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.


asoom said...

I'm glad to know that you didn't miss out on Eid while in the UK, what was that like?

Your itinerary reminds me of me, I always try to have museums, concerts, and walking no matter who I'm with.

Glad you had such an awesome time!

KJ said...

Best holiday?! Mashi I will make your next trip here miserable!

Halawa said...

You sure did enjoy yourself!

I wish I could go on a trip with someone who has enough patience & interest in the place we're visiting.

Heck... a trip? That's too much to ask for, my friends could barely put up with my appreciation of artwork and cultures when we went to the Global Village here in Dubai (they're too busy trying to decide which country has and I quote "the cutest guys" -_-")...

The UK has always been on my list of future countries I'm planning to visit after I'm done with High School Inshallah, and from the way you described it, it's becoming a must! This summer is dedicated to Spain though.

It's REALLY fun to get lost, especially when you're alone, and no one's nagging your brain away... Me and some friends went to Petra, and I showed them another route I'd googled beforehand (with full awareness that it wouldn't be easy since it's not on the trail), it's called "El Seeq Al Sageer"... Half an hour later I start hearing complaints about how tiring it is and others about doubling back and just leaving.. people are just SO not into adventure.. IT KILLS ME! Take my word for it... Never get lost with inpatient girls!

Haha... 30 pence to pee? Interesting.. like what? Someone wipes your butt after your done or something? O_o

You've got guts man! Black market and all haha! SO lucky! YOU GOT TO WATCH COOLLLDDPLAAAAY!!! 15 pounnds?? *throws tantrum*!!!

Again, I'm glad you enjoyed your time..


Btw, sorry I wrote a newspaper..

Anonymous said...

COLDPLAY I want to see damn that must have been fun.What songs did they play? do they sound as good live as in the record? i am jelous

And where's the red phone booth, a trip to england is never complete without an english phone booth.

The trip sounds fun, i've never been to england before although i have countless friends there. but coldplay biddi

Anonymous said...

I like the way you described your trip and the details you covered. Some of my best memories in London is getting lost and discovering new places, and despite all the street signs and expansive underground system it's an easy city to get lost in!

Up until last year it cost 20p to 'take a pee'. I guess with the curent economic crisis the prices have been raised! Btw you referred to pence as 'cents'. Wrong currency lol. oh and since you went to starbucks to get change for your 50 you could have just used the toilets there.

Ok I've never commented on your blog before but I'm an avid reader and being a londoner myself but currently living in Riyadh I just had to comment :)

Did you go to any markets while you were in London? like camden or covent garden?

7aki Fadi said...

I was wondering the same thing, you should have used the starbucks washroom. This trip sounded like a blast! Biddiiiiiiiiiiiiii

Anonymous said...

WOW....nice trip dude...

Anonymous said...

cool sounds like a great trip.

FYI, london has many purpose built big mosques like the regent central mosque and east london mosque.

if u ever come back i also recommend camden lock market on the weekend, and brick lane in east london.

Ms Loala said...

Coldplay? Coooldplay ....??? Mashy mashy, i'm so jealous :'(

But welcome back! It seemed you really had a good time there, now where are my chocolates!! :P

Hamza said...

asoom - Eid in UK was relatively better compared to Canada, and ye

KJ - :S. You shall not ruin my fun time

Halawa - lool don't worry about writing a newspaper. In fact, i am happy that you responded to most of the things I said. And by the way, I went to petra but couldn't find this "El Seeq El Sagheer". Pretty interesting eh?

suha - yea coldplay was worth it, They sang all the songs in the last album + "yellow", "scientist", "speed of sound" and "clocks"

asmaa- oh thank you. I never knew that I had annonymous readers. In fact, my favorite places were covent garden and Leicester square..So I really enjoyed shopping in convent garden.

7aki Fadi - oh, I did use the starbucks washroom. I thought it was obvious. its not like I'd wait till I eat my muffin and drink my hot chocolate before going there. I told you I desperately needed to take a leak. :P

Hamza said...

utp - thanks. :)

loolt- oh thanks for the tip. Wish I knew about them before so I could pray the Eid or Jumaa there. thanks

ms loala - YEA, COLDPLAY :D. you should be jealous. and I remembered you with English tea. come and collect ur gift. :P

eshda3wa said...

glad u loved london

one of my fav places on earth!