I’ll be honest—when I first heard Travel+Leisure was doing a feature story on Hyderabad, I was somewhat…perplexed. The sixth largest city in India is where my parents are originally from, and though my history-buff father has regaled me with its legends for years, I’ve never thought of it as a major tourist hub—but then, T+L is always ahead when it comes to mining hot off-the-radar destinations. Working on “Jewel of India” for March made me view the city through a new lens. And in a serendipitous twist, I was scheduled to take a long-delayed trip to Hyderabad right after we closed the issue.
Hyderabad is like my second home, but despite visiting it my whole life, I’ve never done much sightseeing. But this time I used Marie Brenner’s article as a guide of sorts to chart my own itinerary. I strolled the 240-foot length of one of the world’s largest wardrobes (now that’s my kind of walk-in closet) at the H.E.H. Nizam’s Museum, a fascinating trove of relics from Hyderabad’s golden years; I drove by the shiny new office complexes of Cyberabad, Hyderabad’s high-tech avatar; I climbed to the top of the Charminar (much to my mother’s chagrin—“I grew up here and never once felt compelled to climb it, why are you making me do it now?” she grumbled good-naturedly); I bargained for quintessentially Hyderabadi bangles at Laad Bazaar; I marveled at the glittering chandeliers and the vintage cars at Chowmahalla Palace; and I went to visit Prince Muffakham Jah (the philanthropist younger brother of the current nizam, Mukarram Jah, who Brenner wrote about in her story) and his lovely wife, Princess Esin, at their beautiful home in Banjara Hills.
These glimpses gave me a new perspective on Hyderabad, one that delved much deeper past my routine shopping expeditions and family visits and lazy evenings at Secunderabad Club. Surprisingly, what really symbolized the “new” Hyderabad to me was its two buzzed-about recent hotel openings. The Taj Falaknuma is an iconic palace celebrating the city’s heritage, letting guests live the lifestyle of its ruling nizams, while the Park is a modern boutique hotel inspired by the nizam’s famed jewels, but so hip and contemporary that it could double as a set for Sex and the City 3. While the regal Falaknuma made me nostalgic for a rich and often forgotten past, the chic Park made me optimistic about Hyderabad’s promising future.