Hyderabad was founded in 1591 by the Qutb Shahi dynasty of the Sultanate of Golconda in Southern India. The new city was established on the banks of the Musi River, some 10km east of Golconda.
The Mughals conquered Hyderabad in 1687. However, as the great Mughal empire began to decline, Asaf Jah I, appointed by the Mughals as the ‘Nizam’ or Governor of the province, declared independence and became the first Nizam. While Golconda fell into a state of disrepair, Hyderabad flourished and soon replaced Golconda as the capital of the Sultanate. In 1763, after feuds with other states in the region, Hyderabad entered into a subsidiary alliance with the British which resulted in the city becoming the capital of the largest Princely State in British India.
In the 1930s Time Magazine rated the seventh Nizam the richest man in the world – the region’s rich seam of gemstones included the famous 105-carat Kohinoor diamond. By 1947 the then Nizam, Osman Ali Khan, was reluctant to relinquish control to the newly-independent India and the country was forced to send in its troops to ensure the transfer of power. Finally, in 1956, the city became the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
Modern-day leaders of Hyderabad have actively sought to attract investment and the city is now a major IT hub. The influx of IT corporations and professionals has resulted in the city’s light-hearted nickname, Cyberabad.
In spite of Hyderabad’s rich history, it is the city’s capacity for business which welcomes most visitors. However, travellers should look beyond the sprawling metropolis of shopping malls and glass-clad office buildings to the city’s many beautiful monuments and historic attractions.
Hyderabad’s oldest and most iconic monument, the Charminar, dates back to 1591 and is located in the Old City. The four graceful minarets soar almost 50 metres high and from their panoramic viewing deck visitors can barely hear the bustle of street life below.
The Old City itself is a maze of disorienting alleyways that expand outward from the Charminar, and lead to chaotic bazaars where you can buy anything from hand-sequinned saris to glass and stone studded bangles.
A short walk south is the Mecca Masjid, a mosque so named because the bricks of its central arch were brought all the way from Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Its granite edifice took 8,000 men half a century to build and can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers.
Hyderabad’s relentless urban sprawl has enveloped its ancient rival city of Golconda. Visit the remains of its 14th century fort, built on a 120-metre-high hill, and the stunning Qutb Shahi tombs just outside of the Golconda city walls.
The rapid influx of young, wealthy professionals into Hyderabad has had an exponential effect on the number and range of restaurants the city has to offer. Dining options in Hyderabad now include everything from Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and much more, although Indian restaurants are still the most favoured by Hyderabadis.
Although Hyderabad is in South India, its traditional spread is heavily influenced by North Indian and Persian cuisines. A slow cooked biryani is the best introduction to authentic Hyderabad dining and some of the nicer establishments are found around Necklace Road on the Hussain Sagar Lake, and the upmarket northern suburbs of Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills.
Nightlife in Hyderabad is energetic and cosmopolitan, and the city has numerous bars and nightclubs to explore. As the weekend get closer, the bars get busier, many of which are clustered around Somajiguda, Begumpet and the Banjara Hills Road No. 1 area.
Less than 150km north of Hyderabad is Warangal, the Kingdom of the Kakatiyas. The city’s monuments and temples attract many tourists, and are said to have been carved from one stone. Warangal’s historical name, Orugallu, means just that and the city’s main attractions, Warangal Fort and the 12th century Thousand Pillared Temple, are worth close scrutiny.