1/1/09 note, 12/31 will be appearing below this if you haven't read it already.
Happy New Year! I got to celebrate it before you! Muahahaha. Today we visited a bunch of historic and cultural sites in Hyderabad. The first was Chowmohalla Palace which is where seven generations of Nizams (rulers) lived. It was incredibly decadent. Then we walked over to Charminar, the “charm of Hyderabad”. It’s a structure right in the heart of the old city, which consists of an archway and four minarets. It was beautiful, and I tried to take pictures, but it proved to be difficult. You really have to pay attention to your surroundings at all times! Seriously, in the time it takes to take a picture you could be smashed into the pavement, wearing the tracks of five different auto rickshaws. It’s crazy. The streets are full of hawkers, beggars, tourist, goats, cows… the list goes on.
Once in the old city we walked over to the Mecca Masjid which is a huge mosque. We went in (women had to cover their heads, and everyone had to remove shoes). When we entered into a section of the mosque housing a royal tomb, a man immediately started batting us on the head with a palm branch and handing us rose petals to place on the tomb. Then he asked for bakshish, an offering of money. However, we had been required to leave our bags outside, and none of us had money. It could have gotten bad, but Suresh, one of our guides basically told us to book it. So we did. Fun tour.
After lunch (a really good lunch, as per the usual) we went to the Qutb Shahi tombs which were amazingly beautiful. That’s where a lot of past Sultans are buried, or rather entombed (they are above ground). Now, the tombs are a yellowish brownish color, but we could see traces of where they had once been blue and green. And the domes were still as they were. Again, before entering the tombs, we had to take off our shoes. As we did this, Slumdog Millionaire definitely came to mind, but I didn’t think much of it. BUT when we came out Keiko, one of the students on the program realized that her shoes were gone! Movies don’t lie. Keiko had to walk in socks until we finally found a vendor that sold shoes. So now she has a lovely pair of purple flip flops with a plastic flower on them.
After the tombs we went to Golconda fort, which is famous for its architecture, water and drainage system, and acoustics. Here we saw a bunch of people flying kites. It didn’t seem like people were actually fighting the kites, but they were going incredibly high. I did see a lot of little boys chasing after kites that had gotten loose though, like in Kite Runner. I’m thinking maybe they were practicing for the kite festival, which I believe happens in spring.
While at the fort we saw a “sound and light show” in which different parts of the fort were illuminated while a narrator (Amitabh Bachchan, the actor who gives his autograph to the poop covered kid in Slumdog Millionaire) tells about the history of the fort. It was pretty corny, especially when it talked about the romance between one of the sultan’s sons and a dancer girl (“How did you find me?” “I followed the beating of my heart” “We cannot be together” “But we are one!”). Blahblahblah. But it was amusing. The mosquitoes were fierce though. I had to cover my head with a scarf. I feel like a burqa might have actually been quite useful then. Speaking of burqas, I noticed some “burqa boutique” type places in the city selling the latest in burqa fashions. I didn’t know that burqa fashion changed much but I guess it does. I wonder what the selection process is like for burqa models. Do burqa models face the kind of pressure that Western models do? Probably not. The model did have beautiful eyes though. But I guess you’ve either got those or you don’t.