The World of The Brits

When people ask me about my last trip, they tend to ask the wrong question. Its not about what I did. It is about what I did NOT do. Yep, that really sums up my trip to UK where I spent 8 days in London and 2 days in Manchester.

Many factors have been taken into consideration before I finally decided on my destination. I got a couple of friends in London & Manchester. I got a good deal on my airline ticket. Sterling Pound is at its lowest in a couple of years (talk about taking advantage of the financial crisis) and most importantly, I could feel the winter there where I'd be doing my favorite hobby; walking and walking and more walking.

On the day of my arrival, I couldn't control my excitement and I spent more than 13 hours exploring London and its underground subways. I started with Baker Street, the home of the legendary Sherlock Holmes to Madam Tussod's wax musem ofcelebrities. From there, I walked to Portland Street all the way to Oxford Street – the haven of all shoppers around the world. The size of each store outlet is equivalent to half the size of a mall here in Jeddah. What stroked me the most about those stores is how it is a condition that they must have all the sizes. In one of the stores, I was checking one of the jackets but when I couldn't find my size, I just went on to see other models till the saleswoman approached me: "can I help you sir?"

"oh thank you. I was hoping to find my size but didn't. Its ok. No big deal, I'll check other stuff"

With an astonishing look she goes: "Oh no sir, we must have your size" and she commands 3 other salesmen to check the inventory and stock till they replenished the missing size. In the end, I didn't buy it. :P

Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street

From there, I went to Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Marble Arch and Edgeware Road (a.k.a as the Arab Centrals Street) all in one day.

In the next days, I explored the Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. I took a city tour ride on the THAMES river where I went all the way up to the London Tower then to Greenwich. I wanted to go there just to stand on the infamous imaginary Greenwich line.

Buckingham Palace

I took great images of London when I went up the London Eye. London Dungeon is another great experience that shouldn't be missed. Unfortunately, the host chose me as a candidate to demonstrate on me the different types of torture equipments. The attraction includes going through, the Labyrinth of the lost, The Great Plague, Sweeney Todd, Jack the Ripper, and the Great Fire of London. Nothing describes this ride better than Wikipedia.

You can never be bored of London. Each road & each station has a distinctive feature & flavor either in the architectural design, location of exits, graffiti, or tunnels. So there is always something to explore. Unlike other countries, I got lost many times and actually enjoyed. Once, I got lost for more than 3 hours. I went to Sloane Square in Chelsea and was planning to walk all the way up to Knightsbridge. However, I kept on walking for more than 2 hours till I discovered that I was going south rather than going North. Later, I discovered that I walked out of zone 1, zone 2 and all the way to zone 4, passing through fulham all the way to Putney train station.

I was wrong to assume that I could cover the British Museum in just few hours. Out of the dozens of exhibitions there, I only managed to see the Korean Exhibition (unfortunately nothing exciting there), the Islamic Literature Exhibition (they had interesting history about calligraphy), Ancient Egypt & Sudan (surprisingly, its much better and more descriptive than the Egyptian Museum in Cairo) and my favorite on the Aztec Era.

Rosetta Stone

I kept on touring and visiting the major streets that I could recall from the MONOPOLY game. I even went to Fleet Street – famous for its new agencies and the road took me all the way to St. Paul's Cathedral, where it was time for the afternoon prayer. Whereas the others were sitting and listening to the prayers, I kept admiring the splendid design and the beautiful architecture while trying to imagine how long it took them to build this magnificent cathedral that was among the most beautiful buildings I saw in my life, when I got the sudden urge to…


I quietly left the cathedral trying not to cause any form of disturbance to my fellow believers who were communicating with their Creator at a higher spiritual level. As I get out, I quickly unravel my London map to locate the nearest Underground station. They have wahsrooms there. St Paul is my target. 10 minute walk. When I reach there, I follow the signs for the washroom. When I reached there, I see a huge bulletin board saying: "30 pence". What the? Are they kidding me? They are charging me to use the washroom. Ok, nevermind. I inspect my wallet while trying not to control my laugh at the silliness of the situation. My cynicism is over when I discover that I only have a 50 pound paper and 25 cents.

