From Begum Bazaar to Banjara Hills, Hyderabad has a unique romance brewing in its melting pot. We sample the potent concoction with this month’s cover star, Vaani Kapoor, in the stunning Park Hyatt Hyderabad, with heritage runs to the scented streets around the Charminar. By Rashima Nagpal

Producer Aindrila Mitra
Assisted By Rashima Nagpal
Photographer Tarun Khiwal
Assisted By Nithin Joseph & Abhishek Verma
Stylist Tanya Ghavri
Assisted By Nidhi Jeswaniy
Hair Gabriel Georgiou
Makeup Tenzin Kyizom
Location Park Hyatt Hyderabad

Vaani Kapoor
Vaani Kapoor basks in the morning light at the Presidential Suite of Park Hyatt Hyderabad.

“What do you play, o musicians?
Sitar, sarangi, and drum.
What do you chant, o magicians?
Spells for a eons to come.
What do you weave, o ye flower-girls?
With tassels of azure and red?
Crowns for the brow of a bridegroom,
Chaplets to garland his bed…”

The inimitable Sarojini Naidu wrote this verse on the bazaars of Hyderabad in the early 20th century. More than 100 years later, I’m walking through the same bazaars to pick up some souvenirs, and I find myself relating with Naidu’s sentiment. I see goldsmiths, fruit sellers, and merchants, like she did. I find the scent of ittar lingering in some lanes, and of spices in others; dosa batter is slathered onto hot griddles and plates of biryani are relished. My ears pick up the tolling of bells from tiny temples, and later, the evening azan from a masjid. There’s an entire ecosystem of activity in a two-kilometre radius around the Charminar, functioning like clockwork, at an unhurried pace, in understated harmony.

Vaani Kapoor
The poolside cabanas at Park Hyatt Hyderabad are ideal for a romantic private dinner.

Back at Park Hyatt Hyderabad, our playground for this month’s cover shoot, things are no less fascinating. Featuring towering black pillars and an abstract 27-foot-tall white sculpture by John Portman in its grand lobby, the hotel makes a striking first impression. The 130-foot-long water feature on the floor of the atrium is mesmerising. Owing to its prime location in the city’s posh Banjara Hills area, the hotel is popular among locals. Its fine-dining venues—Tre-Forni and Rika—are a hit. While the expansive Tre-Forni offers home-style Italian recipes in its menu, the visually appealing Rika is one of the most famous Asian restaurants in the city. A particular spot at Rika—a mural by Bengaluru-based concept artist Sachin Samson—is enchanting enough for celebrity photographer Tarun Khiwal to frame cover girl Vaani Kapoor against it.

Another alluring aspect of this luxurious property is the way it does weddings. Park Hyatt Hyderabad offers one of the biggest event spaces in the city: nearly 1,600 square metres. The Ballroom, with its three divisible sections, a pre-function area, and an adjoining terrace, is perfect for a grand affair; The Manor, with its six individually styled event rooms, is ideal for hosting intimate gatherings. Add to that, exhaustive in-house amenities and a dedicated wedding planner, who completely personalises your big day. If the idea of customised candle-lit dinners by the pool doesn’t sound novel to you, you might fancy the state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment that the hotel provides for special occasions.

Vaani Kapoor
Kapoor enjoys a glorious moment in a glitzy corner on the mezzanine floor of the hotel.

For cold feet or frazzled nerves, which come in the package of any big fat Indian wedding, the aesthetic spa at the property comes to the rescue. Replete with private vanity areas, walk-in rain showers, soaking tubs, and a relaxation lounge, The Spa at Park Hyatt Hyderabad is a haven of tranquillity. To stay in shape amid ceremonious indulgences,the 24-hour fitness centre is your go-to place. Alternatively, a few laps in the temperature-controlled outdoor pool could work as a reboot. Needless to say, the hotel’s accommodation options, including 185 rooms and suites and 41 ready-to-move-in apartments, offer plenty of choice as far as your personal sanctuary is concerned.

Between errands, a generous serving of biryani washed down with a dollop of coffee ice-cream at The Dining Room, the all-day restaurant in the lobby lounge, becomes my personal source of comfort.

Vaani Kapoor
Kapoor dresses up as the quintessential modern Indian bride in the dressing room of the Presidential Suite.

On another day, I get one more chance to wander off into the Old City of Hyderabad. This time, early in the morning, to join a heritage walk conducted by a young Yunus Lasania. The scene, however, is extremely different this time. The landscape around the Charminar is almost unrecognisable. I pause for a moment, just to compare the two pictures in my head. Unlike the buzzing evenings of Charminar, mornings are beautifully quiet and calm; Hyderabadis are not known to be early risers. Until 9.30 am, you will find just a vegetable vendor or two, and a handful of flower sellers along the road. Slowly, breakfast options begin to spring up: hole-in-the-wall Irani restaurants, pakoda shops, and a variety of idli, vada, and dosa stalls, among others. Around the same time, a few visitors can be seen waiting for the gates of the central monument to open, to avoid queues that get longer with the day and to enjoy the sight of the Old City from the top of the minarets without being jostled by other tourists. By nightfall, the neighbourhood dons a carnival-like avatar, yet again.

In the bazaars of Hyderabad, my hunt for the perfect souvenir finally ends in a bottle of ittar, a rose fragrance redolent of the romance that the city fosters.

Vaani Kapoor
Apart from the central sculpture in its lobby lounge, the hotel is dotted with objets d’art on each of its eight floors.

Visit Hyderabad

Getting There
Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is connected to a majority of Indian cities. Park Hyatt Hyderabad is 33 kilometres away from the airport, and can be reached within 45 minutes by cab.

Stay
Park Hyatt Hyderabad is one of the most premium five-star hotels in the city. Located in the upscale Banjara Hills neighbourhood, it is frequented by tourists from all over India and abroad, as well as local patrons. Choose your haven from its range of 185 rooms and suites, and 41 apartments. From INR 9,000 (conditions apply)

Related: Revisiting Hyderabad: From The Land Of Nizams To The Startup Hub Of Today