From taking slow sips of afternoon tea while watching the day go by, to all night binge-eating at shady yet famous street eating joints, to warm hugs and dazzling smiles, the charm of Hyderabad Old City is hard to find elsewhere. While most know Hyderabad as a hi-tech city with advancements in the field of medical sciences and IT, its heart lies in the narrow lanes of old city.
The 400 year old Charminar is the quintessential icon of the heritage city’s rich legacy, standing in front of which instantly revives flashes of a bygone era.
The orchestra of sounds created from the loud music playing autos parked crookedly, jingling of bangles and metal accessories, periodic yelp of shopkeepers and hawkers, combined with the jostling of the crowd trying to make their way to no-one-knows-where, the un-ignorable aroma of Irani chai and kebabs from every corner; will all make you gasp in amazement. Welcome to Charminar, a place like no other, that will not rest until it awakens the shopaholic and foodie that you thought you never were.
It is unbroken tradition to bargain at the Charminar bazaars, in spite of the vendors sternly sticking to their quote and displaying “fixed price” boards. You will be doing a disservice to the legacy of traders and dealers, who have stood at this very place for centuries bartering and negotiating their wares, if you meekly accept the first price a shopkeeper offers you. So roll up your sleeves and hone your haggling tactics as we share a list of top picks from the assortment of vintage bazaars of Hyderabad.
Although everyone can find something for themselves in the Charminar bazaar, it is predominantly a woman’s turf. The skimpy alleys are heaped with bright clothes and accessories which a modern day brand-conscious girl will treasure as a fantasy world. As you step into the Laad Bazaar or Choodi Bazaar you will stumble on to push karts, large and small stores with staggering varieties of bangles. Glass, metal, thread, beads etc., the display is beyond imagination. You can find something for every occasion. From simple monochromatic glass bangles, to heavily embellished ones apt for marriages, they range from as low as Rs. 30 to Rs. 1000. According to your preferences you might a want to fill up your cart.
The widely famous pearls of Hyderabad are known for their unique charm. This is probably the only bazaar in India where you find exotic pearls being sold from pavement stalls. Credit goes to the Nizams for putting Hyderabad on the global pearl trading map. The Nizams who ruled Hyderabad for over two centuries had a sharp eye for fine craftsmanship and also great fondness for pearl jewellery. They often gifted their begums, flamboyant and exquisite pearl jewellery while also collecting rare and exotic pearls as a hobby. Gradually, the word of their affinity towards pearl spread far and wide. Many merchants and traders from the Middle-East thronged Hyderabad in search of a market for their pearl creations. In due course of time, business flourished and Hyderabad grew to become a hub of pearls or what we term today as the “Pearl City”. In fact, the signature jewellery designs uniquely crafted by the jewellers in Hyderabad, became favoured by many brides for their exclusive look, giving rise to an entire jewellery-line called Nizam Bridal Jewellery.
If you have a keen eye for spotting authentic pearls you can handpick some of the rarest varieties ranging from Basra pearls to Cultured pearls. The classic white pearls are the most sought after, pink and black pearls are considered higher quality and regarded rarer and more valuable.
Right in front of the Charminar is Ghansi Bazaar which has the widest array of products. Stalls selling footwear and a bewildering variety of bags are everywhere around the narrow alleys of Ghansi bazaar. Handpick some quaint and delicate items while you stroll around the bazaar with a keen shoppers gaze. Pick some bright hued footwear for your ethnic outfits, mainly jutis or mojris with floral embroidery, mirror and thread works which have a typical old India flavor. The chances of getting these are slim in other bazaars.
Also try and collect an assortment of bags ranging from the regular clutch bags to the gorgeous and delicate metal sling bags with floral carvings. While these might not stay with you forever, but they will definitely add a unique fashion quotient to your look and style.
Hyderabadi Ittar/Attar is most definitely the best pick from Ghansi bazaar. The raw and natural smell of these perfumes will appeal to the senses of the most brand-conscious perfume buyer. Try various fragrances from the many bottles with colourful liquid kept on display and find your pick. While some vendors claim that they import their products from France, most of them are from the Middle-East.
On a Sunday you can have some exclusive experiences around here. Spot some of the stalls that sell vintage coins. You can find a large collection of coins from different eras, unseen to most of us. While you are on a shopping spree you will be approached by a mobile currency exchange booth. Amusing as it may sound, you will find impeccably dressed men approaching random buyers regarding currency exchange. Most of them possess almost all the well-known currencies from around the world and are ready to exchange them.
Fabrics at Begum Bazaar are a complete steal! Intricate handcrafted zardosi sarees and dupattas are available at throwaway prices. Kharra dupattas with local handwork and floral motifs, a Charminar bazaar exclusive, could be found in abundance at the Sunday bazaar. Brocaded fabrics with jadau zari work in bright hues are also a delightful pick.
However jammed, a girl’s shopping cart can never be full without accessories and Charminar bazaar is an undisputed destination for accessory shopping. Right from oxidized earrings and nose pins to Bollywood inspired necklaces and maangtikas done with artificial stones, pearls etc., it is a riot of colours and designs.
Street Food At Charminar Bazaar
When at Charminar Bazaar you will find yourself eating and shopping with the same enthusiasm. The first thing to have in the bazaar is undoubtedly Irani chai and Osmania biscuit which are two of the signature food items of Hyderabad that tastes like its rich past. You will find the best renditions at one of the corner joints adjacent to Charminar. As you roam around the market you will see different push karts with different food items laden on them. Pack some of the colourful khatti meethi goliyaan which is a delectable appetizer and also doubles as a souvenir. Stop around one of the chat thelas to have a flavor of old city’s typical samosa chat. Right at the entrance of the market are the Hyderabad special sewaiyaan outlets. A taste of the nutty, melt-in-the mouth dessert and you will experience a gush of nostalgia even if you are a first-timer. The Charminar sewaiyaan taste like your childhood, it tastes like serendipity.
You can’t give a miss to the authentic Hyderabadi mutton biryani and haleem right at the Ghansi Bazaar. Corner yourself from the maddening crowd for few moments and absorb the aura of old-world India from a distance as you gouge into one of the best dishes India has to offer to the world. Enhance your biryani experience with some fresh out of the barbeque, smokey kebabs. Round up your meal with the exclusively Hyderabadi Khubani ka meetha or Double ka meetha.
As dusk falls, you can choose to roam around the market some more or head to the other monuments around the area. But what you take away from Charminar bazaar is a day full of joy. A day you time traveled to an era whose importance and charm can only be appreciated when it’s lost. Bidding adieu to the market, you wish it a lifetime of authenticity and glory.
Timing and Location:
The market settles down by 11am and the hustle bustle stays alive 11pm. The market is spread across an area of 1 kilometer. From Charminar through Patthergatti road till Mecca Masjid and Begum Bazaar. The nearest landmarks are Chowmahalla Palace and Salarjung Museum.