"Oh God, you can't be doing this to me. I was just in the cathedral". If the cinema refused to change my 50 pound paper the other day, then no way the station people would change it. I storm out of the station to scan my surroundings. I see Starbucks. I speed up my pace as I walk to it. Trying not to look suspicious, I order the Grande size of their hot chocolate and the triple chocolate muffin (talk about chocolate overdose) which should be enough to change my 50 pound. My misery was over when I finally relieved my bladder muscles while pondering and appreciating why they are called "rest rooms"

So enough about London. In my 8th day, I took a train to Manchester that lasted for only 2 hours and 20 minutes. The city of Manchester is small that you can tour it all walking. Compared to London, cabs are affordable means of communication. You call a cab and in 5 minutes max, he'll be at ur door step. During my stay, I dined the Curry Mile (known for the variety of restaurants which are majorly Indian). I visited my friend in the small town of Bolton which is known for having a huge population of muslims. They have a great & a proper mosque there unlike the rented community center in London where we had the eid prayer at 10:30 a.m. because this is the only timing they have.

On my first night in Manchester, I went to Old Trafford to watch the last game in Manchester Utd vs Aalborg in Champions League. I got a good seat (3 rows from the manager) after extensively searching the net. For a while, I thought I fell for a scam because I didn't get a ticket through the mail. I got a membership card under the name of "Mr. Aalborne". I had to sign a confidentiality agreement that I have to return the card after the game is over. The directions were provided with the letter. Thankfully, the card got me in and as promised, I got the desired seat. I was happy to watch the game for 1/3 the price I would have normally paid. After the game, I followed the directions till they have led me to a dark alleyway. I was inspecting my surroundings and hoping I won't be assaulted by any hooligans especially since man utd drew 2-2 with such a weak team on home turf. On the corner of the street, I see a hooded man, he looks around: " who are you?" 'hamza, I have a card under Mr. Aalborne". I hand him the card. "Cheers Mate" he said as he crossed my name off some list. I don't wanna imagine what would be the consequences if I have retained the card much longer.

The icing on the cake for this vacation was in…*drum rolls*..going to the COLDPLAY concert. :D. It was on my last day. My friend persisted that there is no need to book our places in advance. The concert was at 9 p.m. and I was still in Bolton at 8 p.m. I almost gave up on catching up the concert. By 20:15, we ordered a cab to Bolton Station. From there, we took train to Picadilly where its next to the M.E.N Arena. Its 20:50 p.m. Almost everybody is seated. The ticket booth was closed. We were still waiting while I decided to leave the matters for my friend to take care of things. 20:55. 5 minutes are left and we are still outside. What are we waiting?

"here they come" my friend said as he spotted 2 guys shouting "tickets tickets".

AHA….black market. I thought this only exists back in the middle East.

The official cheapest ticket goes for around 50 to 55 pounds where you'd be seated at the top, farthest from the stage. After a long debate, we managed to bargain down to 15 pounds/ticket and we were seated 6 rows from the stage. It can't get better than this.

This was by far among the best trips in my life.

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What's missing in those pictures?

It is missing ME.

London..I am a couple of hours away from you. Wait for me. :D

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Random Timestamps from Last Week

Date: Saturday, 22 Nov 2008

Timestamp: 22:22 – we are 8 minutes away from the start of the derby d'italia of Inter vs Juventus. I need to rush to reach the coffee shop where I am supposed to meet my friends. I am on the road driving in the middle lane. As I slow down to stop at the traffic light, I hear the car behind me skid..Damn, he is gonna hit me….no, he is back in control. He switches to the left lane and stops next to me. The logo on his car says it all. "Royal Guard"..You definitely don't want to be hit by this car. By default, the 3 lane street converges to a 2 lane street where my middle lane will become the utmost left lane. And anybody on the left lane would by default turn left. The traffic light switches to green. I keep driving straight. Apparently, the royal guard is in the mood of racing. By the time I reached the converging street, I see that car going straight to the central island separating both streets. He freaked the cars waiting on the other street. And then in the middle of the highway, he reverses and gets back to my lane and starts chasing me for 2 to 3 minutes before Making a U-turn and goes back to the traffic light we were at. What's wrong with that guy? Was he drunk?

