A Journey of Childhood Dreams, Inspiring Discoveries
London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, is a breathtakingly a vibrant city. Though its history dates back to the Roman times, it’s a modern 21st-century city. In what he calls a childhood dream, Tamirat Astatkie visited this mega city and offers this note.
Stepping foot in London for the first time was like entering a world I had only dreamt of. The opportunity to explore this magnificent city presented itself when I received an invitation to attend a consortium workshop for the project I manage. This workshop aimed to showcase key implementation results, policy recommendations, and learning outcomes while addressing consortium work’s challenges and benefits.
My journey began in Addis Ababa, where I arrived at Bole International Airport three hours before departure. With anticipation coursing through my veins, I boarded the Airbus ET700, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, 45 minutes ahead of takeoff. The flight to London commenced as the clock struck 1:35 am on October 29, 2023. A direct flight covering 5,896.75 kilometres, spanning seven hours, delivered me to Heathrow International Airport—the bustling gateway to this mesmerizing city.
En route to my hotel, I was captivated by the awe-inspiring architecture that adorned the cityscape. London’s skyline was dominated by a harmonious blend of classical and brick-built structures, each displaying a timeless elegance. Little did I know that this would merely be a taste of the architectural wonders I would encounter during my stay.
I embarked on a journey to explore London’s iconic landmarks in the following days. From the historic Tower of London to the majestic Big Ben and Parliament, and from the revered Westminster Abbey to the hallowed grounds of the Emirates Stadium—home to Arsenal Football Club in North London—I immersed myself in the rich tapestry of the city’s history and culture.
A mere ten-minute walk across Tower Bridge—a testament to London’s grandeur and an enduring symbol of the city’s heritage—brought me to my hotel, nestled in the city’s heart. The Tower of London, once a formidable state prison, stood proudly in the vicinity, while the Tower Bridge commanded attention with its iconic structure known around the world. Walking across this bridge, unrestricted, was an experience that resonated deeply within me.
The River Thames, gracefully winding through the vibrant city of London, adds a mesmerizing touch and enhances the city’s beauty, as it is a central feature of London’s landscape.
My first impression of London was that of a vibrant melting pot where people of diverse backgrounds and skin colours coexisted in harmony, often intertwining their lives. This kaleidoscope of cultures became evident as I ventured northward to areas like Enfield and Wood Green, where Turkish and Arab communities thrived. The presence of Asian descendants, as well as individuals from Latin America, Mexico, and other corners of the world, further emphasized London’s cosmopolitan nature.
Travelling southward, I discovered Brixton—a renowned destination for Caribbean and African immigrants. This vibrant neighbourhood was celebrated for its multicultural community and lively atmosphere. Though I missed the opportunity to explore the dynamic, open market that thrived on weekends, the mere presence of Brixton left an unforgettable impression on my heart.
In various parts of the city, particularly in North London’s Finsbury Park, I encountered many Ethiopians. Mini markets and restaurants, such as Hammer and Dukem, served as reminders of the vibrant Ethiopian community that had made London their home.
Attending the religious ceremonies at Debre-Genet Trinity Orthodox church on Sunday, I was genuinely impressed by the large number of attendees dressed in white, and children who were born in London were able to sing songs and engage in various activities using the languages Geez and Amharic.
It was a chilly Friday night on November 3; I was on the vibrant South Bank of London. The air crackled with excitement as I embarked on a Mexican dinner in the company of a Mexican friend. Nestled alongside the River Thames, this dynamic area pulsated with energy, serving as the beating heart of London’s cultural scene.
One of the landmarks of London in South Bank is the London Eye, the biggest Ferris wheel in London and offers stunning views of the city.
As I strolled along the riverside walkway adorned with trees illuminated by colourful lights, I could not help but sense the impending arrival of Christmas. A crowd of tourists or Londoners descended upon the area, accompanied by couples and families, their laughter and conversation filling the air. Restaurants and pubs welcomed patrons with wide-open doors, inviting them to partake in the city’s vibrant culinary offerings. In this lively setting, I seized the opportunity to capture a photograph of myself beside a statue of Nelson Mandela—a poignant reminder of London’s multiculturalism and dynamism.
London’s reputation for boasting the most prominent, safest, and efficient public transport network proved true. Throughout my stay, I relied heavily on the red double-decker buses and the iconic Underground rails affectionately known as the Tube. The city’s well-maintained road system and river transport are also on standby for their services.
From Radio Enthusiast to Editor-in-Chief
During my career journey, which has taken me from being a college instructor in language and communications to working in public relations and eventually becoming the editor-in-chief of a national newspaper, I have accumulated over six and a half years of experience in journalism alone. This path is deeply rooted in my childhood. Indeed, my passion for the media was ignited at an early age.
My love for journalism deepened at Entoto Academic, Technical and Vocational School. I actively participated in a mini-media project, further nurturing my passion for this field. I often boast that I worked in a studio Alemneh Wassie had recorded his voice. He is a veteran radio journalist famous for his skill captivating news from different sources and presenting it engagingly. He was known for reporting on the Iraq invasion of Kuwait, the subsequent reversal of the invasion by the us and the allied forces, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Back in the days when satellite television and digital media were non-existent or not as prevalent as they are now, my older brother and I were avid radio enthusiasts. We would eagerly tune in to every English and Amharic radio channel within our reach, striving to understand the world around us better. We listened to various stations, including Ethiopia Radio, the External Service of Radio Ethiopia (formerly known as “Bisrate Gebriel”), Lege Dadi Educational radio (which aired only two-hour each on weekends), the rebel’s radio (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), Asmara Radio, Voice of America (VoA – Amharic), DW Amharic, Voice of Russia (in Amharic), and most importantly, the BBC’s news hours and Network of Africa. The BBC radio’s news and news analysis, along with other captivating topics, greatly influenced me.
As an avid BBC listener, I even remember the names of the hosts and newscasters who became household names, such as Julian Marchal, Lyse Doucet, Zeinab Badawi, Tim Sebastian, Stephen Sucker, Bola Mosuro, and Komla Dumor. In later years, some of them transitioned to BBC World News. Apart from the comprehensive hour-long news and analysis programmes, I particularly liked Network of Africa.
For someone like me, who grew up listening to the BBC, the name “Bush House” holds great significance. It was synonymous with broadcasts from the BBC World Service and served as their headquarters for over 70 years. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to visit the Bush House, but I heard that it was sold to a university. It is well-documented that the last BBC programmes were broadcast from Bush House in 2012, and the BBC World Service operations moved to the modern facilities at New Broadcasting House (NBH).
Fortunately, I did have the chance to visit NBH, a state-of-the-art multimedia broadcasting centre located at the heart of London, in Portland Place and Langham Place. Exploring the various studios and witnessing the behind-the-scenes work filled me with awe and excitement. NBH stands alongside the Old Broadcasting House, the BBC’s first purpose-built radio broadcasting home, constructed in 1932.
As my unforgettable nine-day stay in London ended, I could not help but reflect on how my childhood dream had been fulfilled. This captivating city, with its stunning architecture, vibrant multiculturalism, and efficient transportation systems, has left a permanent mark on my soul. London surpassed all my expectations, and I am eagerly waiting for the day I will have the privilege to return and continue my exploration of this extraordinary metropolis.
12th Year • Nov 16 – December 15 2023 • No. 123