Split by a pair of lakes, the capital of Madhya Pradesh offers two starkly contrasting cityscapes. North of the lakes is Bhopal's Muslim-dominated old city, a labyrinthine area of mosques and crowded bazaars. About a quarter of Bhopal’s population is Muslim, and the women in black niqabs (veils) are reminders of the four female Islamic rulers, known as the Begums of Bhopal, who developed the city in the 19th and early 20th centuries. North of the old city is a reminder of a more recent, tragic history – the Union Carbide chemical plant, site of the world’s worst industrial disaster.
South of the lakes, Bhopal is more modern, with wide roads, some excellent museums, and upmarket hotels and restaurants nestled comfortably in the Arera and Shyamla Hills. The central district here is known as New Market.
The largest of the two lakes is huge and lends the city an attractive focus.