I mentioned in one of my previous posts that we met an English gentleman on our layover in Addis Ababa. I’m ashamed to say that I did not get his name but we spoke for a few minutes on Wednesday afternoon, and discovered that he was an actor/model, living in Cape Town with his girlfriend, and that he was on his way back to London to visit his folks and for his friend’s wedding (I’ll call him GQ for the sake of this post).
Albeit for different reasons, he was full of praise for London and Cape Town alike. One of the things which resonated the most with me was that he did not speak about London’s attractions…instead, he spoke of the people here, how everyone has their place, regardless of race or religion. He cautioned us against comparing Londoners to Capetonians – no one is as friendly as Capetonians – but that help would always be given if asked. They might not smile or laugh as much, but only because they were always in a rush to get somewhere.
I was very apprehensive about this visit because, well, the rest of the world assumes the worst when someone looks Muslim. The most surprising thing for me has been to see how right he was.
On my first trip to Victoria Station, I saw a beautiful Muslim lady driving a double-decker bus (she looked so tiny). Women wearing hijab is as normal as rain in London.
Every single person we have asked for help has given it, with a smile – whether it was to assist with directions, take a picture or recommend a cupcake flavour.
I love many things about this city…how clean it is, despite the congestion; the balance of natural and man-made landmarks; appreciation for things old and new; how well the state services are; how AMAZING the transport system is; the sinful cake shops and coffee vendors on, literally, every street corner.
But what I love most is that I can display my identity as a Muslim proudly, and I’ve not been treated as a terrorist because of it.