It was on September 6, during Ramzan last year that the mother of all Irani cafes in the city, Madina Hotel, was gutted in fire. A year later, the festival of Ramzan is back, but the doors of this eatery, famous for its heavenly biryani and haleem, have remained shut, signaling the close of a significant chapter in the fast-changing pages of Hyderabad’s history.
It’s been six days since the month of Ramzan commenced, but still all that one gets to see from outside the hotel is a dark and dingy two-storey structure, an empty lobby with idle tables, which were once busy, with locals and tourists downing cups of Irani chai and munching on Osmania biscuits. A munshi, sits outside with a stick in his hand, keeping close watch on all the passersby.
Sources say that the hotel, which was about to be re-launched last year after large scale renovation, was gutted in the fire mishap that happened later on and never saw the light of the day. At the root of the matter is the dispute among the 10 partners of the restaurant over finances. “The hotel was to be reopened after the renovation work post Ramzan last year, in a big way, but the situation has taken an ugly turn with some of the partners filing a case in the city civil court. The main problem is that the Madina hotel management has 10 partners. The partners put together have 50-60 children and things were becoming difficult to handle,” said a highly placed source.
Unable to run the hotel, the partners who owned four flats in the Madina building, gave away a portion of the hotel on lease to other businessmen who are currently running a cloth store among others. However, sources say that the disputes are not recent and had started when the hotel’s founder Aga Hussain Zabeth sold his stake in the venture to an Arab named Babu Jabri, who became a major shareholder and took over the reins of the restaurant in 1994. “Jabri was into real estate and construction business and the new management could not carry on Zabeth’s legacy and the business toppled. Ultimately, the fire mishap led to its closure,” said another hotelier.
“Madina Hotel was synonymous with Hyderabad and Old City. There is a saying that ‘if a has not tasted biryani from Madina hotel, he has not visited Hyderabad’. Till the closure of the hotel, its haleem was very popular and it used to be finished by 7.30 pm. The taste of the Madina biryani has no parallels. A decade ago, Madina was Old City’s best run hotels but now, others have taken over,” said Mohammed Khaja Moinuddin, an Old City resident.
It was Aga Hussain Zabeth, an Iranian and founder of the hotel who brought haleem to the city of Nizam’s in 1956. The hotel was one of the oldest and best examples of old Hyderabadi dishes.
However, Faisal Jabri son of Babu Jabri maintains that it is not over for Madina yet. Faisal Jabri told STOI that the management had incurred a loss of around Rs 50-60 lakh due to the fire mishap and that it took a long time to claim the insurance amount. “By mid December, we will start the hotel with centralized air conditioning and a roof garden,” said Jabri, adding that a haleem counter would be set up soon. TOI