Timestamp: 23:10 – the game is still in its first half and I am already yawning. 2 guys enter the coffee shop; Or let me call them transvestites as they lack any masculinity features with their hairless body, white powdered face, eyeliners, soft voice and plastically deformed nose. I couldn't help myself from getting distracted by them and watch them every once in a while.

Timestamp: 23:50 – one of them winks me..OOOOOOOOOOOKAY. this is the first time this happens to me since grade 5 when black Mercedes cars used to chase me whenever I went to the grocery store that's 1 block away from my house. I changed my seat

Timestamp: 00:21 – "you freaking kiddin me? WHO PLAYS RACKETS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET AFTER MIDNIGHT?" as I shout at the 2 women standing in the middle of the street playing. This was some really fudged up day.

Date: Monday 24th Nov 2008

Timestamp: 23:50

*sighs*. This day would mark as a major milestone in my life. I finally did it after I had waited and tormented myself for months and even years. Let's hope it’s a step forward in my life. I dim the side lamp next to my bed and I close my eyes to go to sleep.

Date: Tuesday 25th Nov 2008

Timestamp: 20:10

16 – it was the number that marked the table allocated for us to watch the play hosted by the school. It was the "Glass Menagerie" play. The play was set in the 40s and it might have been boring since it only revolves around 4 characters only. But I liked the American southern accent and the performance of the girls who depicted the mother & daughter roles. Overall, it was a great night since this is the first time I attend a play in Jeddah

Date: Wednesday 26th Nov 2008

Timestamp: 22:15

I sat there trying to relax. I've been a bee running around all over the place helping in arranging and organizing up this BBQ event. I look around me to see my colleagues who showed up. I put the people on 'mute' and pondered on the thought of how are we united here yet many of us have dark secrets behind us and past lives that we are not willing to share and explore. I look at the right and I see the "Raven" and Mr. "Big Chin" voraciously attending to their cigars while they are engaged in a conversation with the "African Cinderella".. Lying all by himself, I see the 'hyena' sitting and admiring the stars of the night. On the other side, I see Mr. Twinkle Eyes talking to the Falzou3a. I keep on scanning the landscape around me and I reach to 'bagera' and his gang who are engaged in an intense conversation involving a lot of hand gestures. I got interrupted by her:

"shu bak? You ok?" - she said.

I paused. I smiled…Then I went up to attend helping the only guy on the BBQ after I archived this snapshot in my lane of memories.

Date: Thursday 27th Nov 2008

Timestamp: 23:15

Was the time that was displayed on my watch. Too bad I'll be missing the acmilan vs portsmoth UEFA cup game. But it doesn't matter. It isn't like everyday that I spend one last evening with 2 of my friends who are getting married next week. The 'comrade' and the 'raven' will have their weddings on the same day. It would be a difficult decision for "Big Chin" to choose which one to attend. It is not going to be a problem for me as I won't be in the country to attend any. It is funny how one of them will have his wedding and then go to Mauritius for honeymoon and the other will be spending it in mecca for Hajj. I wonder if it is as cute idea or not. 7ajj as in honeymoon sound so awkward.

So, I am sitting with them on the table having 'the last supper'. Home cooked Fish Salmon with garlic sauce and zucchini strips, grilled chips, chicken soup and rockets salad. It is indeed a healthy menu. By the time the four of us sat on the table, we raised our glasses: "Cheers"…

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