My Multicultural London: 5 Ways To Experience London’s Diversity
Written by Jaillan Yehia
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I just couldn’t concentrate on anything or anywhere but London this weekend, for obvious reasons.
So I decided to write my own little post of defiance, to give the tiniest of glimpses, from own my personal perspective, on why London’s AMAZING multicultural energy won’t change no matter how many times we are the focus of attack by those who want to spread hate instead of love.
The great thing about London is that it lets you be whoever the hell you want and do whatever the heck you like – no matter your background, colour, age, religion or anything else.
These are just 5 of the ways I like to experience the joyful multiculturalism of London…
London is inspiring, unique and amazing.
I know I don’t need to say any more, or bang on about it, because if you’re reading this I’m sure you agree.
But after the weekend’s events I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
So here is a very personal list of 5 places that underline the lesson that London isn’t just open, it’s open-minded. London is for everyone.
These are just a small handful of ways you can capture the true diverse spirit of eclectic, multicultural London.
Go From East To West
Where? The Regent’s Canal
Area: All Over North London
Like a London in miniature, the Regent’s Canal showcases London’s diversity – it goes from East to West through totally different areas of London, each with its own distinctive feel.
The fact that you can walk or cycle across the whole city from East to West, pretty much without leaving the canal, is probably one of London’s best kept secrets – and being able to take in some iconic London sights and history from the unique vantage point is a huge bonus.
I lived by the central London section of the Grand Union Canal for years and when I moved house I made sure to stay near this stretch of water because I love it so much.
The canal was designed by John Nash and was originally meant to run right through the middle of Regent’s Park – until he decided that the bad language of the navvies during the build would offend the refined residents of the area.
Today you can see Nash’s beautiful white Renaissance style villas alongside the canal and completely forget you’re in London – and once past this stretch at Camden Town, you can enjoy the delights of London Zoo absolutely free – the wild boars and some tropical birds are usually on show from this vantage point so you really can experience the entire world without leaving the Capital, or even the canal.
Listen To Bush, Not Trump
Where? The Bush Theatre
Area: Shepherd’s Bush
Hands down my favourite theatre in London, The Bush not only offers an intimate and edgy theatrical space, it also doesn’t shy away from putting on an amazing mix of work which reflects the multicultural London we all know and love.
I fell in love with The Bush in it’s previous tiny incarnation where unreserved bench seating placed you so close to the actors you could literally reach out and touch them (though this isn’t encouraged for obvious reasons).
I remember once having to physically restrain myself when a tupperware container full of cup cakes was within easy grabbing distance in a scene with Mackenzie Crook, because I hadn’t eaten a snack before the show.
Supportive of new writing talent no matter where the writer hails from, it showcases intense two-handers and dramas but The Bush has also given me some of the best laughs I’ve ever had in a dark room with a bunch of total strangers.
Do Whatever The Hell You Want
Where? Drink Shop & Do
Area: King’s Cross
London lets you do whatever the hell you want – yes, even if what you want to do is spend your evening icing a biscuit shaped like a pop star’s head. This utter no-holds-barred freedom is EXACTLY what we love about it.
So, do you want to celebrate Lionel Richie’s birthday by icing rich tea biccies in the shape of his face? Perhaps you fancy an evening of musical bingo, or making nipple tassels, perhaps pimping your sunglasses with glitter or some other yet-to-be-invented hipster activity? Well London’s got you covered for all of the above, obvs.
Popular with the girlies, Drink, Shop & Do in King’s Cross is a cute tea shop meets retro-styled parlour and craft shop that is everything we want London to be – creative, cool and tongue-in-cheek and unlike the jihadists out there who want to stop our fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The melting pot of evening events are the main USP involving everything from knitting, vintage hair do’s and card-making to dance classes and calligraphy, but there is an antidote to all this largely frilly charm as the clever folks at DSD have bottomless brunches on weekends with bagels and Bloody Mary’s that will have most chaps chomping at the bit.
Enjoy Authentic Egyptian Eats
Where? Ahl Cairo
Area: Edgware Road
In my book the best way to show solidarity with people is by breaking bread with them, so I urge you to embrace some Arabic eateries in London if you get the chance.
There are plenty of places to do this, but my personal favourite Arabic cuisine is Egyptian.
For years Meya Meya was the only real self-proclaimed Egyptian restaurant in the city – tucked away on a quiet street off Edgware Road. The phrase literally means ‘one hundred, one hundred’ but translates in Egyptian idiom as ‘excellent, excellent’ and had reviews which pretty much lived up to the name.
Now renamed as Ahl Cairo it still has the very unassuming entrance – yes it looks like a kebab shop and not a very swanky one at that, but in the basement you’ll find a mixture of nationalities devouring huge helpings of koshary, a classic Egyptian comfort food made with both pasta and rice, along with lentils and chickpeas.
With just some Arabic music videos playing and a few sketches of buildings in Egypt on the walls, the menu carries most of the responsibility to transport you to Cairo with classic dishes like Ful medammis, an Egyptian take on refried beans and molokhia, a cross between kale and spinach which is made into a soup. Oh and it is very, very cheap.
Join A festival of Open Doors & Minds
Where? Open House Weekend London
Area: All Over the Capital
It may have been overshadowed by The Shard at nearly twice its height but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the BT Tower and I’m not alone.
Since food service ceased at the revolving restaurant, which served over 100,000 diners in its day, appetite for the tower itself has increased and when the it took part in London’s Open House weekend for the first time it was the biggest hit they’d ever had with 32,000 people applying for just 480 passes to the famous rotating platform, 528 feet above ground.
The BT Tower may be hard to get into but the good news is that each September (usually around 16th and 17th) Open House London throws open the doors of hundreds of other architectural and design gems in the capital to anyone and everyone.
If you’re thinking of coming to London as a tourist this is the best time to visit in my opinion, to join in with like-minded people and revel in the incredible history and future that London has to offer.
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