Hyderabad Highs

The metropolis combines a unique cultural past with techno-savvy enterprises

By: Thomas E. King

This The Charminar
The Charminar has been the
landmark of Hyderabad since 1592.
With political movers and shakers based in New Delhi, the capital of India, and the financial heart of India headquartered in Mumbai, Hyderabad can be overshadowed. Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, however, have been among the high-profile visitors who haven’t overlooked the buzz surging through the republic’s sixth largest city.

While visits from the world’s third richest man and a former president are uncommon in the capital of Andhra Pradesh state, business gurus and tourists from around the world arrive every day to clinch deals and admire a little-heralded city.

Hyderabad is joined at the hip with Secunderabad to create a twin city with a population exceeding that of Minnesota. The comparison virtually ends there because while snow falls across the North Star State, it’s shirt-sleeves comfortable in Hyderabad.

In summer, it feels almost hot enough to melt the mighty stones in the Golconda Fort. Considered among the largest fortress ruins in the world, the 16th-century hilltop stronghold was home to a dynasty of powerful and affluent rulers.

Visitors arriving by day are awed by the massive defence walls that rise well over 40 feet and extend more than four miles around a once well-planned township that thrived on trade in gems and diamonds. By night, during an outstanding sound and light show, visitors hear tales about the dynasty of affluent sultans who built, and then lived in, the fort from 1518 to 1687 and the succeeding dynasty of even richer Nizams who lived in ornate palaces and held sway over Hyderabad from 1724 until 1948.

The architectural jewel of Golconda will be a showpiece venue during functions planned for delegates attending the upcoming PATA Travel Mart 2008. This prime business-to-business event, set for Sept. 16-19, is likely to attract the most international travel industry personnel that have ever congregated in Hyderabad at the same time.

Though the Golconda Fort is more historic, the deals will be done in the air-conditioned comfort of India’s first purpose-built convention center, the state-of-the-art Hyderabad International Convention Center (HICC).

The HICC, together with the adjoining 287-room Novotel Hyderabad, is managed by Accor. (This is the French chain’s first property in India.)

The Golconda Fort
The Golconda Fort is one of the most
impressive fortress ruins in the world.
Built on 15 landscaped acres, the centerpiece of the HICC is a 70,434-square-foot, pillar-free hall that can hold an 8,000-delegate plenary. Mobile soundproof and silk-covered teak walls partition the space into six halls. Other inclusions range from rear projection screens and ergonomic chairs to 22 imported cappuccino machines.

The adjacent clear-roof exhibition center boasts nearly 110,000 square feet of display space. While it’s considered to be one of the largest exhibition areas in India, the center is dwarfed in size by the terminal at the new Hyderabad International Airport. Set to welcome its first passengers on March 18, the terminal is 10 times the size of the exhibition center.

With the capacity to serve 12 million passengers a year, the A380-capable airport has been designed to support Hyderabad in its bid to become an international air hub. Nearly a dozen international carriers are already flying into Hyderabad. Thai Airways International, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines serve Los Angeles and provide connections to a city enamored with information technology development.

As passenger numbers increase, the need for additional accommodation accelerates. By 2009/10 it’s expected that 11 new three- to five-star hotels will add 3,000 rooms.

The city already has some stand-out properties including the 259-room Taj Krishna. Set over nine suburban acres, the Taj Krishna is the flagship of a trio of Taj properties in the capital. A fourth Taj hotel is currently undergoing a metamorphosis from a dilapidated neoclassical palace to what is already being described as “the world’s most beautiful hotel.” Even when the Taj Faluknuma Palace opens in 2009, the Taj Krishna won’t be left in the shadows. This elegant hotel leaves a lasting impression from its grand lobby decorated with white marble columns inlaid with mother of pearl to its Taj Club where gin and tonics are savored at sunset.

Far more memorable is a visit to the Charminar at twilight. Built by the fifth sultan of Golconda, this towering city landmark is illuminated to become the centerpiece of an old city straight out of an Arabian fantasy.



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