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Monday, 16 December 2013

I love Hyderabad Series: Char Minar Ki Qasam - Char Minar, Mecca Masjid and Laad Bazaar

Faces and places
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” 
 Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Char Minar, Mecca Masjid and Laad Bazaar - Being a tourist in my own city.

I don't know how many times i have gone to these places, but i don't tire of the sights and sounds of these places. The crowd, the colors, the noises, the language, the vendors, the food - it's like being transported to another city of another era. And i always find something new every time i go and remember something old from a previous visit.

Char Minar - A guided tour


A lot of people do not go inside the Char Minar, stare up at it from outside and say 'what's the big deal?'. That's a mistake. Buy a ticket and go inside. Sit for a while on the benches set along the perimeter. Look and listen. 

Then look for a guide or let one find you and don't spend time bargaining. The Rs 125 that he will charge you is worth it. (Watch the video... and you may agree with me.) 


Tall tales: Let the guide take the lead, enjoy his stories and then brace yourself to climb the 54 really horrendous steps to the first floor of the Char Minar. He will tell you more stories, show you the other landmarks of Hyderabad which will look like tiny specks, but it is fun nevertheless! The guide will also take your pictures, even if you don't ask him to! 

Say bye-bye to the guide once he has finished showing you around. Stay for a bit and just enjoy the view from atop the Char Minar. Then brace yourself again for the even more horrendous walk down the 54 steps of the circular stairway. 

Material Girl Recommends: Look for a photographer when you are back on solid ground again and have regained your breath. You can get a picture taken with the Char Minar in the background. If you have your own camera, he will do the honors for Rs. 5 a shot. 

Pause, now's a good time to take a break 


There are many places you can find around the Char Minar for a quick bite. There is a Cafe Coffee Day outlet if you don't have a strong stomach. If you are one of the bravehearts (or should i say ironstomach?) you can try any of the local cafes where you can sip on a cup of hot Irani tea and try Osmania biscuits. Try a slice of Dilkhush - a bread with a sweet stuffing, usually cake leftovers and nuts. 

We went to Nimra Bakery to rest our feet. The tea was good and not too milky, which is usually the case with Irani tea. We also packed a box of Chand Biscuits to take home. 

Material Girl Recommends: The best place to park your car is inside the Lad Bazaar lane. Go inside the lane till the first crossroad, turn left and drive slow till the second left turn. You will find a marketplace with lots of parking space. Walk back to the Char Minar directly and do not get distracted by the shops in Lad Bazaar. You can come back after! 


Mecca Masjid


You have to walk through a sea of humanity, barrows and street vendors selling everything from underwear (made as Indonesia) to bangles to clothes to jewelry to hairclips to utensils to guavas to reach the Mecca Masjid.

The guide at Char Minar had told us that the Mecca Masjid fell down 3 times till soil brought from Mecca was used in its construction. The masjid is an imposing stone structure that houses a mosque as well as the remains of the Nizams. 

We were, however, distracted by the 200-odd pigeons and the 5 goats who had made the Mecca Masjid their home. You can buy jowar grains from the Ittar Sellers sitting just outside the mosque to feed the pigeons. Or you can just stand there and take a lot of pictures. 

We visited the tombs first and were blessed by an old man with poor eyesight who asked me if i was studying in college. (Yeah, that feels good always and i had to preen a bit here. Sorry.) 

We walked to the mosque and admired the beautiful red and blue flooring, the tall ceiling and the cloth bags suspended from the ceilings that probably held gorgeous chandeliers. There is also a dirty pool in front of the mosque in the centre of which you will find a very beautiful fountain

A few pictures later we left the mosque and waded through the sea of humanity to go to the Laad Bazaar. 

(If you'd like to read more about the Mecca Masjid, then head to Madhu Gopalan's Aadab Hyderabad. You can also watch this NDTV video on YouTube.)

Material Girl Recommends: Always carry a lightweight stole or a shawl in your bag. Useful to cover your head with, if it gets too sunny. Also useful when you visit religious places. I carried one because i knew it would get cold in the evening. Also, wear footwear that is comfortable but also easy to take off and wear again. 

PS: You can get a good picture of the Char Minar from the Mecca Masjid from the raised platform just near the entry gate.

Last stop: The shining, dazzling, sparkling, bling of Laad Bazaar or Choodi Bazaar


Laad means lacquer; and laad bazaar has plenty of shops selling lacquer bangles to justify its name. But you can also find so many other things besides laad bangles to shop for. Bangles, bangle boxes, laces, zari borders, rhintestone studded hair barrettes, local perfumes (or ittar), costume jewelry, mehendi, sequins and beads, blingy fans, colorful lungis, fabric, and clothes - you can buy it all here. You will have to like bling, at least a little though, to be able to shop here.

If you are an out-of-towner, and are looking for a keepsake, then you can also find replicas of the Char Minar being sold here. Keep your eyes open and you will find lanes to your left and right where there are more shops selling many more things. 


Mera Wala Blue: People bring their new clothes to Laad Bazaar so they can get matching bangles. The shopkeepers will find the exact shade of your dress or sari and make a set of bangles to wear. 

Say, if you have a blue dress with pink and white flowers, he will make a bangle set with a lot of blue and a little bit of pink and white and he will place the colors in a beautiful way so that you will never want to separate the bangles and will simply buy new ones even if you need the same shade of blue to match another outfit. 

Material Girl Recommends: Evening is a good time to visit Laad Bazaar... the shops are over-lit with too many bulbs, and glow brighter than a bride on her wedding day. It makes for a very pretty sight but it is also more crowded in the the evening and can be a little overwhelming. 
Every shopkeeper will ask you to enter his store. It can get a little annoying but don't let that bother you - this is how the place functions. Also, you can bargain. The guide told me to start with 40% and go up to 60% but since i did not have to buy much, i just didn't bother. 


The photo walk date with my niece Akansha turned out to be interesting and a lot of fun - she is an excellent travel companion. She has a new found interest in photography and me, in iPhone photography and we hopefully will go someplace again.

{All photos shot by me with my iPhone4. Find me on Instagram: instagram.com/ambicasrimal}
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