Second World War, the people of Warsaw rose up in revolt, enraging Adolf Hitler, who set about wiping out the city with bullets and bombs. More than 200,000 civilians were estimated to have been killed, mostly in mass executions, while any structure even remotely deemed cultural was dynamited and entire districts set ablaze. “Around 90 per cent of the city was reduced to rubble,” says the guide.

War over, Poland came under Communist rule, which lasted until 1989. But since then Poland has embraced westernisation with open arms – evident by, among other things, the large number of malls that have mushroomed all over the city.

Warsaw today is a picture postcard of a European Union nation’s success story. “It is the only EU member to have ducked the global economic downturn in recent years,” says Robert. But while industrialists and investors are flocking to Poland, keen to set up ventures and make the most of the business – friendly climate, there is a lot for tourists to enjoy too.

One of the best ways to get an idea of the real Poland is to take a trip to the Old Town, which dates back to the 13th century and once housed quaint castles, spectacular churches and a thriving market. Unfortunately it was one of the areas that sustained the most damage during the Uprising.

In Old Town, you will see the ancient buildings, these are new buildings reconstructed painstakingly using ancient etchings, paintings and photographs of the Old Town as blueprints.

Original bricks and decorative elements were sifted from the rubble and reused to give the buildings an authentic appearance. Completed as late as 1962, the historic centre quickly found a place on Unesco’s World Heritage List, which includes such diverse places as East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The UN body, whose aim is to protect and preserve cultural and natural heritage spots around the world, named the Old Town as an area of outstanding value to humanity.

At the entrance stands a 22-metre-tall pillar on which rests a bronze statue of King Zygmunt Waza, the monarch who moved the capital of Poland from Krakow to Warsaw in 1596. A large market square filled with souvenir stores and restaurants which is a tourist magnet, and one could spend hours there sipping a cappuccino and people-watching.

One among the 10 per cent of buildings that were not destroyed during the war bears the address of one of the most famous women in the world. No 16, Freta Street, which stands on a narrow road leading from the Old Town to the adjacent New Town, was the birthplace of Madame Marie Curie – the first woman to win a Noble Prize (for the discovery of radium and polonium). On the balcony was a bright red bougainvillea in full bloom.

A tower-like gateway connects the Old Town to the New Town and close to the gate is a statue of the mermaid Syrena, who is said to have lived in the river Vistula. Syrena was responsible for luring a brother and sister – Wars and Sawa – to found the town named, yes, Warszawa.

After a short walk around the Old Town, you will be back on the bus to explore the rest of the city. Once you entered Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street, the guide instructed to look right to see the Holy Cross Church – an important place for Chopin lovers because part of his body is buried here. When Chopin died in October 1849 in France, where he and his family had moved from Warsaw, his body was laid to rest in Pere Lachaise Cemetery Paris. But in accordance with his wish, his heart was brought back to Warsaw and buried here.

The next day, you will be off to Oslztyn, the capital of the Warmia and Mazury Province in the north-eastern part of Poland that is known as the region of a thousand lakes. Home to cathedrals and ancient market squares, the one structure that attracts tourists is the Gothic castle of the Warmia Chapter, build during the 14th century.

statue of copernicusbridge over river lyna

At the entrance of the castle is a statue of Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish mathematician, physician, polyglot and astronomer who revolutionised the concepts of the universe placing the sun, and not the earth, at the centre. Copernicus resided at Oslztyn Castle as economic administrator of Warmia and his room can still be viewed – complete with his astronomical table, the only surviving tool of his in the world.

Today the castle is a popular venue for concerts, art exhibitors, lectures, scientific sessions and film shows. Tourists are allowed entry on certain days when they can even try on medieval armoury and costumes.

There a bridge over the river Lyna with hundreds of padlocks hanging from its railings. There is a tradition here that those in love who attach a padlock to the railing and throw the key into the river Lyna below will stay together for ever, says the guide.

Courtesy by G.N.

Feeling Heady In Hyderabad


The Taj Falaknuma Palace – the restored Nizam’s Palace – is yet another jewel in the crown of the city that boasts of the Charminar

taj-falaknuma-palace-courtyardTo enter the Taj Falaknuma Palace involves many steps. You drive to the entrance of the 32-acre palace; then, get on a horse carriage, which takes you to the entrance. You are greeted with vetiver juice. A flag bearer carrying a golden flag-pole bearing a coat of arms marches ahead as you climb the white staircase. Then the rose petal shower.

