Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Living the Life of a Nizam

Lunch at the Daba, with our driver, eating with our fingers, Indian Style 
Our caraige to the Palace 

Front of the Palace

Very strange fish building

After our shortened stay in Bijapur, we headed for the long drive to Hyderabad. We drove on  narrow roads, passing through villages and lush farmland, enjoying the colorful dress of the people. The women, no matter how poor, dress in clean, colorful saris. In India, you share the roads with overloaded carts pulled by teams of bullocks; motorbikes; on-coming trucks and busses, all driving with no lane markings and no apparent rules. The entire road can be blocked by herds of sheeps or goats, cows roam everywhere and have the highest priority. In the more rural areas, the road is often covered with a corn like maze which the farmers spread on the road to be crushed by passing vehicles, a primitive method for shucking wheat.

We stopped at a Punjabi Dhaba. Dhabas are roadside restaurants that serve wonderful freshly made healthy food. Although these places look like  Dehli Belly waiting to happen,  they actually are great.

We finally arrived in Hyderabad. This is an extremely wealthy city, but it is choked with people beyond belief. 8.5 million Indians live here and the city is predominately Muslim. It is like Bangalore (now called Bangaluru) and is now one of India’s IT centers. When you reach an Indian Call Center, it is often in Hyderabad. The streets are jammed, I don’t know how people get from one side of town to another in timely way, or find there way around. We were constantly getting lost, and asking for directions. This is a town that calls out for GPS. There are touts that come up to your vehicle on motorcycles and offer you to a store or a restaurant.

One particularly nice one guided us towards our hotel. We passed a most amazing building shaped like a fish, complete with tail, eyes and an open mouth that serves as an outdoor porch.

In Hyderabad, the King was called: Nizam. The Nizam of Hyderabad was the richest man in the world.  We are staying in the palace that a served as his guesthouse.  After Independence in 1947, the Nizams lost their political power, but not their prestige or money. After he no longer had need of the palace, the Taj Group renovated it at enormous cost. The Palace is resembles a European Palace, like something out of a Mozart Opera. It sits on the top of hill, overlooking Hyderabad from all directions. We approached the palace in our van passing through two security checkpoints. We finally alighted from our van and we were lead to a livered horse and carriage that drove us the final quarter or mile to the palace. 

The manager greeted us along with his staff after which The Nizam’s standard bearer then lead us up stairs towards the entrance.  On the stairs we were showered with rose petals. The palace is filled with paintings, art works, books etc. After showering and changing clothes and went to  have a drink on a large deck overlooking Hyderabad.  It was now dark and the city glistened. Although the same view was similar to that from our house in Los Angeles, the sound was quite different. On the deck, were Qawwali Singers sitting on the ground, singing praise to Allah. Qawwali is almost like jazz, with improvised songs composed of question and response.  Of course we understood none of it, but no matter, it is beautiful. After they finished we  heard the Evening Call to prayer blasting from load speakers from the hundreds of Mosques across the city. The Call lasts about 4 minutes because no two mosques are calling at exactly the same time.  It is wonderful. A few minutes later we heard something we have never heard before. The Muslim festival of Eid is next week and from all over the city we heard songs of prayer and praise. It lasted for about 20 or 30 minutes, and we loved it. No coordination of song, just music wafting up to our palace.

We then went for a very formal Indian Dinner. In actuality we like informal dinning no matter where we are, so this was a little stuffy for our style but when in a palace I guess you dine like a Nizam. This was an amazing day, starting in the dump of Bijapur, and winding up a Palace in Hyderabad. 

Click below to see our shower.


Anu said...

The shower and the carriage both seem so royal. Lovely pictures, thanks for sharing.

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