- Published on Sunday, 29 July 2012 01:35
- Written by ORTON KIISHWEKO
- Hits: 840
JOURNALISM is both serious and fun, offering great opportunities for globe-trotting. In this article, I share my experience of a week in London reporting on the London International Summit on Family Planning. In the dozen or so countries I have visited so far across four continents, I had not yet experienced skies that are as busy as the ones over Heathrow Airport.
Aside, Doha and Dubai, the frequency of aircraft landing and taking off is amazing. Landing at Heathrow Airport, there were about four more aircrafts waiting to land and did so in what seemed to be like a space of seconds. As a first timer to the United Kingdom, I had high expectations of London City. Walking through the immigration area, you could feel the vibe that something big was about to happen as young people from different countries queued up speaking different languages as they awaited clearance into the country.
I visited London as the City was preparing to host its third Olympic Summer Games and the last time The United Kingdom hosted the Games was in 1948 and they were officially opened by King George VI. The Olympics that year had more than 4,100 athletes from 59 countries. There were 136 medal events and 17 sports. Sixty-four years later, the Games have more than doubled in size with 10,490 athletes from 204 nations, 26 sports and 302 medal events.
My fellow travellers and I had the chance of sighting the Tanzanian Olympic team as they arrived that same morning via Dubai. As we were cleared, we were informed that an influx of 550,000 tourists a day was expected during the Olympics. As we drove from the airport towards the West Minster Abbey in central London, I was in awe by the orderliness, the green environment and classic beauty of the infrastructure.
I have been to newer cities such as Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Tel Aviv and Stockholm but when I left Heathrow into central London, I slowly bought into the idea that indeed, like what I saw in South Africa’s Cape Town, old is good. There is no need for radical infrastructural reforms and the breaking down old historical buildings in Dar es Salaam. We could instead expand the city with more new satellite cities.
London, explained Ayoub Mzee of the ‘Swahili Diaries’ blog, is a business and financial centre, ranking alongside cities like New York City as the leading centre of globalfinance. Throughout the 19th century, London served as the world’s primary business centre, and continues to be a major meeting point for businesses today. In between my busy day schedule, I was lucky to have met Ayoub Mzee who is based at Ben TV in London.
He kindly took me around Buckingham Palace where the Queen resides. We also got to see the guards who wear massive red hats and stand there without blinking as they guard the Queen’s Palace. I have to say it is pretty impressive seeing tourists from all over the world at the front of the Palace to see first hand the change of guards that takes place every morning and evening. I even saw Big Ben, a massive clock tower at the Parliamentary building that day.
At a few minutes after 4 pm, we walked into the Parliamentary building where I attended a Parliamentary Committee debate on a reform Bill to do with Britain’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan. My evening extended to more sightseeing and we went to Abbey Road which is rather scenic.
This is where the Beatles recording studio is found. We returned to watch the British Comedy show at Parliament which is home to House of Lords and House of Commons. The show was performed at the West Minster Abbey Hall, was full of satirical humour and it is one of the things the Parliament does to involve art in its activities. Away from the serious and intellectual throb of London in the evenings, the folk search for excitement and fun. Returning to the hotel around Sussex Garden we changed into casual wear.
Getting advice from four different taxi drivers we were told that the best place to be on a Monday night is the once notorious Soho area. It was approaching mid night as the London nightlife srated picking up, when we found people dancing and making merry at some of the happening joints along Edgware Road. This major street passes through the west part of central London, starting at Marble Arch in the City of Westminster and working its way up to Edgware in the London Borough of Barnet.
It also reaches Oxford Circus Street. Soho is a long established entertainment district, with a reputation for adult entertainment shops as well as a vibrant night life and film industry. I was told that in the early 1980s, the area underwent considerable transformation and is now considered a fashionable part of London with up market restaurants and media offices.
Twice, as I made way out of the night clubs in Soho, I was approached by ladies in their late thirties who told me that they had private flats with young girls aged between 18 and 24 from Africa, China, India and England if I was willing to part with 50 pounds. Since my well being was not guaranteed in a private flat, my curiosity was not strong enough to take the risk to have a glimpse of those poor souls.
I honestly admit I got hooked onto London where I witnessed first hand, that as a cosmopolitan city, the people are cultured, respectful and have a sense of decorum and should you not hold these values, you will definitely stand out.