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Friday, 6 April 2012

Aliabad Sarai cries for attention

by Asif Yar Khan

It is one of the listed heritage structures of the city and offers an insight into the history of Hyderabad. Tens of hundreds of people pass by it but none seem to be aware of its existence, much less its history.

Ask anyone where Aliabad Sarai (guesthouse in Urdu) is located and one only draws blank replies, though it has been in existence since the past four-five centuries on the Falaknuma-Charminar main road.

The stretch of ‘mulgis' or shops below Masjid-e-Almas at Aliabad is part of the Aliabad Sarai. A unique structure in the midst of concrete buildings, it stands apart for its different style of architecture.

Resting place
The old city, once upon a time, used to be surrounded by a giant wall, which had 13 huge gates that used to be opened after dawn and shut down after dusk. Alongside these ‘darwazas' were the sarais.

They served as a check point and resting place for travellers. The public seems to be aware only about the Nampally Sarai or Tipu Khan Sarai. Thanks to signboards and alterations, it is difficult to recognise the Aliabad Sarai from outside. One has to peep inside to notice a granite roof with an arch-shaped design.

It was built during the Qutub Shahi period and is listed as a Grade 1 structure in the list of heritage monuments of the city prepared by HMDA. The 80-odd rooms in the Sarai are now home to a variety of shops. Ironically, the giant gate was dismantled a few years ago.

“The authorities were planning to demolish the structure as part of the road widening works,” informs Syed Nawab, a store owner. Eventually, the plan was dropped after protests from conservationists. Instead, it is proposed to take over the properties situated behind it and lay roads. However, no efforts have been made by the authorities to protect this historic premises being altered at will by shopkeepers.

The granite interiors have been plastered and modifications carried out to fix ventilators. The structure is caving in at several places and granite fortifications are showing signs of strain.

The Archaeological Department should step in and restore the structure after holding talks with the shop-keepers, says M. Veda Kumar, member of INTACH.

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