Journey into the heart of briyani country
Briyani! Wow! That glorious briyani, the favourite of many Singaporeans. To try the best briyani in the world, eight friends, nicked-named the Kashmir Gang, decided, after much deliberation during our last Hari Raya gathering, to take a trip to the heart of briyani country – Hyderabad, in India.
But just two months before the trip, one of the couples, Aminah and Masod, had the opportunity to go for Umrah in the same period, so we roped in our mutual friends, Latifah and her husband, Maznan, and so decided to call ourselves the “Hyderabad Gang”. (There are two Latifahs in the Hyderabad Gang, Latifah Ibrahim, the younger and energetic Wefie Queen, and Latifah Majid who initiated the trip.)
During the 6-day trip, from 22 November this year (2018), we had lots of fun sightseeing in the areas outside Hyderabad city, where wonderful sights are aplenty, historical and current.
The following pictures show the places we enjoyed and the sights that gave us immense knowledge.
First of all, let me introduce the Hyderabad Gang.
Briyani, oh glorious briyani
Briyani, the wedding food of Singapore Muslims, is the favourite of many. Even Chinese Singaporeans like it.
In Hyderabad, everyday for lunch, we had briyani from different restaurants with splendid masala tea or Iranian tea to end the meal; and for dinner, there was briyani as well as naan/chapati from our hotel where the breakfast was marvellous – idli, thosay and as well as western food and fruits and fruit juices, and brewed coffee done and served by the restaurant staff.
Among the places we visited was Golkonda Park which is one of the most magnificent fortress complexes in India.
Easiest public transport
In Singapore, gone are the days of the “becha”, a peddling trishaw. We also do not have any motorised version of it for easy and cheap public transport for travelling into the villages simply because we no longer have villages – but the motorised three-wheeler exist in other parts of Asia. In the Philippines it’s called “trike”, in Indonesia it’s called “bechak” and in Thailand, it’s called “tuk-tuk”. In Hyderabad, and in other parts of India, it’s called “auto-trishaw” or simply “auto”.
We very much wanted to try the Hyderabad “auto” but we had no opportunity due to the pressing time of our itinerary, even for a fun half-kilometre ride. However, my wife and I did try the three-wheeler in Vietnam: it was not a fun ride; yes, it was a terrifying, sweaty ride with us holding on tightly to the vehicle as it zoomed away beating masses of motor-cycles along the way. It was a great relief when we safely alighted from it at our destination, with our bones cracking.
Most Muslim women in Hyderabad wear the burqah. There are many shops selling this outfit, one of which is the Deccan Burqah House.
The iconic Charminar
“Char” means four in Hindi and “minar” is minaret. The Charminar or “Four Minarets” building, constructed in 1591, is a splendid monument and, in its early days, a mosque. An easy landmark surrounded by shops and mobile bazaar, it has become a global icon of Hyderabad. A stone’s away from it is the equally iconic Makkah Mosque. At the time of our visit, the Charminar as well as the Makkah Mosque are under renovation.
Makkah (Mecca) Mosque
The Mecca Mosque (Masjid Makkah) is one of the oldest mosques in Hyderabad, and is one of the largest mosques in India.
Fruits on wheels
We missed Hyderabad’s “auto”- ride but we did try Hyderabad’s boat-ride.
We took a boat in the Hussain Sagar Lake to see the statue of the Buddha. This is the tallest monolithic monument of Gautama Buddha, located at the famous Lumbini Park in the Hussain Sagar Island.
Like many parts of India, Hyderabad is no exception to, sometimes, funny sights. It is nice to watch the roads, they are busy, they are exciting, especially the motorcycles. If you want to cross the heavily-loaded road, don’t dash across but walk normal with your hand raised to stop the the traffic and they would slow down to let you cross. If you are afraid to do that and wait for the road to get clear, you would probably have to stand at the roadside for three hours! And the roadsides accomadate other small busineses too.
Nehru Zoological Park
In this zoo, apart from the harmless animals like deer and giraffe, we used well-protected coaches to experience its safari where lions roamed around freely looking at us and wondering why we humans were caged.
There were also many groups of primary and high school students as well cute little post-primary school children who have come to see the real-life animals whose pictures they had seen only in books.
Ramoji Film City
Ramoji Film City is the largest film studio complex in the world. Opened in 1996, thousands of movies were shot here since then and viewed by millions all over the world. We spent the whole day in this film city, walking on our own or taking coaches on conducted tours.
My wife desired to watch a scene of a movie being shot, but a message says: “Locations where shooting is in progress will be out of bounds for the tourist.”
Of course, like others, we had fun playing with the snow and dodged snow-balls thrown by others in a snow fight.
Express train to Chennai
Our wives suddenly felt young at heart and wanted to take the express train to Chennai leaving us at the train station with the hope that we husbands would throw a tear-jerking parting scene, like those in Indian movies.
Home sweet home
We are back home safe and sound, and I’ve even displayed the group photo we took in Golkonda Fort complex.
How we wished our Kashmir Gang friends, Aminah and Masod, are also with us, but they are on a big mission – Umrah. We wish them all the best and hope that they get blessed with Umrah mabrur.
But, the taste and aroma of Hyderabad briyani still lingered on in Noor and Latifah Majid’s home. The couple had bought a couple of boxes of vacuumed-packed briyani from the Paradise restaurant a couple of kilometres away from the Hyderabad International Airport during our return trip. A day after we returned home, Noor WhatsApped us: “We are still enjoying the briyani we bought in Hyderabad. It is still hot when we reached home yesterday. Siapa tak beli rugi. (Those who didn’t buy are losers).”
5 December 2018
(Photo credits: Some of the photos were contributed by Ms Latifah Ibrahim and Mr Ahmad Fraij.)