Hyderabad – The city of Nizams

Hyderabad –
The city of Nizams

The commercial world coins Hyderabad as ‘Cyberabad’, typified by thronging, hi-tech districts of IT business. The city takes its seat in Modern India.

However, the Old City’s ancient quarters lend themselves to the nickname the ‘City of Nizams’, as Hyderabad’s story harks back to a stronghold of Islamic India at its most impressive.

A heartland of Islamic India

izams were nobleman of Indian and Turkic descent by birth right, whose legacy is a glittering seven generation lineage of Islamic monarchy from 1724 until 1948.

The Nizams of Hyderabad took pride of place, enthroned atop of Central Southern India’s Deccan Plateau, as the city became one of the most significant Muslim states outside of the Middle East.

In time, Nizam rule established Hyderabad as the most princely of all India’s states. Indeed a 1937 cover of TIME Magazine celebrated His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad VII as the richest man in the world.

The Gateway to South India
Architecture of prayer and power

he Nizams’ patronage is punctuated by Persian aspects, namely rich cuisine, jewelry-draped fashion and Indo-Islamic architecture. All of which serves to define Hyderabadi identity today.

Stop for chai at The Charminar

he Charminar is the city’s defining landmark, mirroring the Iranian town squares of Isfahan. Yawning archways and four minaret towers house Hyderabad’s oldest mosque.

Charminar’s teeming bazaars sell bangles, pearls and wedding outfits. Diced pomegranate, papaya fruit and Kashmiri apples are selected standing next to pleasant, rose-fragrant clouds of perfume stalls.

Abood Aslam owns the Nimrah Café and serves an especially creamy brew of chai tea and fresh oven baked cookies near the Charminar’s shadow.

“Our secret is the hospitality we give to all types here. And our secret cookie recipe? That is a gift of God!”

Summit Golconda’s Fortified Citadel

he first stop for many is Golconda’s imposing fort, with roots dating back to the 13th century when it took form as a mud fort. It was later fortified during the centuries that followed from the Deccan Plateau’s own granite rock.

Scaling this monumental fort takes you on a journey through four drawbridges, drama halls, soldier’s barracks and underground stables. Here encounter countless, beautiful Isfahan arches and interlocking stonework domes.

The pinnacle of Deccani Architecture

rior to the Nizams reign, the Qutb Shahi dynasty left a necropolis of ancient mosques, pavilions and mausoleums that rival the greatest Moghul structures of Northern India in scale.

Less be-known to visitors is the Badshahi Ashurkhana, a Qutb Shahi royal house of mourning. This Shiite prayer hall is maintained by twelfth generation Persian descendants and home to a splendid mosaic of Middle Eastern tiles.

Regal opulence at Taj Falaknuma Palace

Arrive by horse-drawn carriage from the outer gate, head under Corinthian columns and up towards a foyer featuring ornate marble work of celestial cherubs.


uilt in 1884, the heaven themed, neo-classical Taj Falaknuma Palace was the former residence of Nizam VI. Today it is refurbished to become one of India’s most fantastic hotels.

“Grandeur and opulence combine,” announces Prabhakar Mahinrakar, the Palace Historian for the past 25 years.

“In this walnut wooden dining hall 101 guests would dine beneath a ceiling of baroque frescos, crystal cut glass fans and Osler chandeliers.”

Even non-residence of the hotel must visit for Afternoon Tea, overlooking the immaculate palace gardens and city surrounds from the Deccan Plateau’s highest vantage point.

From pearl coast to spice coast

Since the ancient times, Islamic traders travelled from the pearl-strewn coastlines of Iran to enter South India via the ‘spice coast’ of Kerala and on to Hyderabad to exchange spices and gems.

An agriculture of jewelry

r. Radheshyam Sharma, Treasurer of the Hyderabad Pearl Merchants Association, reflects that it was the Nizams who created the fashion for pearls in the city.

“Legend has it that Nizam VII once filled up his swimming pool with pearls and walked the palace in pearl strung shoelaces.”

Nizams would scatter buyers to Basra and others to as far afield as Zambia and Colombia in search of the finest emeralds and pearls.

Today cream or peach-tinted pearls come to Hyderabad from the North-East coast of India off Orissa, whilst other black pearls may travel in from the Tahitian South Pacific. Japan offers its own brand of freshwater white Mikimoto pearl too.

Hyderabad itself is earmarked for its craftsmanship of pearls, specifically segregating, polishing and hand drilling, with patience and technique passed down through generations of jeweler families.

Hyderabad’s signature dish

The exchange of treasures inevitably bought with it a fusion of tastes. Hyderabadis will tell you that the Biriyani rice dish is a signature of the city, despite its Iranian origins.


itin Mathur, the Executive Chef at Taj Krishna Hotel explains, “Unlike other areas, we use the ‘Dum’ technique to slow marinate the meat from raw. We add saffron, cinnamon and our local spice for that unique smokiness.”

Other classic Hyderabadi curries to enjoy are the Nizam Handi and Vegetable Maharani, recognized for their thicker, richer gravy which definitely carry traces of Central Asia and the Middle East.

Hyderabad maintains a communal approach and welcomes open-minded guests from around the world.

This page was paid for by Incredible India. The editorial staff of CNBC had no role in the creation of this page.