United States-based travel writer Sarah Khan shines a light on Hyderabadi heritage for world readers
Award-Winning travel writer, Hyderabadi-American Sarah Khan, might have lived in five countries on three continents — Canada, Saudi Arabia, India, the US, and South Africa — but it is Hyderabad she considers home. It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to say that it is in The City of Nizams where she finds a sense of belonging. “My grandmother’s house was one place I’ve returned to consistently. It’s where I feel most at home in the world,” says the scribe who has contributed to top publications all over the world. Hence, she is in a way a beacon of Hyderabadi culture. “Some of the things I have written are guides on what to see and do if you’re in the city for a short spell. So there is a roundup of the best biryani spots in the city! But my favourite was an award-winning piece for an American publication called Returning to Hyderabad — Once a Land of Princes and Palaces, a personal narrative in which I explored the city, looking for remnants of its beautiful and rapidly disappearing architecture and history,” says the alumnus of the renowned Nasr School, that also boasts of Dia Mirza and Sania Mirza among its alumni.
The travel enthusiast misses the Hyderabad of her childhood, but she still makes it a point to spend quality time exploring the city whenever she is here. “As Hyderabad becomes obsessed with modernising, it’s heartbreaking to see how much of our heritage is being lost. So, I’ve made it a priority to seek out places that range from the obvious — like Charminar and Chowmahalla Palace — to the lesser known, like Goshamahal Baradari or Chowk ki Masjid.” says Sarah. Some of the places that she absolutely loves going back to, every time she is in Hyderabad is the Falaknuma Palace. “I remember visiting the place long before it was transformed into a Taj hotel, so visiting it now really gives me goosebumps,” says Sarah, who always digs deep into the architecture of the palaces of the city and writes about them. She shares that Chowmahalla Palace is something Hyderabadis can be proud of. “Seeing a qawwali performed there earlier this year was magical — and having ice cream at Mozamjahi Market or climbing up the Charminar is always memorable,” says Sarah. However, some of the places that Sarah loves writing about are less obvious: Goshamahal Baradari, Chowk Ki Masjid, Asafia Library, Hyderabad Public School, and beautifully maintained private homes like Aziz Bagh or Vinita Pittie’s haveli near Begum Bazaar.
She has also visited the British Residency a few times to see its progress as it’s undergoing restoration, and she cannot wait to see the end result. Hyderabad, Sarah says, has now become a subject of global interest. And why not? Especially when the city hosted US President Donald Trump’s Adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump late last year.“People are suddenly aware of Hyderabad, thanks to its newfound acclaim as a tech hub. I was in Arkansas for work a few months ago, and even there I found someone who has been to Hyderabad before for business—I never would have expected that 10 years ago.”
— Paulami Sen