Taj-Falaknuma-Palace-bWalk into the Ritz Carlton in Miami or George V in Paris and all you get is a form asking for your credit card details. Here in the East, we take hospitality much more seriously, garlanding our guests, giving them a welcome drink, offering them attar and sandalwood paste, or, in this instance, showering petals on them.

cn_image_2.size.taj-falaknuma-palace-hyderabad-india-112405-11Built by Vicar Ul-Umra, the prime minister and son-in-law of then the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1893, the Falaknuma (meaning ‘mirror of the sky’) has had a chequered history. Sir Vicar as he was called, built and inhabited it for a mere five years when he heard that the Nizam was coming for tea. Tea extended to dinner and then overnight. Twenty days later, the Nizam was still in residence. What happened next was typical of the tehzeeb or etiquette of the era, when words were pregnant with hidden meaning. Sir Vicar watched his master’s delight in the palace and the curious questions: “How have you built a palace so wonderful?” He intuited that the Nizam coveted the palace that he had bankrupted himself to build and decided to give it to the Nizam as a nasr or offering. “Huzoor, I have built it for you,” said he. That same evening, three generations of Sir Vicar’s family, along with their retinue of staff, moved out of the palace. To give up something so substantial is not easy for any person, but that was the ethos of the era. The Nizam insisted on paying more than what the palace had cost to build. He presented Sir Vicar with Rs 68 lakh (10 lakh = 1 million), small change for a man who was on the cover of Time magazine with the headline, “The richest man in the world.” The Nizam had his own currency, airline, railways, a fleet of Rolls-Royce, some of which were used to dump the household garbage, and the 48-carat Jacob’s diamond that rolled about his table in lieu of a paperweight.

The-Spectacular-Taj-Falaknuma-Palace-in-Hyderabad-11The Nizam’s family used the Falaknuma till after Independence, when they entertained India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad in 1951. After that, the palace fell out of use and into disrepair till the current Nizam’s estranged wife, a princess belonging to the Turkish nobility, decided to restore it. Princess Esra Jah reconciled with her husband, the current Nizam, who lives in Australia, during her son’s wedding. In 2000, she decided to restore the palace in partnership with the Taj Group of Hotels. By then, the palace was in an advanced state of disrepair. Water poured through the roof, rats were running around, the furniture and upholstery were chipped and broken, and cobwebs hung throughout the place. “I was among the first persons to see the palace and it was scary,” says the historian, Mr. Prabhakar.

It took ten years and countless iterations to get the palace back into its pristine glory. The walls were painted a hundred times to match the shade that Princess Esra had in mind: the colour of the sky at dusk. Today, the Falaknuma is a Victorian pastiche of many architectural styles. There are Corinthian columns, Italian frescoes, Carrara marble fountains, Tudor arches, Venetian cut-glass chandeliers, French trompe d’0eil paintings that make cement look like wood, fleur de lis on stained glass windows, English paintings and upholstery. “Not one of the objects or influence is Indian,” says Mr Prabhakar proudly. The result is stunning but a little disconcerting. It is as if the palace was airlifted from Europe and placed atop the hill in Hyderabad.

char minarThe city sparkles far below as Sufi singers sing on the Gol Bangla’s terrace. It is a city built for love, when Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, whose portrait hangs in the Smithsonian, fell in love with a maiden called Bhagmati. In 1591, he moved his capital from Golconda to what was then a tiny village on the banks of the Musi village. He named the new city after his wife, Hyder Mahal. The city was modelled on Esfahan in Iran, with water-bodies for moon-watching, fountains, fragrant gardens and broad boulevards. When the bubonic plague hit the city, Quli Qutb Shah prayed to Allah to release his people from its clutches and built the Charminar (Four Minarets) in gratitude. Diagonally across from the Charminar is the Makkah Masjid, among the holiest shrines in India, built using soil and stones from Mecca. Ten thousand of the faithful can pray together here.

Today, the roads that radiate from the Charminar sell rhinestone-studded lac bangles that are a signature of the city. Countless shops glitter with these coloured gem-like ornaments. Vendors sell burqas, dupattas, vessels, fruits, knives, clothes, Unani medicines, orthopaedic massages and anything else that a person can need. It is a hub of humans and commerce. The Chowmuhallah Palace down the road is quieter. Built over 45 acres in the 18th century, it is now a museum and used for weddings and other ceremonies. Only 14 acres remain since the current Nizam fled to Turkey and then Australia to escape debt payments from his wives and concubines. I attend a wedding there one night. The palace is stunning when lit up at night. Tuberose garlands cast their heady scent and the aroma of slow-cooking biryanis makes the tongue pucker. This is a city that takes it meat seriously. Men can argue for hours over the right technique to cook patther ka gosht, or lamb seared on a stone slab.

lac benglesTextile expert Soraiya Hassan Bose belongs to an old family. Today, she and a band of weavers sell the state’s kalamkari and ikat weaves in her eponymous shop. Hyderabad’s hand-loomed, hand-woven textiles are known throughout the country for their quality.

Local fashion designers such as Anand Kabra use the state’s weaves in their designs and infuse it with a modern cut. Jewellery designer Suhani Pittie lives in a heritage mansion that houses her contemporary creations. Both are passionate about their home state and its rich traditions.

There are two Hyderabad today, one is the city around Hussein Sagar Lake; the modern city that attracts IT companies to its Hi-Tec City or Cyberabad. Then, there is the slower, more leisurely city that was created by kings and Nizams; the Hyderabad of slow-cooked meals and exquisite etiquette.

Courtesy by K.T.

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