London’s Calling (Part I)

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Take a stroll around the wondrous cityscape through the eyes of a proud resident. Words and photos by Zinah Nur Sharif.

London – a city known by all, yet remaining largely unknown by many; a city full of wonders and magic, immersed in history and tragedy; a city so expensive that even the poorest can afford to enjoy it; a city full of nature behind concrete walls. London is in many ways an oxymoron; both loved and misunderstood by many.

Stereotypical images of London persist. One is a ‘touristy’ belief that most Londoners are white, speak like the Queen and perpetually sip their afternoon tea while strolling around Big Ben. Others may hold the gritty image of London – thugs and gangs lurk around the corner, ready to mug their next victim; workers angrily rush to their offices, caring about nothing but themselves. I must admit that both images exist here, but that’s not where the legend ends – there’s much more to this city!

As a Londoner, I’m eager to show you the hidden corners of this wondrous place.

I was very fortunate to discover London eight years ago, on the 22nd of December, 2004; I couldn’t possibly be more in love with this city. In fact, I was never in love with any city before London! Ah, the first and young love…

Boredom doesn’t live in London; anyone saying ‘I am bored’ here is obviously too lazy to do anything else other than complain

Having come from a small village of entirely white people where none are Muslims and all speak German, I found London to be a major change for me. It was rather challenging to get used to the city; I didn’t like it at all at first. This went on for a while.

I had been introduced to London by people who didn’t like the city, and who told me horrifying stories to frighten me for good. So it was only natural for me to carry a negative perception of the city. Not only did I close my mind, but I also closed my eyes – I was just as blind as many Londoners who won’t open their eyes to its beauty.

Curious and adventurous as I naturally am, I decided to discover the city and judge it for myself. Each day I learned more about the city, its law, its people and the many places it holds. London embraces all kinds of people; regardless of race or religion, culture or traditions, everyone is welcome here. This is the first thing I came to appreciate about the city.

Creativity is the heart of London – whether you’re a photographer or an aspiring artist, your brain will get a feast of inspiration here, no matter where you go. More than 240 museums and galleries beckon you to visit and let your creativity flourish. There are 120 theatres, nine major opera and ballet houses, over 50 live music venues, countless cinemas and leisure centres – enough entertainment to last you a lifetime! Boredom doesn’t live in London; anyone saying ‘I am bored’ here is obviously too lazy to do anything else other than complain. In fact, if you’re a Londoner, saying these three words is akin to a crime.

Not a fan of spending too much money? Not to worry, there are various places you can visit free of charge! Most museums and galleries are open to the public for free, and live music doesn’t have to cost either when small bands decide to play street shows in areas such as the Columbia Road Christmas Market, Coventry Garden or even Camden Town.

Mother Nature can also be enjoyed for free, of course! London’s numerous parks and open spaces are beautifully designed. The eight royal parks that are now open to the public include Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and Regent’s Park. There are also over 30 major parks including Hampstead Heath. Mind you, these parks aren’t just grass and trees; they also boast beautiful gardens, ponds, flowerbeds and much more.

There is so much more to discover here in London. Check out part two of my article, but first be sure to enjoy a second feast of pictures from this magical city!

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